Liberia: NEC Ready for Referendum | Aug. 12, 2011 | Link to story  »

"The National Elections Commission (NEC) says the material preparation for the August 23, 2011 National Constitutional Referendum is on course...

"It said the multi-pronged approach at CVE delivery for the referendum has also seen the National Democratic Institute (NDI) recruit CSOs and CBOs to carry out civic education in the South Eastern parts of the country."


NDI E-news: South Sudan, Burma, Tunisia | July/August 2011


August 2011

Newly Independent South Sudan Looks To Future, Permanent Constitution


Children march in the independence day parade in Juba

South Sudan became the world's newest country on July 9 after a January referendum that showed overwhelming support for independence. Richard Nuccio, NDI's senior director in the new country's capital, Juba, was invited to the independence festivities and captured the celebration in photos. "It was an amazing moment and I felt very privileged to be a part of it," he said later during an interview on WPFW's Africa Now!

South Sudan adopted a transitional constitution just before independence and will soon set about crafting a permanent one. NDI will work with a coalition of women's civic groups from throughout the country to submit recommendations for the new document. The coalition wants to be sure that gender quotas for all branches and levels of government are a part of the constitution and that full separation of powers is addressed.

In March and April, NDI conducted the latest in a series of focus groups it has been organizing since 2004. This latest round explored South Sudanese attitudes toward independence and the future of their new country. “What we heard in the past was a focus on separation,” said Traci Cook, researcher and author of the upcoming report. “We found that they are now turning the corner and beginning to look internally.” Participants saw themselves as South Sudanese first and foremost, and want to move past tribal discrimination and corruption in the new government.

NDI President Wollack Reflects on Returning to Burma after 16 Years

Wollack in Burma  

In June, NDI President Kenneth Wollack traveled to Burma to meet with Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi and other leaders. Wollack reports that little in the country has changed since his last visit, but that Suu Kyi remains the unflappable and optimistic leader he met in 1995. Read more»

Aswat Community Connects Activists in the Middle East and North Africa

Tunis Graffiti  

The Arab Spring uprisings have underscored the impact that social media can have on advancing democracy. As early as 2005, NDI recognized social media's potential and launched Aswat, an online community for those in the Middle East and North Africa looking to make governments more responsive, transparent and effective. Now, recognizing the additional responsibilities and challenges facing citizen reporters, Aswat is training them on journalistic ethics and professional standards. Read more»

Civic Group Invites Nicaraguan Citizens to Participate in Election Monitoring

Viva el voto screenshot  

A new website launched by the Nicaraguan group Ethics and Transparency allows citizens to report any electoral problems that might compromise the November national elections. Read more»

New Report: Political Parties in Afghanistan

Afghan political parties cover  

Based on 90 interviews with party representatives and civil society, this new report explores how Afghan political parties view themselves, what kinds of assistance would serve them best and ways they might work together in the future. Parties see themselves primarily as supporting individual candidates, rather than an ideology, and focus their activities on elections instead of planning party strengthening activities between polls. The review also revealed that Afghan parties are highly interested in modernizing their internal structures and promoting cross-party cooperation. Read more»


Opinion Research Shows Tunisians Concerned About the Future

Tunisian youth protest  

Six months into their political transition, Tunisians are concerned about high levels of unemployment, according to the latest round of focus group research conducted by NDI. Tunisians are also concerned about personal security, but are more optimistic about gains in freedoms of expression and association. Read more»

New Library Helps Liberian MPs Write Legislation

Liberia library opening  

A new library and research service in the Liberian parliament is helping lawmakers write legislation. Among them is Senator Gloria Musu Scott, who wanted to draft a bill providing domestic partnership benefits for those in common law marriages. So she visited Liberia's new Legislative Information Service (LIS) to find how other countries have handled the issue and conducted an Internet search that turned up similar laws in several U.S. states. This type of information would not have been available until the library opened a few months ago. Read more»

Mauritanian Parliament Seeks Citizen Input for Social Security Reform

Mauritania meeting  

Social security is a hotly debated topic in Mauritania. The current system is expensive, and the government is facing choices on whether to raise taxes, cut services or restructure the program. Rather than operating behind closed doors, the parliament has sought citizen input, holding a public meeting and asking leaders from civil society organizations to weigh in with their policy ideas. Read more»

As Mauritanians prepare for parliamentary and municipal elections tentatively scheduled for the fall, keep up with the latest political analysis and developments by subscribing to the Mauritania Elections Bulletin. Subscribe»


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NDI E-news: North Africa, Liberia, Ecuador | May 2011



May 2011

Across North Africa, Citizens Find Their Voice


Pictures hang in Tahrir Square

On one wall of Tahrir Square in Benghazi, Libya, people leave pictures of those who died during the reign of Muammar Gaddafi, including during the uprising that began in February. Photo by Maroun Sfeir.

