30 August 2021, Banjul, Gambia
To reposition civil society actors, the media and other electoral stakeholders to respond adequately to the challenges of democracy in The Gambia, the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH, the International Republic Institute (IRI) and the Economic Community for West African States (ECOWAS) organised a Building Resources in Democracy, Governance and Elections (BRIDGE) training on Voter Education, Voter Information and Election Observation from 30 August to 3 September 2021. The training, convened ahead of 2021 presidential and the 2022 legislative elections in the country, is supported through the ECOWAS Peace and Security Architecture and Operations (EPSAO) Project, co-financed by the European Union and the German Federal Ministry for Economic Development and Cooperation (BMZ). The ongoing training is conceptualised to expose the stakeholders to practical strategies for citizens mobilization and engagement on election-related interventions as well as election observation strategies in the digital age.
In her welcome address on behalf of the Resident Program Director of IRI, program officer, Binta Touray, noted that IRI is pleased to partner with the GIZ to support Gambian civil society in line with its ongoing elections projects which aims to support civil society to strategize and build consensus and implement citizen election observation activities to effectively carry out their mandate as electoral watchdogs around the 2021 presidential and 2022 legislative elections. She urged the participants to make use of the expertise of the two bridge facilitators to engage in open discussions throughout the five days in order to strategize and reach consensus as to what will and needs to be done by civil society around conducting effective and efficient voter information and education messaging campaigns, as well as election observation; adding that December 2021 is a critical election period which needs active participation of civil society, media and academia. She concluded by welcoming and thanking the participants from both national and regional areas as well as the special guest speakers and media houses for their attendance and participation.
Also speaking at the event, Mr Shamsudeen Yusuf, GIZ Technical Advisor on Electoral Affairs, appreciated IRI for partnering with GIZ to organise this important professional training. He noted that this training is one of several interventions the organisers are planning to implement in the prelude to the presidential and legislative elections in The Gambia. According to him, GIZ, through the EPSAO project, is committed to supporting CSOs efforts to prevent and manage electoral conflicts and monitor the electoral process through multifaceted approaches. This includes, but not limited to, facilitating learning and exchanges amongst civil society actors as well as the use of technology to promote the conduct of inclusive, transparent, credible, and peaceful elections in the country. He encouraged the participants to harness the opportunity the training presents to learn and be prepared to apply skills acquired to educate and mobilise citizens across the Gambia for an improved participation during the elections.
Mr. Claude Kondor who represented the President of the ECOWAS Commission, His Excellency Dr Jean-Claude Kassi Brou, and his Special Representative to The Gambia, Her Excellency Vabah Gayflor, commended the efforts of the organisers and noted that the training is coming at the appropriate time.
“This initiative is a laudable one as it is in consonance with the priorities of the country’s National Development Plan and the ECOWAS Vision 2050. It is indeed a great initiative to bring CSOs and relevant elections actors together and would therefore be an opportunity for the participants to contribute meaningfully to the discussions and voice out their aspiration not only for The Gambia but more importantly for themselves as we all look forward to promoting the conduct of free, fair, transparent, credible and peaceful presidential and parliamentary elections” he noted.
While emphasizing the commitment of the Commission to deepening electoral democracy in the Gambia, the representative further stated that “ECOWAS being in the frontline of human capital development in West Africa will continue to work in collaboration with other development partners to provide the necessary support in building the capacity of civil society actors so that they can acquire knowledge, skills and experiences relevant to the effective and efficient implementation of their activities, particularly those that relate to the consolidation of democratic governance and promotion of national cohesion and stability.” He urged participants to take the training as a significant opportunity to move the Gambia forward, as it is not an end in itself, but a means to an end.
The representative of The European Union, Emya Braun, lauded civil society actors for their continued efforts towards strengthening the democratic process in The Gambia. She reiterated the EU’s commitment to supporting election works in the country which is evident in its support to the EPSAO project through GIZ as well as the Electoral violence Monitoring, Analysis and Mitigation (E-MAM) project being implemented by the West Africa Network for Peacebuilding (WANEP). She further noted that the EU has proposed to deploy an integrated election observation mission to the Gambia ahead of the presidential election.
A total of thirty-five (35) civil society actors, the media and academics, drawn from the six regions, in the country are participating in the professional training. Participants undertook a series of group exercises to learn and exchange experiences around the thematic issues being discussed, developed strategies on voter and electoral education as well as election observation.
The training was facilitated by two accredited BRIDGE facilitators.
For more information on this training, please contact:
GIZ: Shamsudeen Yusuf via Shamsudeen.firstname.lastname@example.org
IRI: Binta Touray via email@example.com