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New regional program strengthens Pacific electoral process

By Pacific Island Times News Staff

Suva, Fiji-- The United Nations Development Program Pacific Office has launched a new project supporting Election Management Bodies across the region to help ensure that all Pacific peoples can fully exercise their political and voting rights.

The Pacific Elections Assistance Program or PEAP, supported by the government of New Zealand, will provide focused, efficient and sustained electoral support to Pacific island countries over the next five years, with all countries in the region expected to hold national elections during this period.

PEAP has been established as a platform to deliver a comprehensive package of assistance to national and regional partners supporting democratic governance in the Pacific region.

The new initiative will focus on three outputs: a) Election Management Bodies, or EMBs, will be able to deliver effective, efficient and inclusive elections with increased capacity and resources; b) EMBs will be able to make robust and informed decisions, safeguarding the integrity of elections with improved independence and stronger mandates; and c) Citizens will be able to actively engage, understand, and be committed to protecting democratic rights and values.

By combining multinational electoral support into a single program, PEAP will be able to efficiently provide technical advice across multiple focus areas and countries, enabling a continuous, long-term approach to addressing electoral challenges and responding accordingly.

While all Pacific island countries organize and hold regular elections, tensions before, during, and after elections can potentially impact stability. Well-managed electoral processes are an essential element that supports electoral safety, democracy, and peacebuilding. This new initiative is set to support EMBs in their efforts to protect the integrity of national elections and build democratic resilience.

"The initiative will ensure timely program development and ensure that electoral assistance aligns with Pacific island countries’ needs," said Rustam Pulatov, team leader for Effective Governance and Inclusive Growth with UNDP Pacific.

"It will do this by enabling an anticipatory approach to Pacific electoral support for both advocacy and assistance, ensuring that activities are aligned with priorities and UN capacities and funding, well in advance of need," he added.

Bernadette Cavanagh, New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade'ds deputy secretary for Pacific and Development Group., said the PEAP will enable Pacific EMBs to safeguard the integrity of elections by building their capacity and capability as well as improve electoral laws, policies and processes to ensure that all citizens can vote freely.

"Empowering women, youth, and other marginalized groups to have an equal voice and participate in elections underpins a functioning democracy and Aotearoa New Zealand is pleased to be collaborating with UNDP in this initiative," she added.

The PEAP will run through to March 2028. (UNDP)

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