With the major changes taking place across North Africa, NDI is expanding its activities in Egypt and Tunisia, where citizen uprisings led to the overthrow of authoritarian rulers and events are unfolding quickly as citizens work to organize new democratic systems.

In Libya, where citizens are fighting for freedom, NDI sent a team to Benghazi earlier this month to assess what Libyans will need for a democratic transition. Les Campbell, NDI director of Middle East and North Africa programs, writes about his experiences in this first-person account. "There is such a hunger for information ... The isolation of this part of Libya was profound and what is going on now is a genuine awakening."

NDI has signed a memorandum of understanding with the Transitional National Council (TNC), outlining ways the Institute can support Libya's transition by working with both the TNC and civil society.

  Tunisian youth

Young people protest against regional discrimination in Le Kef, a city in northwestern Tunisia.

In Tunisia, NDI is beginning a second round of focus group research to learn how political parties are viewed and what issues citizens are most concerned about. As Tunisia prepares for its first democratic elections in more than 20 years, set for July 24, the Institute will share the findings with political parties to help them draft platforms and campaign strategies that address the needs of Tunisians.

In April, NDI brought Polish Solidarity leader and former defense minister Janusz Onyszkiewicz and retired Indonesian general Agus Widjojo to Cairo for a series of consultations with Egyptian political leaders and civic activists on political transitions. Discussions focused on how opposition groups can prepare for elections on an accelerated timetable, overcome internal divisions and navigate a transition to democracy that is being directed by the military with limited public input. Most Egyptian political parties are focused on September's parliamentary elections. NDI has been helping them develop campaign strategies and skills, and work on new campaign techniques, such as door-to-door campaigning, that have traditionally been resisted by Egyptian activists. NDI has also been working with parties to organize candidate debates and with civic groups to discuss electoral reform.

Meanwhile, NDI and the government of Bulgaria signed a memorandum of understanding aimed at sharing that nation's experience in democratic transitions with countries in the Middle East and North Africa. "As a country that has spent the past two decades undergoing a massive and often difficult transformation from dictatorship to democracy, Bulgaria has much to share with those who are now struggling to instill those same changes in their societies," said Nikolay Mladenov, Bulgaria's foreign minister, at a signing ceremony at NDI. Already, Bulgarian political leaders have visited with new political parties in Tunisia to share lessons learned.

Arabic publications

Arabic language publications


NDI offers a number of manuals and handbooks designed to help civil society organizations, political parties and governments through democratic transitions. The Institute's most recent manual,

Political Process Monitoring: Activist Tools and Techniques, helps citizen groups monitor electoral campaign conduct as well as scrutinize government performance. The Institute also offers 75 Arabic language publications on topics such as advocacy, women's participation, democratic governance and using technology for more effective communications.


'Small Small' Improvements to Liberian Bill Tracking Improve Transparency

Brittany Danisch  

Reporting from Monrovia, Liberia, Program Manager Brittany Danisch explains how small improvements to the legislature's bill tracking system have had a big impact. Listen to the audio or read the transcript»

Sudanese Civic Group Gives Mostly Positive Marks to South Kordofan Polling Process


Elections held in the Sudanese state of Southern Kordofan were generally well conducted despite a number of deficiencies, according to the Sudanese Group for Democracy and Elections (SuGDE), an NDI partner. SuGDE deployed 90 citizen observers for the gubernatorial and state legislative elections. Read more»

Serbia Debates Electoral Reform as Precursor to EU Membership


Serbia's election system — particularly the manner in which citizens vote for representatives in parliament — is seen as one factor keeping the country from membership in the European Union. NDI brought 80 members of academia, government and civil society together to create recommendations on amending the electoral law. Read more»

Former Congresswoman Emphasizes the Value of Oversight to Russian Duma


Constance Morella, former U.S. representative from Maryland, recently appeared before the Russian Duma to testify on behalf of a bill that would increase congressional oversight in Russia — an important legislative branch check on executive authority. Morella was invited to testify by Just Russia, a party NDI has been working with on issues of democratic governance. Read more»

Democracy is...Tolerance


"Voices from the Middle East: Democracy is Tolerance" is a new video using material submitted online through Democracy is..., a public-private partnership in which NDI is a partner. The program asks young people around the world to complete the phrase "Democracy is..." through videos, tweets and photos submitted online. The video combines entries from across the region with common themes of equality, diversity and tolerance.


