International Foundation for Electoral Systems
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|President||William "Bill" Sweeney|
|Chairman||Hon. J. Kenneth Blackwell|
|Location||Washington, D.C., United States|
|Address||2011 Crystal Drive, 10th Floor, Arlington, VA 22202|
The International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) is an international, non-profit organization founded in 1987. This Washington, D.C.-based development organization provides assistance and support for elections in new and emerging democracies. Since 1987, IFES has provided assistance in 145 countries and it currently has programs in over 30 countries throughout Asia-Pacific, Africa, Eurasia, the Middle East and North Africa, and the Americas.
According to their website, IFES works to advance good governance and democratic rights by:
−Providing technical assistance to election officials;
−Empowering the under-represented to participate in the political process;
−Applying field-based research to improve the electoral cycle.
IFES is supervised by a Board of Directors made up of equal parts Democrats, Republicans and members of the international community. The president of IFES is Bill Sweeney. He replaced Jean-Pierre Kingsley in 2009.
IFES was founded by F. Clifton White on September 19, 1987 as a direct response to Ronald Reagan’s 1982 Westminster speech in which he stressed the importance of promoting democracy. IFES was established along with other organizations focusing on democracy promotion, including the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs (NDI), and the International Republican Institute (IRI), all established in 1983.
In 1991, IFES convened a conference which established the Association of Central and Eastern European Election Officials (ACEEEO), its first cooperative agreement with USAID, and opened a new Resource Center.
In 1995, IFES embarked on a joint venture with International Republican Institute and the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs to create the Consortium for Elections and Political Process Strengthening (CEPPS). This is a cooperative agreement supervised by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Office of Democracy and Governance which is the principal contractor for the Office of Democracy and Government's elections and political processes program which provides technical assistance and support to USAID missions worldwide.
In 1995, IFES also accomplished its first surveys in Russia and Ukraine. The first IFES-created non-government organization, CENTRAS, also became private at this time as a continuation of the IFES’s “Civic Voice” project in Romania.
In 1996, IFES received its first international appointment from Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE: Bosnia and Herzegovina) and, in 1997, worked with the Association of Caribbean Electoral Organizations (ACEO) to adopt the San Juan Declaration which is IFES’ first disability effort.
In 1998, IFES partnered up with International IDEA and UNDESA, with funding from USAID, to release the Administration and Cost of Elections project. ACE became one of the most valued and best-known international depositories of knowledge on managing elections, focused on the administrative and cost implications of the choices available. In 2006 the name was changed to the ACE Electoral Knowledge Network (with the letters ACE no longer standing for Administration and Cost of Elections) and launched a new dynamic online knowledge repository that provides information and advice on improving elections and the elections process.
In 1998, IFES also opened its first field office in Asia located in the Philippines.
In 1999, as part of its youth and elections programs, IFES introduces a 10-day Summer Democracy Camp for middle and high school students. The Democracy Camps teach youngsters about democracy and how to participate in the political process. The first Democracy Camp program was in Uzbekistan during the summer of 1999.
In 2002, IFES worked on its first ever domestic projects which focused on the 2002 Florida Elections.
In 2002, voters with disabilities were able to use IFES’ Tactile Ballot Guide in Sierra Leone's May 2002 presidential and parliamentary elections. This was the first time in Africa that the visually impaired were able to cast their ballots unassisted and in secret.
In 2003, IFES acquired The Center for Democracy, an organization founded in 1985 by Allen Weinstein.
In 2005, IFES established the Charles T. Manatt Democracy Awards to pay tribute to outstanding men and women who are committed to freedom and democracy, just like Ambassador Manatt. IFES awards three individuals each year: one Democrat, one Republican, and a member of the international community to highlight the fact that democracy work transcends political barriers and national borders.
As part of IFES’ 20th anniversary, in 2007, it hosted the fourth Global Electoral Organization Conference (GEO Conference) in Washington. This conference brought together 200 election officials and democracy advocates from 67 countries to discuss the most pressing issues in the field of election administration.
With global attention on the 2016 U.S. presidential election, IFES gathered 550 participants from 90 countries for the 2016 U.S. Election Program and Seventh Global Elections Organization Conference (GEO-7) from November 6-10. The 2016 USEP and GEO-7 was the largest international gathering of election professionals of the year and the 13th hosted by IFES since 1992. This flagship event brings together election officials, parliamentarians and diplomats from around the world to observe and learn about the U.S. electoral system as well as discuss elections and voting from comparative international perspectives.
