This report discusses presentations and panel discussion in Washington DC, United States, on July 7 2009, in which new media practitioners, Iran specialists, and interested observers attempted to c
Email from Marguerite Sullivan to The Communication Initiative on July 22 2009.
Because, according to the May 1 2009 Independent Election Commission (IEC) report, no female candidates had registered for mid-2009 provincial council elections in Afghanistan's eight provinces, the r
Internews Network e-newsletter on May 15 2009. Photo source: Salam Watandar
The 5-day programme consists of 4 modules, and covers the following topics:
- Campaigning for affirmative action for parliament
- Campaigning for gender equality in political parties
- Campaigning for political equality and government action (includes campaigning for government action on political equality and women campaigning for political equality)
- Campaigning for elected office
ALP has developed a conceptual framework linking these topics, which is based on the recognition that women need to acquire effective election campaigning skills. However, ALP stresses, given the current cultural and institutional barriers in Asia and the Pacific, this alone will not be enough to get women elected. Research and the experience of women from around the world suggest that overcoming these barriers requires both governments and political parties to adopt affirmative action measures of some form. It also indicates that women themselves will have to drive the campaigns required to bring about the changes needed in political parties, government, and the wider community, to increase the number of women in elected office.
These observations have shaped the participatory, practical nature of the Campaign School for Women. For example, the 2008 programme, organised under the Australian Political Parties for Democracy Program (APPDP), brought together 25 political practitioners from Asia and the Pacific. The programme focused on the campaigns required to get women elected to office in the region. Special attention was paid to the building blocks of successful election campaigns, internal campaigns within parties to get more women into decision-making positions, advocacy campaigns for affirmative action measures, and the role of political parties and other organisations in getting more women into office. The practitioner-oriented programme included meetings and functions with senior Australian politicians and was timed to coincide with the Cairns sitting of the Queensland Parliament. Participants observed a Queensland Regional parliamentary sitting and learned about other methods of community engagement and participation.
ALP has produced and is disseminating detailed guidance to those seeking to achieve sound policy outcomes that support women by encouraging women to participate in ALP structures at every level, to use these as platforms to fight for government positions, and to take an active part in public life. Available materials include a Trainer's Guide, Students' Resource Kit, and PowerPoint presentations.
Women, Gender, Rights, Democracy and Governance.
The proportion of women in Parliament in the Asia Pacific region ranges from zero to about 30%, but is generally still very low. For example, there are 23 women Ministers of Parliament (MP) out of 222 in the Malaysia Parliament; this is less than 10%. Dr. Lesley Clark, Course Director for the Campaign School for Women, shared her 20 years experience in public office at the local and State level with women participants during the 2008 course: "The use of gender quotas in the Australian Labor Party which has resulted in the ALP having the highest proportion of women in all Australian parliaments at 37% is a powerful lesson for women from other countries and parties that have yet to adopt temporary special measures like gender quotas."
The African Elections project, coordinated by the International Institute for ICT Journalism (PenPlusBytes), seeks to develop the media's capacity to use information and communication technology (ICT)
The flagship of this project is the online portal which provides country-specific relevant election information contributed by journalists and ordinary citizens. The portal offers up-to-the minute election news, features, live results, and analysis. The portal adopts the respective lingua franca of the countries i.e. French for Guinea and Cote d'Ivoire and English for Ghana.
The project uses short messaging service (SMS)/mobile phone applications as broadcast, monitoring, and citizen journalism tools, using FrontlineSMS and short code 1927 on all networks. According to the organisers, mobile phones have become an increasingly preferred means of communication in the sub-region due to their convenience and relatively low cost of deployment.
The project activities also include:
- training for senior editors, journalists, and reporters;
- development and dissemination of an Election Guide for the Media;
- knowledge products for the media; and
- media content monitoring
Democracy and Governance.
In the earliest phases of the project, the focus was on West African countries. According to the organisers, access to balanced and unbiased election information is often a key problem in countries such as Ghana, Guinea, and Cote d'Ivoire. The logistical challenges of running nationwide elections is often compounded by a lack of election-specific knowledge among local media, which can often lead to misreporting, misinformation, and - in worst-case scenarios - civil unrest. Availability of ICT tools for local journalists can also be problematic, compounding the problem still further.
Editor's note: as additional countries are added to the project, new contact details are provided for each. Information about the first 3 countries in the project is below; to view additional details about newly added countries, please click here.
International Institute for ICT Journalism, Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA), Media Foundation For West Africa (MFWA), Highway Africa, Ghana Information and Knowledge Sharing Network (GINKS), AGEPI, Association of Guinean Journalists (AJG), Ghana Journalists Association, Réseau des Professionnels de la Presse en Ligne (REPPRELCI), Global Voices, West Africa Democracy Radio (WADR), Kiwanja.Net, and smsgh.
Institute for Housing and Urban Development Studies, Erasmus University
This 9-paper reports on a children's initiative begun in 1995 in Karnataka, India - now adopted by the state government for replication - to involve children in regular local public decision-making an
Children, Youth and Environments 2008, Issue 18(2): pages 197-205.
