A group of 10 Members of the New South Wales Parliament, six parliamentary staff and one former Member, have participated in a workshop on ‘Electoral Observation’. Under the auspices of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association New South Wales Branch, the Australian Electoral Commission arranged for BRIDGE facilitators to conduct a BRIDGE workshop on electoral observation the New South Wales Parliament.
The idea for the training came from former Member and former Chair of the Commonwealth Women Parliamentarians (CWP) Australia Region, Hon. Catherine Cusack. Returning from a CWP meeting at which Members had identified electoral observation as a way to ‘give back’ and continue to promote democracy post-politics, Ms Cusack asked the New South Wales Branch of the CPA to investigate training options. The Branch reached out to the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) who kindly facilitated the workshop.
BRIDGE stands for Building Resources in Democracy, Governance and Elections and it is a modular professional development program with a particular focus on electoral processes. It is a program used around the world as part of broader capacity building framework to enhance the professional skills and confidence of electoral administrators and stakeholders in the electoral process. The AEC is one of five BRIDGE Partners who provide leadership and oversight of BRIDGE. The other BRIDGE Partners include the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance, International Foundation for Electoral Systems, United Nations Development Programme and United Nations Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs.
The three-day workshop covered: the purpose and role of electoral observation, national and international election observation, codes of conduct, deployment of election observers, observation methodologies, reports and recommendations. This was the first time a BRIDGE workshop had been conducted in Australia to serving Members of Parliament and parliamentary staff. According to participants, the workshop was a great success, and it has provided them with the knowledge and information they need to make an informed decision whether to one day seek to participate in election observation missions.
The CPA New South Wales Branch hopes that the end result will be a number of additional, well trained and well qualified, future international election observers, continuing to champion and strengthen democracy for years to come.