Join the conversation»


Parliamentarians, Business Leaders Work Together in Mauritania to Improve Economy


In Mauritania, parliamentarians joined forces openly with representatives of the business community for the first time in the country's history this month. The two groups agreed to submit an official report to the Mauritanian National Assembly detailing issues and recommendations, and to establish a commission promoting ongoing collaboration between government and the private sector. Read more»

Cleaner Hospitals is Subject for Legislator Training in Ecuador


The poor hospital hygiene that may have been responsible for a recent string of infant deaths in Ecuador became a case study for a legislative training program organized by NDI. The program simulated ways to seek and incorporate citizen input into legislation that would improve regulation of hospital conditions. Read more»

Macedonian Code of Conduct Asks 'What Mark Will We Leave?'

What mark will you leave?  

Macedonian political parties signed a code of conduct ahead of snap parliamentary elections, calling on parties to respect the electoral law and foster a tolerant campaign atmosphere free of violent or intimidating rhetoric, fraud, bribery and proxy voting. The code is the eighth NDI has sponsored, and adherence to the codes has increased over the last eight elections. Read more»

Electoral Fairs Bring Politics Out of the Box in Peru


In the weeks leading up to last month's Peruvian elections, NDI partnered with Transparencia, a leading civic group, to organize a series of candidate debates and electoral fairs that gave citizens from outside the capital the opportunity to interact personally with candidates. Read more»

Marching Ahead: A Profile Book of Women Constituent Assembly Members

Marching Ahead cover  

The April 2008 elections in Nepal marked a historic and unprecedented step forward for that nation's women, who won one-third of the seats in the Constituent Assembly, the body tasked with drafting the new Nepali constitution. A new book, Marching Ahead: A Profile Book on Women Constituent Assembly Members, profiles 24 of these women, sharing their stories as inspirations and role models for the next generation of women leaders. Read more»


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NDI E-news: Nigeria, Tunisia, The Roma | April 2011



April 2011

Nigerian Elections Hold the Promise of Setting New Integrity Standard, NDI Mission Finds


Lugbe ballot

Election official with National Assembly ballot at Lugbe polling station outside Abuja.

Nigeria's recent presidential and National Assembly elections "represent a step forward from seriously flawed elections of the past" and "hold the promise of setting a new standard for integrity in Nigeria's electoral process," NDI said in a preliminary statement after the presidential poll.

The Institute fielded international observer delegations for both the April 9 National Assembly elections

and the April 16 presidential poll. The first observation mission was co-led by Joe Clark, former Canadian prime minister; Mahame Ousmane, former president of Niger; Antonio Manuel Mascarenhas Monteiro, former president of Cape Verde;

Jon S. Corzine, former U.S. senator and governor of New Jersey;

Marietje Schaake, member of the European Parliament from the Netherlands; Natasha Stott Despoja, former senator from Australia; and Kenneth Wollack, president of NDI. Clark and Ousmane stayed on as co-leaders of the presidential observation mission and were joined by Robin Carnahan, secretary of state of Missouri; and Christopher Fomunyoh, NDI senior associate and regional director for Central and West Africa.

The delegations found that, despite problems, the elections gave Nigerians a real chance to vote, and they commended the millions of Nigerians who braved long lines and hot weather to participate.

  Abuja voter

A voter marks her presidential ballot in Abuja.

NDI also partnered with a coalition of four Nigerian civil society organizations in Project 2011 Swift Count, which fielded more than 8,000 observers to conduct a parallel vote tabulation (PVT) for the presidential and gubernatorial elections, held on April 26. A PVT is a sophisticated election observation tool used to assess the integrity of the vote and count, and verify official vote totals. Observers relayed their findings by SMS messages, which were then compiled and analyzed at Project Swift Count's headquarters in Abuja.

