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Regional conference on "elections and stability in west Africa

Praia, 20 May 2011 – A regional conference on "Elections and stability in West Africa was held from 18 to 20 May 2011 in Praia, Cape Verde. This conference aimed at analyzing the impact of electoral processes on the stability of the subregion and their implications for democracy and peace building.

One hundred participants from various backgrounds attended the conference, including High-ranking representatives from government institutions, electoral commissions, constitutional councils, security forces, media, civil society and regional and international organizations.

The Conference welcomed the increasing number of elections in West Africa reflecting the aspiration of nations to achieve democracy. The conference however lamented the crises and tensions that have recently shaken the subregion and has therefore stressed the increasing need to consider the electoral process in the broader context of conflict prevention and strengthening sustainable governance democracy for Human Rights protection, thus limiting the risk of social and political violence crises before, during and after the elections, which constitute a threat to the stability of the entire sub-region.

The conference reviewed the recent elections in West Africa in order to identify best practices and identify critical periods of electoral processes. This is to propose practical solutions to support States, particularly those where elections are scheduled between 2011 and 2013. The constitution of the electoral list, the mode of financing of elections, functioning political parties and media, the composition of election commissions and the management of electoral disputes which are essential aspects and special attention should be given to achieve transparent and peaceful elections.

Participants identified potential factors of crises and violence related to electoral processes in West Africa, including: the weakness of state institutions, social inequality, lack of transparency and consensus on the electoral process, inefficiency electoral commissions and the judiciary. After the conference, participants adopted the "Declaration of Praia on elections and stability in West Africa", which contains a detailed list of recommendations.

The conference recalled that the responsibility for the holding of free, transparent and inclusive elections is the responsibility of national authorities and urged them, as well as political parties to place the interests of the nation above all other considerations. It encouraged Member States of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to take all necessary steps to ensure the possibility of funding elections on national budgets. The development of the culture of democracy and good governance also requires the strengthening of civil society, media and institutions in charge of elections on a consensual basis. The development of the electoral law and the definition of the voters list must also receive upstream the consent of all parties to avoid any dispute.

The conference also addressed the role of the media and the security sector and the implementation of standards and principles of human rights and gender in the electoral process.

During the evaluation of the implementation of the Protocol of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) on democracy and good governance ten years after its adoption, particularly in anticipation of electoral abuses, participants affirmed the need to strengthen its implementation and make it more coercive compliant by establishing a monitoring mechanism for increased civil society.

Regarding the role of the international community, the conference stressed the need to strengthen and promote coordination and collaboration between international and national partners, while respecting the sovereignty and national approval and the specificities of each election in strict compliance with international standards for elections. Participants stressed the enhanced credibility of West African mediation initiatives and collectively from ECOWAS, the African Union and UN. They strongly encouraged the activities in this direction.

In conclusion, the conference calls for democratic change by highlighting the critical role of strong opposition, an active civil society, free media and professional security forces responsible and informed citizens, as actors full of an inclusive democracy.

The conference was organized by the UN Office for West Africa (UNOWA) in collaboration with the Government of Cape Verde and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) with support from the Department of Political Affairs UN and its Electoral Division, ECOWAS, African Union (AU), Organisation internationale de la Francophonie (OIF) and the European Union.

For more information:
• Laurence Gérard, Public Information Officer and spokesperson , UNOWA – gerardl@un.org- http://unowa.unmissions.org
• Maimouna Mills, UNDP Regional Center - Communications specialist - maimouna.mills@undp.org - +221 77 529 12 98 – www.undp.org
• Anita Pinto, Communications Analyst – UNDP Praia, Cape Verde - Tel:(+238) 26096 00 – Cel: (+ 238) 991 45 55 - anita.pinto@one.un.org - www.un.cv

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