BFF, Carter Center, PdG Build Capacity of Elections Observers
-Amid Increased Pre-elections Violence


Better Future foundation (BFF), proponent of Liberia Democracy Sustainability Platform, in collaboration with Partners for Democracy & Good Governance (PdG), conducted a daylong capacity building workshop for its 106 accredited elections observers on Saturday in Monrovia. The observers are expected to be deployed in eight of Libera’s 15 counties.
The facilitators of the capacity-development seminar included Ms. Barbara Smith, Carter Center Head of Democracy Programs; National Elections Commission (NEC) Deputy Communication Director, Prince Dunbar; the President of Health Workers Union of Liberia, Mr. Joseph Tamba, ECOWAS IT Education Specialist Yemi Titus, among others.
BFF President, Augustine S. Arkoi, one of the principal conveners of the workshop told newsmen that the forum morewas held on the theme: “Taking Ownership for Peace and Democracy in Liberia.” At least 50 persons, representing 8 counties in Liberia directly participated in the seminar while many others at home and abroad participated via life social media.
Speaking at the forum, the Lead Officer for Democracy Programs at the Carter Center-Liberia, Ms. Barbara Smith, outlined Tips for Elections Observers.
According to her, the principles of election observation include four main elements: gathering of information, analysis of data, drawing of conclusions, and formulation of recommendations.
“It is not enough to stand passively in Polling Places, witnessing the voting process. Observation is a more involved activity that requires careful data collection and transmission, so that information can be analyzed and reported. Recommendations are drawn from the findings and provided at the end of the process,” she noted.
According to the Carter Center Elections Expert, Barbara Smith, “Election observation is also not about giving instructions – observation is about witnessing, reporting and raising questions. It is not about what happens in one Polling Place or one district. It is about the whole process and an election observation mission issues statements based on a holistic view of the process gathered from all observers across the country.”
Commenting on why elections should be observed, Ms. Smith noted that it is to offer an informed and impartial assessment, which is especially important in Liberia where there is a large degree of mistrust among political parties, independent candidates and other stakeholders. It is also to recognise a credible process and enhance public confidence and to deter any potential irregularities for appropriate redress.
According to her, what makes a good observer are a set of principles that include integrity, impartiality/neutrality, accurate reporting, as well as reporting on time.
Ms. Smith emphasized the importance of having a code of conduct for elections observers which should be observed by all.
She also talked about the rights and responsibilities of an observer which include reporting, observing campaigns, and how to get information from the NEC, police, media, party or independent candidate agents.
The Carter Center was founded in 1982 by former U.S. President, Jimmy Carter, and former First Lady, Rosalynn Carter, with the mission of waging peace, fighting diseases and building hope and has helped to improve the quality of life for people in more than 80 countries.
The Center also seeks to deepen democracy by nurturing full citizens participation in public policy-making and by helping to establish government institutions that bolster the rule of law, fair administration of justice, access to information, and government transparency.
Ms. Smith said the Carter Center is recognized as a pioneer and leader in the field of election observation, helping to ensure democratic elections that reflect the will of the people worldwide.
Also addressing the forum, the Deputy Communication Officer of the National Elections Commission (NEC), Mr. Prince Dunbar, outlined the Communications Strategy of the National Elections Commission (NEC).
Mr. Dunbar who spoke on the sub-theme: “NEC Information Strategy Relating to Voters, Observers, and Candidates” said NEC practices a policy of no- secrecy to public information. “Everything NEC does is in line with the law so that when challenged, NEC would have acted in compliance with the electoral laws of the country.
He said the no- secrecy policy of the NEC is also in adherence to the terms of the Freedom of Information Act (FIA) which obliges public institutions to provide information when requested. “Therefore, we are under obligation by law to give facts to the public.”
He said the offices of NEC are always open to the public and ready to provide information upon request. The NEC Communications Department is available to answer any questions relating to NEC’s works, he added.
Mr. Dunbar however, noted that while information dissemination is critical, it is often distorted in the public domain. “It is the responsibility of the Communications Department to clarify such information for public consumption,” he added.
According to the NEC officer, it is now almost a creed everywhere that elections should be seen to be free, fair, transparent and acceptable.
Participation of elections observers in any elections lends credibility to the process and results. “NEC will always have both national and international observers in its electoral processes,” he said.
The NEC officer noted that right now NEC has put a strong system in place to avoid cheating. He was quick to note that “But, remember, no election is perfect even in well-established democracies,” he told the forum.
Ms. Yemi Titus, ECOWAS IT/Education Specialist, at the occasion, emphasized the importance of the “effective use of IT to enhance credible elections,” and pledged to voluntarily provide her expertise through BFF to support the sustenance of peace and democracy in Liberia.
In his intervention, the President of Health Workers Union of Liberia, Mr. Joseph Tamba, asserted that elections provide the chance for citizens to choose public officials for elected public offices.
“That is why observing electoral processes becomes as important as participating in them,” he added.
Mr. Tamba lauded BFF, PdG, Carter Center and other partners for the workshop which seeks to strengthen the capacity of election observers as the nation moves towards the December 8, 2020 Special Senatorial Elections and the National referendum.
He commended Liberian youth who have chosen to become elections observers, and
urged the young observers to report what they will see honestly and factually.
He also cautioned them to guide their integrity by avoiding dishonest activities that will hurt themselves, others and the Liberian nation.
“Let God give you wisdom and guide you,” Mr. Tamba said.
He called on Liberians in general to subscribe to the virtues of integrity, honesty among others and to serve for the common good of all. Mr. Tamba said a nation cannot be built on dishonesty and insincerity.
Mr. Joseph Tamba, President of the National Health Workers Union of Liberia, who was dismissed from his post during the erstwhile regime of former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf for spear-heading a strike by the health workers was re-instated by President George Weah in March 2018.
Other personalities who made remarks at the workshop include Mr. Jonathan Okuole, Proxy of Cllr. Thhompson Adebayor of the Regional Watch for Human Rights & also an Executive Member of the PdG; and National Teachers Association of Liberia (NTAL) Secretary General Samuel Y. Johnson, all of whom hailed BFF and Carter Center for the training provided, and cautioned the participants to at all times be reminded of their ethical responsibilities as election observers in line with the training acquired.
Meanwhile, BFF President Augustine S. Arkoi, used the occasion to call on the Liberian Government and its international elections partners to adequately fund the National Elections Commission (NEC) for its smooth operation. “Credible elections, are assured by exhausting all the required processes, such as civic and voters’ education, proper training of poll workers, timely and convenient verified voter registration that is acceptable by all stakeholders,” Mr. Arkoi said.
Better Future Foundation, characterized as unfortunate and worrisome the gross underfunding of the National Elections Commission to prudently execute all required processes leading to the December 8th Midterm Senatorial Elections, which is a provisional requirement of the Constitution of Liberia.
At the same time, the Better Future Foundation (BFF) has cautioned that the increasing waves of past and current uninvestigated electoral violence has the propensity to scare voters away on polling date, erode public confidence in the state; and inevitably undermine democratic governance and the rule of law in the country.
Better Future Foundation (BFF), a non-state actor and an advocate of ECOWAS regional integration, is a civil society organization dedicated to the postwar reconstruction and development of Liberia. BFF’s mission primarily involves initiating programs and activities aimed at promoting socio-economic, educational, international cultural understanding and cooperation.

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