Project Swift Count issued an interim statement

after the presidential poll confirming the results announced by Nigeria's Independent National Electoral Commission. With the northern part of the country protesting the re-election victory of President Goodluck Jonathan, Project Swift Count

called upon all candidates and their supporters to "respect the will of the Nigerian people and to accept the results in good faith." They also asked that all political leaders "immediately and clearly make statements denouncing all acts of post-election violence."

NDI also partnered with the National Elections Incidents Center (NEIC), a coalition of three civil society groups doing citizen observation of the presidential election. The NEIC catalogued and mapped incidents and irregularities in the voting on election day. The center concluded that "the accreditation and voting process was smooth and peaceful" at the polling stations they observed.

NDI's mission in Nigeria builds on a pre-election assessment

conducted by the Institute in October. NDI has been working in Nigeria since 1999 and has fielded international observation missions to previous elections there in 1999,


and 2007.

NDI Commemorates International Day of Roma with Film Featuring Music by Academy Award Winner Hans Zimmer

Roma movie  

NDI celebrated the culture and achievements of the 10 million Roma, commonly called Gypsies, with a short public awareness film released on International Day of the Roma. The film, Who are the Roma?, is scored with original music by Hans Zimmer. Read more»

Watch the film»

Read more about NDI's work with the Roma»

'Future Women Mayors' Academy Kicks Off in Mexico

Mexico picture  

The Academy for Future Women Mayors kicked off last month in the Mexican state of Michoacán to combat the low rate of women seeking and winning office at the municipal level across the country. The academy helps provide women activists with the motivation, skills and networks to position themselves to win mayoral races. Read more»

In Guinea, Political Parties Strive to Improve its Next Elections

Guinea picture  

In Guinea, more than 40 political parties agreed to a set of principles aimed at making upcoming legislative elections — only the second competitive elections in the nation's history — less violent, more inclusive, more efficient and ultimately more democratic. Read more»

Albanian Women Finish Political Leadership School with Chance to Test New Skills in May Elections

Albanian Women  

Local elections on May 8 in Albania are an opportunity to put more women in public office in a country with one of the lowest percentages of elected women in Europe. That was the message delivered by Jozefina Topalli, Albania's speaker of parliament, to women who had just completed a 10-month program on campaign management, messaging and advocacy organized by NDI. Read more»

Contribute Now to Help Build Democratic Societies

When you contribute to NDI, our board of directors will generously match your gift dollar-for-dollar, up to $1 million. Contribute»


NDI Staff Member Seeks to Bring Women into Elections, Politics in Liberia

Mardia Bloh  

Mardia Greaves-Bloh visited the U.S. from Liberia for three months as NDI's latest Andi Parhamovich fellow. While in Washington, D.C., Bloh researched how civil society groups build coalitions and how to ensure that women's needs are considered and accomodated throughout the election process. She will use what she learned back in Liberia for presidential and legislative elections this year. Read more»

Read more about NDI's 2011 Liberian elections program»

Assessing Public Attitudes in Tunisia, Georgia, Burundi

Tunisian youth  

NDI recently conducted focus group research in Tunisia with young people, the demographic that led the revolutionary movement that overthrew President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in January. The research finds that young people are concerned about being sidelined in the transition process and have a lingering distrust of political parties. NDI is sharing these findings with Tunisian leaders in the transitional government, political parties and civil society to develop policies that are responsive to and inclusive of youth. Read more»

A recent poll conducted for NDI shows that economic and social issues are the major sources of concern for Georgians. Unemployment tops the list of those concerns, followed by rising prices. Respondents also felt that politicians were not doing enough to fix these problems. Read more»

Guinea picture  

Focus groups in Burundi, a country historically fraught with ethnic conflict between Hutus and Tutsis, show that citizens today are focused less on ethnic differences than on their regional, political and economic differences. They also continue to embrace the democratic process, despite politically motivated violence and an opposition party boycott of the 2010 elections. Read more»

Our Perspectives: Debates, Yemen, the Roma and Haiti

Don't miss these pieces by NDI staff:

Matt Dippell, debates program advisor, explains how a free press contributes to a culture of debate. Read more»

Les Campbell, director of Middle East and North Africa programs, talks to NPR's Morning Edition about the future for Yemen's President Saleh. Listen»

Catherine Messina Pajic, deputy director of Central and Eastern Europe programs, describes the plight of the Roma and ways you can help. Read more»

Jim Swigert, director of Latin American and Carribbean programs, looks at the challenges facing Haiti's new president in this speech he delivered at the U.S. Institute for Peace. Read more»


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