Whilst all eyes focus on the future of Libya, TCC has been contributing to the building of democracy and governance in Afghanistan; another country which still faces conflict and many other challenges.
TCC Chairman Jonathan Upton was invited by Democracy International to travel to its capital Kabul to contribute to the development of civil society groups in Afghanistan and in particular help launch one to consider the issue of electoral reform. The aim was to establish a local Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) called Afghanistan Electoral Reform and Civil Advocacy (AERCA).
Democracy International (DI), works on democracy and governance programmes worldwide. It provides analytical services, offers technical assistance, and delivers projects in this field. It started its operations in Afghanistan in 2009 and since then has conducted two international election observation missions, for the presidential and provincial council elections in 2009 and for the parliamentary (Wolesi Jirga) elections that were held in 2010.
For the current project Democracy International was supporting the launch of AERCA. Its purpose is to help facilitate an Afghan-led electoral reform initiative in order to strengthen Afghan democracy and foster innovations in governance. This initiative will engage Afghan stakeholders through an Electoral Reform Organisation and through innovative research projects.
The reasons for developing this organisation was recent criticisms of the current Single Non-Transferable Vote (SNTV) electoral system in Afghanistan, which has led to protracted disputes over the election of some Afghan MP’s following the 2010 parliamentary elections. Jonathan Upton’s role was to provide expert guidance on the electoral systems in the UK and the recent Alternative Vote electoral reform referendum in the UK.
In summary, the objectives of the current project are:
1. To Strengthen Afghan Democracy through Genuine Electoral Reform:
- Establish an Afghan-led Electoral Reform Organisation that includes representatives from the major non-governmental organizations that are stakeholders to the electoral process. The network will also include political party representatives, independent political coalition’s representatives, religious leaders, members of the business community and media, and representatives of Afghan youth.
- Once the Organization is established, AERCA will assist the network to develop specific working groups that will focus on identifying key electoral problems and developing the public agenda for electoral reform around key issue areas.
- Build civil society capacity to engage the Wolesi Jirga and the government on electoral reform issues. Activities will focus on electoral reform skills development workshops for practical legislative advocacy.
2. To Foster Innovations in Governance through Electoral Reform:
- Provide both on-demand and unsolicited research services for the Organisation, its working groups, and other relevant stakeholders. Research will be facilitated by national and international experts and organisations.
- Establish training programs to build Afghan capacity to conduct high-quality, fact-based research and analysis. Specific focus will be given to: (a) the introduction of modern methodologies of research and analysis, (b) the enhancement of an interdisciplinary approach; and (c) teaching about the practical application of policy analysis. AERCA will develop a roster of research organizations and individual researchers to participate in AERCA’s research training.
- Based on the work conducted under activities A and B, AERCA will encourage its partner organisations to provide research-based recommendations to the Organisation and the Government of Afghanistan.
On his return to the UK earlier this week, Jonathan said, “I was very pleased to be able to work with Democracy International to contribute to the launch of AERCA and hope there will be further opportunities to assist with the development of democracy and governance in Afghanistan and other countries facing similar challenges.”