Breaking down boundaries in the Pacific
The PIANZEA Secretariat, supported by the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC), conducted a BRIDGE workshop in Canberra, Australia on Boundary Delimitation for Polynesian members of the PIANZEA network. Funding for this capacity building program in electoral administration was provided by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT).
The aim of the workshop was to further develop knowledge and capacity of Pacific Electoral Management Body (EMB) staff to explore alternative approaches to boundary delimitation; to introduce the main principles underlying a credible and acceptable boundary delimitation process; and to experience delimitation tasks such as allocating seats, producing databases of maps and data, evaluating district plans and preparing an operational plan for the conduct of a delimitation process. The workshops also provided opportunity for five BRIDGE PIANZEA facilitators to gain further experience in planning, observing and presenting BRIDGE. Participants attending the workshops were from Tonga (3), Samoa (4), Tuvalu (4), Cook Islands (4), Niue (3) and Australia (5).
The workshop was opened by Ms Alice Cawte, Assistant Secretary, Pacific Regional Branch, DFAT. Mr Kevin Kitson, First Assistant Commissioner, Network Operations, AEC joined the group at the close of the workshops to issue certificates to participants. Mr Jonathan Nicholl, Assistant Commissioner, Education & Communications Branch AEC also attended the workshop.
The workshops were facilitated by Ms Cate Thompson (AEC), Mr Jiv Sekhon (AEC), Mr Ah Kau Palale (Samoa), Ms Michelle Aisake (Cook Islands) and Ms Vake Blake (Tonga). Michelle Aisake and Vake Blake joined the core facilitation team to facilitate on one day each and were participants for the remainder of the time.
The workshop was chosen due to the demand from Polynesian members, particularly Samoa and Tonga, to increase their level of understanding on boundary delimitation issues for future needs. Other PIANZEA members in Polynesia also benefitted from exposure to these issues which assisted consideration of their existing arrangements regarding electoral boundaries.
The workshop consisted of four days of selected activities from the Boundary Delimitation module. Areas covered included: key terms in boundary delimitation; the impact of electoral systems on boundary delimitation; the principles of good boundary delimitation; structuring boundary delimitation authorities; the legal framework; boundary delimitation procedures; boundary delimitation criteria; and data and operational planning for boundary delimitation.
The participants and facilitators created an enjoyable atmosphere of sharing where participants reflected openly on their particular challenges and experiences. Discussions were enriched by examples from Australia’s redistribution processes and sharing of country situations and practices from the Pacific.
Participant feedback on both the workshop content and facilitator presentation was highly positive. There was a particular appreciation of the ability to network and share the experiences, knowledge and points of view of participants from the different countries and electoral environments involved.
Positive participant feedback included:
- The workshop provided a fantastic introduction to boundary delimitation…The participatory approach was very enjoyable and facilitation fantastic. Thank you for the opportunity to attend
- I felt more comfortable and have a fair idea of what boundary delimitation is. This topic is new to me and we have no procedures in our country. I believe that when I return, I will be able to assist and give advice to our electoral office
- The workshop was delivered in an engaging, participatory and thought-provoking manner. I particularly enjoyed the interactive discussions and exercises as well as the opportunity to share experiences in different contexts and from various perspectives.
- I have really enjoyed this week at BRIDGE….I am pleased that I came because I have recognized the need for some changes to occur in regards to boundary delimitation…new skills learnt such as knowing the criteria of drawing boundaries, the impacts, advantages and disadvantages of boundary delimitation…I love the experience.