When Providing Electoral Support, Context Is Everything, Says Former Deputy Special Representative Aracelly Santana

I n the fifth and final installment of DPPA’s Electoral Series — interviews with senior United Nations officials on electoral support and its connection to broader conflict prevention efforts — former Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General to Nepal and former Deputy Director of the Electoral Assistance Division, Aracelly Santana, describes how the Organization tailors its assistance to a country’s unique context.

Early political engagement helps establish a strong foundation for UN electoral assistance, according to Former Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General to Nepal and former Deputy Director of the Electoral Assistance Division, Aracelly Santana. Having a solid contextual understanding also enables the UN to define possible risks to the electoral process and recommend mitigating measures.

The former DSRSG stresses that electoral assistance should not use a one-size-fits-all approach. “It’s very important to find those entry points early so that when an electoral process comes, and we are asked to support, to give assistance, we already know the political context, so our electoral assistance can be tailored specifically to the needs, to those risks,” she notes. Within the electoral assistance framework and within its role as impartial adviser, the UN can outline the benefits of mechanisms that can assist conflict prevention.

Santana goes on to underscore the fundamental role that women, youth and indigenous peoples have in any political process, and particularly in an electoral process, and that this “goes directly to the question of inclusion and representation.” Their active participation may, for example, help achieve political consensus on electoral laws, and can play a key role in holding the government accountable. With that in mind, the UN can play an important role in helping the development of their organizations and to ensure that their voices are heard.

DPPA launched its Electoral Series to mark 10 years of its 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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The online magazine of the United Nations Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs