Candidate debates that bring contenders face to face with voters and each other are increasingly becoming a mainstay of the political landscape.
Across the globe, debate sponsors share the belief that debates benefit new democracies in many ways, including helping voters make informed choices, reducing the potential for violence in countries coming out of civil war, encouraging candidates to focus on issues rather than personality or ethnic differences, and holding elected officials accountable for campaign promises.
But putting on a debate is no small task. It requires fundraising, convincing often reluctant candidates to participate, producing live radio and television broadcasts, and selecting an informative format and set of rules, among other things.
To help overcome these challenges, a new website, debatesinternational.org, is now available where new and experienced debate sponsors can access practical information that will help them organize, produce and evaluate debates. The site’s resources come primarily from the Debates International network, an association of new and longstanding debate sponsoring organizations from 18 countries. It grew out of global gatherings in 2009, 2012 and 2013, where the network’s members recommended establishing an online platform for exchanging information.
The site was created by NDI and the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD), the nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that has sponsored and produced all U.S. presidential and vice presidential general election debates since 1987.
The site is based on the premise that there is no right way to organize candidate debates. While visitors will benefit from learning about experiences in other countries, each country must develop debates that reflect its culture and politics.
NDI manages the site, which provides a range of organizational and production materials including preparation guides and checklists; set designs and production equipment lists; debate video links; comparative formats and rules; and ethical guidelines for members of debate sponsoring organizations. The site also contains studies, polling data and other analysis that shows the impact and benefits of debates for democracies.
NDI and CPD developed debatesinternational.org with funding from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the National Endowment for Democracy (NED). The site builds upon NDI’s and CPD’s collective experience helping sponsors organize more than 300 candidate debates at all levels of office in more than 35 countries.
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Published July 8, 2014