Side event at HDC: “Follow-up to recommendations: possible ways of cooperation between international and citizen election observers”
The side event served the purpose of exploring possible tangible ways for cooperation between international and citizen election observers in the period of follow-up to recommendations and electoral reform. This event was envisaged as an opening for the discussions on this topic that are to be continued in a more formal and broader format at the FURIC Conference on 28 November 2023 in Brussels.
Side event panelists focused in their remarks on certain positive and negative experiences in the co-operation, and made concrete proposals on how the relations can be strengthened. All of them highlighted that the citizens and international observers have a common goal of seeing the elections improve. It was noted that they have substantial differences in their mandates, methodologies, and resources. These differences should be kept in mind when planning cooperation.
Ms Lutkiewicz (Political Accountability Foundation, Poland) focused in her remarks on the positive experience of co-operating with the ODIHR, speaking at a time when both the ODIHR and PAF are observing the elections in Poland. Five years after citizen observation was made legally possible, PAF continues to face resistance from the authorities. They see a big value in receiving support from the ODIHR between the elections, particularly as the legal reforms should protect and expand the mandate of citizen observers. One specific example of cooperation was the methodological training that the ODIHR provided to citizen observers between the elections.
Ms Kotsiuruba (Civil Network OPORA, Ukraine) focused in her remarks on the experience of co-operating with the ODIHR on legal reforms. She noted that the recommendations from ODIHR pertaining to the needs of reforms of administrative and criminal codes were rather vague which prolonged the process of deliberation. She acknowledged that international observers should not be too prescriptive, but called for more detailed consultations with citizen observers at the stage of formulating the recommendations. Speaking of the current context, Ms Kotsiuruba noted the important role of the international community regarding the possibility of holding elections during war and noted that regular consultations with civil society help ensure a consolidated and shared position.
Ms Rusu (ODIHR) highlighted that the ODIHR values and appreciates the role of citizen observers, particularly noting their knowledge of the context, presence in the country throughout the electoral cycle, and detailed knowledge of longer-term processes. She highlighted that the 1990 OSCE Copenhagen Document explicitly recognizes the value of citizen observation, but noted that in many countries of the OSCE citizen observation is not provided for by the law.
Mr Busuleanu (EPDE) noted that citizen observers are rightly seen as human rights defenders and that they face significant challenges and prosecution for their work. He called on the international observers to actively protect their citizen partners. He also noted the importance of providing methodological support to citizen observers so that they can follow the longer-term processes, collect valuable information, and share it with their international partners. Thematic areas of particular interest are the political finance, the use of technologies in elections, and political campaigns online. Mr Busuleanu noted that the concrete and tangible methods of cooperation in the follow-up, including with regard to tracking the recommendations, will be discussed at the FURIC Conference in November in Brussels.