Thursday, June 04, 2015

Why I am in Côte d’Ivoire (encore)

As I mentioned in a previous post, I am in Côte d’Ivoire to examine perceptions and attitudes towards election preparation in the run-up to the 2015 presidential elections. In particular, I will be focusing on the process of registering voters and the accompanying electoral education campaigns, as well as participating in the monitoring of the process to make sure that there are no discrepancies or attempts to prevent individuals from exercising their right to vote.

The Electoral Commission (CEI) has accredited 10 NGO coalitions to accompany them in their efforts to register voters and revise the electoral list this month. Here’s a map of where the organizations will be working:
Additionally, National Democratic Institute (NDI) has funded a platform of NGOs to monitor the registration process, and the organization I am working with, COSOPCI, will be doing this as well.

The International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) is working closely with the CEI to make sure that this whole process runs smoothly; I attended a three day seminar in Dabou on voter education that included the abovementioned organizations and a few others + the CEI and IFES, where they validated a voter education manual, in order to make sure that all of the organizations working with the CEI are on the same page as far as messaging and programming is concerned. For example, IFES encouraged the NGOs to use “traditional media” like theater, in order to effectively reach populations that are not literate and as a means to engage youth in the process.

Watching an example of theater for education, Dabou 27-29 May

Some of us concentrating on the session on using ICT for voter education, Dabou 27-29 May
COSOPCI will be working in former President Gbagbo strongholds (Gagnoa 74% and Divo 56% for Gbagbo in 2010 second round), and believe that their work will be particularly difficult in these zones because they will be dealing with populations who may not be supportive of the electoral process or desire to participate in the elections. In other words, they will have to be particularly convincing in order to encourage these folks to come out to the campaigns and register to vote; they may also face hostile populations who do not trust an organization that comes from Abidjan and who may assume that the NGO is representing the government. Finally, to be affiliated with the CEI may hurt COSOPCI’s prospects, as many do not see the CEI as legitimate.

My role in working with COSOPCI will be the following:
  • Provide feedback and insights on the voter education materials and strategies to be employed
  • Evaluate the effectiveness of the campaigns via an original survey developed in conjunction with COSOPCI
  • Interview local populations and gauge how they perceive the process and their general sentiments about the elections as well as their perceptions and attitudes towards NGOs and the CEI
  • Provide capacity support to COSOPCI (i.e. making maps and documents, etc.)
In addition to working on a day-to-day basis with COSOPCI, I have also been conducting interviews with other NGO coalitions and with the CEI. I managed to convince a gendarme protecting the CEI to take this photo of me:

Things are starting out slowly because the CEI today distributed the funds for the campaigns (and the posters and t-shirts), so I think things will pick up soon, as they hope to register/revise the voter rolls by the end of June 2015.

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