By Klaus Kristensen, Jonas Gutschke, and Mirette Ibrahim
The Crisis Risk Dashboard (CRD) has been the go-to tool for situational awareness and analysis in the context of elections in several countries. Based on our experience in co-designing risk monitoring and solutions, we find enormous potential for supporting UNDP Country Offices (CO) in developing flexible approaches and tools. In this blog, we outline some lessons we learned along the way.
Elections are important events in a country's political development and defining for its long-term trajectory. While protests may be important and valid mechanisms of political discourse, electoral violence can undermine a country’s political stability and can derail its development process by causing harm to citizens, eroding trust in public institutions, and upending the rules of political competition. As different power brokers, security players and ruling elites vie for influence and legitimacy, incidences of violence and Human Rights abuses often increase around key electoral events. Yet, there are few reliable, customizable, and continuous monitoring mechanisms of electoral violence that can provide and analyze quantitative evidence in order to guide preventive measures. While this can be done to some extent using publicly available political violence datasets, such as ACLED and UCDP, these datasets will often not provide the granularity required to effectively monitor electoral violence. This is particularly the case for hate speech, both online and at public events.
Check out this video on electoral violence from the US Institute of Peace: https://youtu.be/lPE4XrtNSZ0
For national election commissions, the logistical operation of the election is usually the primary consideration, leaving UN electoral violence monitoring to last-minute implementation, which increases the need for a nimble system that is convertible and easily implementable in a new context, relying on available software and local information collection systems.
About 1 in 5 elections in the world is accompanied by violent incidents.
In collaboration with the UN Resident Coordinator’s Office (RCO) and OHCHR partners, the UNDP Crisis Risks and Early Warning Unit has developed several applications in the context of elections. UNDP provides the Crisis Risk Dashboard, institutional knowledge on electoral violence, and an established working relationship with national institutions. Beyond providing a visual data dashboard, the team behind the CRD provides data management expertise and continuing support throughout the implementation period of the CRD and beyond. In many cases, it has also been possible to recruit a National UNV to the UNDP COs or the RCOs. OHCHR brings the technical capacity of human rights violation monitoring, often providing local contacts and terminology for incident reporting, while the UN RCO brings their coordination capacity allowing for inter-agency collaboration and political analysis capacity often supported by the Peace and Development Advisor (PDA).
The CRD tool has been deployed to monitor electoral violence and human rights abuse in several contexts: Cote d’Ivoire, Gambia, Malawi, Kenya, Papua New Guinea Zambia, and more. Ahead of Zambia's 2021 election, the UNDP CO requested the deployment of a CRD specialist to implement Zambia Early Warning and Prevention Platform. The CO also recruited a NUNV to assist with setting up the platform. The platform was adopted by the entire UNCT and hosted by UNDP with input and support from OHCHR. The platform monitored electoral human rights abuse, recording incidents at the district level. To ensure adaptability, rapid implementation, and compatibility, Microsoft Forms were used to record incidents. An analyst team regularly verified incidents as they were being recorded in the system. Focal persons for each UN agency could report incidents, and they were encouraged to work with civil society organizations to collect incidents at local level. Weekly situation reports were distributed to the UNCT, along with a final report. The monitoring effort not only provided the UNCT with a close to real-time monitoring system of human rights violations but also the ability to conduct a post-election analysis comparing geographical distribution of the election results at subnational level with electoral violence. The CRD also recorded gender-disaggregated data, which helped to capture gender-specific violent incidents and trends.
Check out our webinar on Using the CRD for elections monitoring
Similarly, following a decision of the Regional Monthly Review (an inter-agency mechanism for horizon scanning) to enhance analysis capacities in the run-up to key elections in Papua New Guinea, the Crisis Risk and Early Warning team successfully supported the UNDP Country Office and UN Country Team to create a prevention and early warning platform. This provided a common channel for information sharing, integrated analysis, and joint advocacy. Through close collaboration and a co-design process that included enhanced data collection and visualization on monitoring risk drivers in the pre- and post-electoral periods throughout the country enables the local analysis team to conduct rapid assessments of key developments and make informed programmatic decisions. The CRD will continue to be used and expanded to support other planning and analysis processes after the elections.