Nonpartisan citizen observers play an important role during elections by raising public confidence in the election process, deterring electoral malfeasance, exposing irregularities, and providing citizens with important information concerning the integrity of elections. In 2011, with support from the National Democratic Institute (NDI) through a grant from the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), citizen observer groups from 11 West African countries formed the West Africa Election Observers Network (WAEON) to support nonpartisan election observation in the subregion and increase dialogue and cross-fertilization among observation organizations from different countries. As of March 2013, the following organizations are members of WAEON: Burkina Faso’s Mouvement Burkinabé des Droits de l’Homme et des Peuples (MBDHP), Ghana’s Coalition of Domestic Election Observers (CODEO), Guinea’s Consortium pour l’Observation Domestique des Elections en Guinée (CODE), the Ivorian Convention de la Société Civile Ivoirienne (CSCI), Liberia’s Institute for Research and Democratic Development (IREDD), Mali’s Appui au Processus Electoral au Mali (APEM), Nigeria’s Transition Monitoring Group (TMG), Niger’s Association Nigérienne pour la Défense des Droits de l’Homme (ANDDH), Senegal’s Rencontre Africaine pour la Défense des Droits de l’Homme (RADDHO), Sierra Leone’s National Election Watch (NEW), and Togo’s Concertation Nationale de la Société Civile (CNSC). WAEON aims to strengthen electoral processes and encourage citizen participation in democratic governance. The network is part of the Global Network of Domestic Election Monitors (www. gndem.org). Since its inception, WAEON has organized a series of training academies for its members on topics such as systematic election observation, communication techniques and strategies to prevent election-related violence, and sustaining electoral and political reforms in the post-election period.
The training academies inspired the network to develop a series of practical field guides as easy to use reference tools for citizen election observation groups. To date, three field guides have been published in English and French:
- Systematic Methods for Advancing Election Observation
- Outreach and External Communication
- Materials for Professional Election Observation: Designing Forms, Manuals and Trainings