The UNDP Human Development Report, 2002 stated that “For politics and political institutions to promote human development and safeguard the freedom and dignity of all people, democracy must widen and deepen”. There are many challenges to be faced in trying to widen and deepen democracy. Jerzy Buzek, President of the European Parliament, when speaking to Government Gazette stated that
The democratisation process is not only about holding elections. What is equally important is to ensure that an entire society – associations, trade unions and, most important of all, parliaments – has a real say. Without strong representative institutions able to carry the aspirations and expectations of the citizens into state’s policies, democracy will remain weak and incomplete…. Institution building remains an essential element in transferring the rhetoric of democracy and human rights into practical reality.
Processes of democratisation are strong forces, which can unleash considerable emotion, aspiration, ambition, insecurity and in some cases instability. One need only look as far as the Arab Spring, the revolutionary wave of demonstrations and protests that has been taking place in the Arab world since late 2010. The challenge now for this region and for many other countries is to ensure there are robust institutions that can enshrine people’s aspirations and ensure free and fair elections.
Having robust institutions such as electoral commissions in place is the quintessential factor in safeguarding the legitimacy of any government. The frameworks in which electoral commissions and other organisations working in the logistics of organising and monitoring elections differ, and there are several models. Many elections take place without very much controversy and without much outside interest or concern. On the other hand, although, there have been several noteworthy events in the last year or two, including the elections that have taken place in Afghanistan, Iran, Ivory Coast and the Philippines
The winds of change affecting societies and democracies around the world are varied and great, and the major technological advances being made in the field of electoral affairs are a case in point. Whether it is the use of social media, such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, to organize, communicate, and raise awareness in the face of state attempts at repression and internet censorship, or whether it is the use of technology to enable E- Voting, it is critical for Governments and Parliaments to recognise the importance which new technology is now playing in the entire process of democratisation and democratic legitimacy.
The Centre signed a Memorandum of Understanding with ACEEEO, the Association of European Electoral Officers in 2010, agreeing to promote the Global Elections Day initiative and to work together to promote the processes of democratisation, encourage good governance and disseminate information relating to electoral processes.
The International Centre for Parliamentary Studies (ICPS) carries out a substantial amount of work to support administrations across the world in their efforts to bring about change and reform, providing a range of different services:
ICPS research makes a significant contribution to learning about electoral processes, highlighting best practice, current trends and leading thinking. The Centre has a repository of materials, including research papers, films and documentaries, and works in collaboration with a number of academics, universities and research organisations across the world.
High level networks
ICPS has developed a network for senior officials that have a professional interest in the field of electoral affairs, and provides opportunities throughout the year for them to gather and share ideas and best practice
ICPS provides consultancy services to public administrations around the world on areas including: voter registration, the role of technology, working with stakeholders, communications strategies, project management, managing data, training personnel, electoral psychology, managing polling day, awarding and managing contracts, holding the ballot count, technology and counting the vote, ensuring robustness and transparency, delivering reliable and internationally credible results, statutory models, boundary commissions, programmes for inclusion of minorities, all the way through to rebuilding states after conflict, and basic human rights.
ICPS provides training and advice to those involved in organising and overseeing elections, through working in collaboration and delivering bespoke training programmes which are tailored to their precise requirements. The Centre also provides internationally recognised professional qualifications in the areas of electoral processes, governance, Parliament and policy, and these are accredited by the Chartered Management Institute.