This 23-page document describes and analyses the role of media in elections in four democracies and societies in transition: Mexico, Turkey, Russia, and Kenya.
Pippa Norris's website on the Roles in Media Conference, accessed on November 18 2008.
The last decade of support to development can – simplistically - be boiled down to two sets of complementary strategies.
The first consists of mobilising financial resources to meet the Millennium Development Goals. This has focused on aid, debt forgiveness and trade justice.
The second has consisted of supporting democracy and governance.
The latter has had one core component – elections. Elections confer the status of making a country a democracy. They provide the essential check on government, the prime incentive for keeping governments honest and making them deliver for their people. Without elections, increasing resources does not really make development happen.
Consequently, the international community spends a huge amount of political and economic effort on supporting elections – exerting pressure to make them happen, and providing technical and monitoring support to make sure they are free, fair and efficient.
Except that they are simply not fulfilling this function very well.
Elections do not always create democratic governments – particularly in fragile and fractured societies, governments are often effectively elected dictatorships, governing on behalf of the ethnic or other groups who have provided the votes to elect them. Those who did not elect them are simply not looked after.
And elections do not seem to be working very well in keeping governments honest.
These arguments are not mine, but those of several commentators, and particularly Paul Collier, who makes this argument in the Bottom Billion. He is planning to expand on them in a forthcoming book, Wars, Guns and Votes: Democracies in Dangerous Places. He argues that mechanisms for providing checks and balances between elections are the key to providing the environment for economic growth in bottom billion countries. He considers media to be essential to this process. Similar arguments were made from a very different perspective in last year's Global Civil Society Yearbook.
Collier provided at a Salzburg Seminar on Strengthening Independent Media – organised with the Global Forum for Media Development - the most succinct case I have yet heard on why media is essential to economic development. He argues that information is an essential public good and that the media’s role in providing information and acting as a check on executive power qualifies it for public financial support (I will not quote him directly here because his arguments may be published separately and I don’t want to pre-empt them).
But if these arguments are right, and I obviously agree with them, then it suggests a massive rebalancing of development priorities.
I don’t want to suggest that elections are somehow unimportant. Nor that investing in checks and balances is not happening. Support to civil society and media, as well as parliaments. judiciaries and others is a long standing part of governance strategies and – if the recent Accra Agenda for Action on Development Effectiveness is to be implemented – a growing one.
But support to media occupies, I would guess, a tiny space in foreign policy and development discourse compared to elections. Whole departments in UNDP, other multilateral agencies, most bilateral agencies and others, all with major budgets, support the election process and the issues around them. Substantive and substantial research and policy networks inform strategy and learn lessons of what goes right and wrong in different election processes. Clear and coherent coordination functions exist at country level to make their conduct as effective as possible.
None of this can be said of media support.
Media and the development efforts that support them are not more important than elections in securing democratic development.
But, based on some of the best economic thinking of our time, media development is vastly more important than their current status within the development system currently suggests.
In Sierra Leone, Search for Common Ground (SFCG)'s strategy focuses on building capacity and establishing local structures that support sustaining peace and building citizen participation in governanc
The main strategy in SFCG's elections work was to monitor the election process and provide constant, up-to-date coverage of what was happening - from political intimidation of candidates during campaigning, through to real-time initial results from various polling stations on Election Day, and consistent follow-up coverage of vote counts and official tallies. Through the IRN and NEW, civil society groups were engaged at every polling station across the country, and radio stations provided local and national broadcasts around election issues that aired daily throughout the period. In addition, SFCG made use of their existing radio timeslots to air programmes around voter education, elections discussions, debates with candidates, and election-themed dramas. They also held public debates where candidates and constituents could discuss issues of concern.
For the 2008 elections, their work also focused on supporting women candidates, and the inclusion of more women and their voices. In order to achieve this, SFCG used a wide variety of tools, including:
- the creation of a coalition of women's organisations and a Women's Solidarity Fund to support women candidates across the country;
- driving public fundraising efforts to support female candidates' campaigns;
- support for a national workplan designed to ensure women are included in governance frameworks;
- provision of strategic and timely information - for example, gender mapping of initiatives to support female candidates and case studies of female candidates in the nomination process;
- giving voice to women and people with disabilities to participate, including space on SFCG's Talking Drum Studio national radio programmes, air time on IRN member stations, articles in newspapers, and video and TV coverage for female candidates; and
- training women candidates in public speaking and campaigning skills.
Democracy and Governance, Women.
According to the organisers, a post-election survey of 876 respondents revealed that SFCG's support for women candidates had a beneficial effect. The evidence showed that the messages were clearly heard and that attitudes have shifted to favour women's involvement in politics. The survey also revealed that nearly 80% agreed or strongly agreed that IRN was a credible news source, and 75% of respondents agreed or strongly agreed that IRN had helped reduce violence during the elections.
SFCG, IRN, NEW.
Email from Rebecca Besant to Soul Beat Africa on August 28 2008; and SFCG website on September 19 2008 and February 2 2010.