Countries from all regions of the globe are increasingly trying to integrate candidate debates into their electoral processes. To date, debates have been staged in more than 87 nations and regions. Behind this global trend is the conviction that debates benefit traditional and emerging democracies in many ways. These include helping voters make informed choices; focusing candidates on policy issues rather than personality, religion or ethnic loyalties; reducing the potential for violence in countries emerging from conflict and hold elected officials to their campaign promises. Debates in some countries have failed when sponsors could not surmount challenges, including allaying fears that organizers may have a political bias, convincing reluctant candidates to participate, negotiating with rival media outlets to show a common debate broadcast and successfully producing live national television and radio programs, among other issues.
NDI has partnered with the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD), the non-profit, non- partisan organization that has produced and sponsored all 30 U.S. general election presidential and vice presidential debates since 1987, to help new and experienced debate sponsors overcome challenges. NDI and the CPD, in collaboration with other debate groups, have co- founded a 28-country international network of debate organizations and a complementary resource website, both known as Debates International, to foster the exchange of experiences to improve debates. NDI and the CPD, along with members of the Debates International network, offer debate organizers ideas based on the U.S. experience as well as a variety of other country approaches. NDI and the CPD have found that practical advice from seasoned debate sponsors can help new groups avoid pitfalls that can cause the forums to fall short or fail to take place. NDI and the CPD have collectively helped partner groups organize nearly 370 debates in 35 countries for candidates ranging from mayors and legislators to prime ministers and presidents.
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