National Ownership, Regional Cooperation Are Vital for Credible Elections

In the fourth installment of DPPA’s Electoral Series videos, Special Representative Parfait Onanga-Anyanga points to the importance of regional cooperation and the promotion of inclusivity as key elements of UN electoral support.

Secretary-General António Guterres (right) meets with Parfait Onanga-Anyanga, Special Representative to the African Union and Head of the United Nations Office to the African Union, 12 October 2022.
Secretary-General António Guterres (right) meets with Parfait Onanga-Anyanga, Special Representative to the African Union and Head of the United Nations Office to the African Union, 12 October 2022.

The United Nations provides electoral assistance to over 50 countries in any given year. As part of its efforts, it also works with regional organizations from around the world to help Member States conduct credible elections.

“The first thing the United Nations acknowledges is that we are more successful when we work together, in partnership with regional organizations, particularly in Africa,” says Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Office to the African Union (UNOAU) Parfait Onanga-Anyanga. Institutions like the African Union and the Economic Community for Central African States are taking on more responsibility, which, he says, reinforces the importance of a shared approach. “As we join forces, we will increase the opportunities to overcome the challenges we face on the continent,” he says.

Onanga-Anyanga points to the 2016 elections in the Central African Republic as an example of such cooperation. In CAR, the UN collaborated with a range of regional organizations to support national ownership of an electoral outcome that was ultimately accepted, averting further escalations and exacerbations of political tensions. The SRSG emphasizes that “[UN] support can only be in a kind of empowering capacity. But this is absolutely critical — that at the end of the day, any electoral process is owned by its own nationals.”

The Special Representative also emphasized the importance of inclusivity as a means of fostering credibility, and points to the critical role played by women’s groups, youth organizations, and civil society in that regard. “Not only political parties but the society at large has to be part of the electoral process. Giving voice to civil society organizations, to all stakeholders in the society, including minority groups, is absolutely essential,” he notes.

DPPA launched its Electoral Series to mark 10 years of collaboration with the United Nations System Staff College on the training course “Political approaches to preventing and responding to election-related violence.” The course explores connections between the technical quality of an election and the broader political and economic context, and how these factors shape trust in an electoral process and the acceptance of results. It is held several times every year for United Nations personnel.

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