|Year||Baxter Award for Election Practitioners||Democracy Award|
|2016||Chafik Sarsar (Tunisia)||Nay Lin Soe (Myanmar)|
|2015||Michael Maley (Australia)||Prof. Attahiru Jega (Nigeria)|
|2014||Christiana Thorpe (Sierra Leone)||Maria Corina Machado (Venezuela)|
|2013||Jørgen Elklit (Denmark)||Dr. Leonardo Valdes Zurita (Mexico)|
|2012||Christian Monsod (Philippines)||Maimuna Mwidau (Kenya)|
|2011||Delia Ferreira Rubio (Argentina)||Judge Johann Kriegler (South Africa)|
|2010||Kwadwo Afari-Gyan (Ghana)||Ziad Baroud (Lebanon)|
|2009||Rafael López-Pintor (Spain)|
- Bill Sweeney, President/CEO
- Fernando Barragan, Chief Financial Officer
- Michael Svetlik, Vice President, Programs
- Staffan Darnolf, Director, Program Development and Innovation
- Anchal Gupta: Director, Human Resources
- Chad Vickery, Director, Center for Applied Research and Learning
IFES receives funding from the following donors (among others) as listed on its website:
Activities by region
IFES lent significant support to the development of the AAEA.
- African Union
IFES collaborates with the African Union Democracy and Electoral Assistance Unit (DEAU). With IFES's help the DEAU was able to make 8 election observation missions in 2008. This support was done in conjunction with the Carter Center and the Electoral Institute of Southern Africa (EISA).
In August 2009, IFES's regional director for Africa, Almani Cyllah, said that Guinea should embark on free and fair elections. IFES, though present in the country and optimistic that elections would happen in 2010, thinks that junta leader Moussa Dadis Camara's decision to run or not in the 2010 elections will determine if the election is fair.
Leading up to the 1997 elections in Liberia, USAID provided IFES with a substantial grant for technical assistance and the purchase of election equipment They were also responsible for overseeing the sub-grants to the Carter Center and the Friends of Liberia in order to conduct observations of the election. Also, IFES gave a subgrant to the Foundation Hirondelle in order to establish STAR radio. IFES continued to fund STAR radio as part of its "good governance" support for Liberia until at least 2001. Despite these grants, the election commission never supplied enough information to IFES for acquisition so was unable to complete its support efficiently
In 2009, A $17.5 million contract was offered to Liberia with IFES as the conduit. This money is meant to support the National Election Commission in the Presidential election of 2011 and the General Election of 2014.
With these recommendation in mind, IFES, the International Republican Institute and the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs sponsored a discussion of electoral reform in Nigeria in March 2009. The conference, titled "National Dialogue on Electoral Reform", discussed the electoral reform process as well as the recommendations provided by the Electoral Reform Committee. The event was attended by a number of political leaders in the country, including a Chief Justice and Head of State General.
Between 2005 and 2008, IFES provided support for the Supreme Electoral Council, the Nicaraguan Election management body. IFES was forced to withdraw its programs in the country in December 2008, because of intimidation and pressure from the Sandinistas after the political party consolidated power and forced opposition political parties out of the country's politics.
IFES has done considerable work in various parts of Asia including Afghanistan (since 2002), Azerbaijan (since 2000), Bangladesh, Indonesia, Pakistan, the Philippines and Timor L'este (2001–2008). They have received major support in Bangladesh by UNDP. In the Philippines both the British government and USAID supplied much of the organizations support, whereas in Afghanistan, Indonesia, Pakistan, and Timor L'este much of its monetary support has been from USAID. These programs have ranged from direct support of election commissions, such as the programs run in Azerbaijan and the Philippines, to surveys of opinion, as in Bangladesh, and providing technical supplies and support, such as in Pakistan.
In 2001, IFES selected the Women's Republican Council in Armenia to be its prime indigenous partner in an effort to encourage the participation of Armenian women in the election process. This was part of a larger project titled "Citizen's Awareness and Participation Project".
IFES has partnerships with disability organizations in Armenia. In 2004, IFES, along with the NGOs Lusatgh and Paros, hosted a discussion among government election officials, NGOs and international organizations to help improve the access of disabled voters to the election process.
The IFES Armenian field office, the RA Central Election Commission and the Association of European Election Officials (ACEEO) sponsored the 18th annual conference "Judicial Protection of Electoral Rights" September 3–5, 2009 in Yerevan.
IFES, IRI and NDI were principal recipients of USAID contracts to help Russia establish democratic institutions during the Clinton Administration. During the Boris Yeltsin years, IFES acted like an election and democracy information clearing house. IFES also helped the Russian Central Election Commission train election administrators and create voter education programs. After Yeltsin, IFES left, creating the organization titled the Institute for Election Systems Development, a local organization that continued the activities of IFES when it discontinued its own activities.
