Promoting Citizen Engagement in Democratic Development
Throughout 2011 and 2012, the National Elections Observatory (Observatoire National des Elections, ONE), a coalition of more than 50 civil society organizations, worked with NDI and government ministries, the High Commissioner for Decentralization and Regionalization, local radio stations and international partners to increase dialogue on governance and develop priorities among citizens, allowing them to advocate for decentralization and local elections.
The program, which was funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), included seminars on local governance for 13 of ONE’s members to help them better understand the decentralization process and how it could help the country. Working with Radio Ndeke Luka (RNL) and the Association of Community Radios (ARC), ONE distributed 10 radio spots and eight sketches to radio stations to help educate listeners on their roles and responsibilities as citizens in the decentralization process. Members of ONE were also interviewed on the radio to better explain decentralization and its importance to local communities.
Members of ONE travelled around the country, giving talks about decentralization to local development committees, explaining the process and identifying local development priorities. Thirty-eight discussion sessions were held, reaching 1,530 members of local development committees and 121 village chiefs. The radio-based civic education programs aired 1,787 times and reached an estimated two million Central African citizens.
Advocacy Training and Data Collection
NDI organized two educational sessions with ONE. The first session focused on how to organize and plan an advocacy campaign, identifying ways to advocate for decentralization in CAR, and how to use the advocacy techniques to present ONE’s analysis of the decentralization process in CAR to those responsible for its implementation. The second session focused on data analysis to help ONE analyze responses to questionnaires administered during awareness-raising missions. The missions were conducted to explain the decentralization process to local development committees in three targeted regions and identify local development priorities. The questionnaires sought to ascertain participants’ perceptions and expectations of local governance. Two hundred and sixteen participants were interviewed, allowing ONE to identify two principal governance concerns among the local populations: the management of resources and access to local government.
The advocacy training helped ONE members learn the importance of planning in advocacy campaigns and to identify ways to advocate for decentralization in the CAR. The workshop also prepared ONE members to use the advocacy techniques to present their analysis to the political actors responsible for decentralization.
Strengthening Citizen Engagement in Electoral Processes
During the first round of legislative elections in 2011, 500 domestic observers from ONE monitored elections in 14 of the CAR’s prefectures and in Bangui, with support from NDI. For the runoff, 304 domestic observers monitored the vote in seven prefectures and in Bangui.
NDI also worked with RNL to create and air voter education sketches and programs in French and Sango. These sketches provided basic information on decentralization and citizen rights and responsibilities to an estimated two million listeners.
The Institute also supported its regional partner, the Electoral Institute for the Sustainability of Democracy in Africa by publishing the findings and recommendations from its election observation missions in a report. NDI organized a post-election roundtable with CAR’s constitutional court, the Independent Election Commission (CEI), political parties, the international community, public and private media, and ONE, to discuss lessons learned from the 2011 election cycle and to develop recommendations for improving elections and furthering democratic development.
As a result of these activities, citizen understanding of civic and electoral processes and participation in the process increased. ONE also emerged as the most effective election observation network in the country’s history. ONE was the first Central African election monitoring organization ever to observe the entire election process — from voter registration through the election dispute process. It also developed a strong reputation for integrity and neutrality: the coalition is still regularly solicited by RNL and other media outlets looking for technically competent and politically neutral opinions on elections-related topics.
For more information about these programs, use our contact form or contact:
Grant Godfrey, Program Manager