Currently, IFES Ukraine is implementing the following projects: 1) Ukraine Responsive and Accountable Politics Program, funded by the United States Agency for International Development, 2) Strengthening Capacity of Electoral Actors Program, funded by Global Affairs Canada, and 3) Strengthening Electoral Preparedness and Political Participation in Ukraine Project, funded by the UK government.
IFES works to foster discussion on electoral law reform, build the capacity of civil society to analyze and advocate on election law issues, ensure Ukraine’s ability to enact critical political finance reforms through assistance to the National Agency for the Prevention of Corruption (NAPC), and strengthen the capacity of election officials through technical assistance to the Central Election Commission (CEC).
IFES is also working with local civil society organizations to develop and promote measures that address women’s underrepresentation in Ukrainian politics and make local and national elections more accessible to persons with disabilities.
Since September 2004 IFES has provided technical support to the Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC). This support is part of a $40 million grant to both IFES and an agreement with the Consortium for Elections and Political Process Strengthening (CEPPS). The grant was designed to help IHEC establish an election administration body, establish facilities, gain security for election equipment, and recruit and train election staff. This program was done in conjunction with the UN Election Assistance Mission in Iraq.
During the period before the January 30, 2005 Elections in Iraq, IFES was the main supporter of the United States government and the Iraqi Independent Electoral Commission in establishing democratic institutions. Condoleezza Rice saw the election as "due in no small part to [IFES's] diligence and the dedication of [their] highly skilled staff. IFES's guidance on election regulations and operations,complaints adjudication, and public information not only helped to ensure transparency but also served to buoy confidence that these historic elections were indeed credible and transparent." IFES continued to maintain a presence in Iraq after those elections.
IFES began its operations in Tunisia in January 2011, shortly following the fall of former president Zine El Abedine Ben Ali, on January 14. Since then, IFES has played a significant role as part of the international assistance team to support and strengthen the newly created election management body, the Instance Supérieure Indépendante pour les Élections (ISIE). Topics of assistance included voter registration, voter education, training using the Building Resources in Democracy Governance and Elections (BRIDGE), and media and communication matters. IFES maintains an office in Tunis and is currently assisting Tunisian authorities within the framework of the newly elected constituent assembly.
IFES sent an assessment team following the declaration of the end of the war in late 2011. The outcome of this assessment led to the deployment of an in-country presence in Libya, in which IFES has been working closely with the High National Election Commission (HNEC), the High Judicial Institute and the Parties Affairs Committee (PAC). IFES has provided technical assistance to the HNEC in the run up to the 7 July 2011 General National Congress (GNC) elections, in the form of advice in communications in the setup of a Media Center. Since then, IFES has worked with Civil Society organizations and paved the way to develop three Democracy Resource Centers with local organizations in the three main regions of Libya.
IFES began working in Lebanon in 2005. Currently, IFES sponsors the Lebanese Physically Handicapped Union (LPHU) which actively advocates the accessibility of polling places by the handicapped. LPHU found in a recent survey that less than 1% of the polling places in the country of Lebanon are fully accessible by the handicapped.
- West Bank/Gaza
IFES has been an active contractor since 2003 with the Elections Reform Support Group (ESRG). ESRG is an international initiative to support the reform of elections in Palestine. This initiative, a cooperative between the Quartet and the United Narions, wants to improve the potential for safe and democratic elections in this region.
Marc Lynch, of Foreign Policy magazine, says, in an article commenting on the potential of elections in Palestine that "this new paper from IFES makes clear" that holding elections in Palestine will not be easy.
IFES has participated in the electoral process in Yemen since 1993. They established a permanent office in Sana'a in 1999. Currently the field office in Yemen is headed by Peter Williams, the country director. The IFES field office in Yemen works with the Supreme Commission of Election and Referendum (SCER) in Yemen, headed by Khalid al-Sharif. They have cooperated to create training for the local election officials. IFES actively cooperates in enacting both parties agendas, which include training programs, building democratic institutions and raising awareness of democratic ideas. the president of Yemen, Ali Abdullah Saleh, supports the programs advocated by IFES. In 2009, IFES met with the SCER to reach another agreement which would pursue IFES support of training, rehabilitation, institutional capacities, election awareness and strengthening women's participation in the electoral process.
While reviewing the election voter lists of Yemen, IFES found 160,000 case of fraud including registration of under-age voters and repeating names.
Also, IFES, with the help of the European Union and the Cultural Development Fund, supports the increased rights of women as they begin to take part in Yemen's Assembly of Representatives. The SCER talked with IFES about women participation on June 10, 2009, and Yemen acknowledged IFES's support of the cause.
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- "ACE Project Homepage". ACE. Retrieved 27 July 2011.
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- NGOs and Election Administrators Meet to Discuss Improving the Accessibility of Elections for Disabled Citizens ARMINFO News, July 12, 2004. Accessed September 11, 2009.
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