The United Nations, following request from the Election Commission, expressed its interest to assist it controlling violence during the next general election.
On June 14, the EC had conveyed its request to Electoral Assistance Division of the UN’s Department of Political Affairs , EC officials told New Age.
They said that in reply sent on September 19, UN conveyed its willingness to help the EC with its capacity building.
They quoted the UN as conveying its ‘Support to developing and implementing the EC’s conflict mitigation strategy [contributing to building community resilience against electoral violence in districts most districts most prone to violence; efforts to promote social cohesion; support EC’s
capacity to monitor conflict mitigation].’
They said that an EC meeting last week incorporated the UN proposal as an agenda item for discussion in coming days.
The officials said that the UN said that it was ready to support the efforts for the creation of a ‘conducive electoral environment with a view to conducting peaceful, inclusive and credible elections.’
Acting EC secretary M Helaluddin Ahmed told New Age that the EC would take a decision about the UN proposal after holding meetings with a UN team soon.
He said that EC’s technical team would hold the first meeting with the UN team.
EC officials said that the UN also expressed its interest about supporting the ongoing voter registration activities as well as the EC’s public outreach strategy.
They said that the UN also expressed its interest to work with the EC for strengthening its ability to promote inclusive participation, focusing on gender and other underrepresented groups— ethnic and religious minorities and people with disabilities— for improving disaggregation of gender and minority data.
The UN, said the EC officials, is also interested to work for strengthening EC’s capacity to train its personnel and other election stakeholders during all the phases of the electoral cycle.
They said that the EC conveyed its request to the UN a month after announcing its action plan for the next national elections, due on January 28, 2019, at the latest.
They said that the UN’s EAD-led electoral needs assessment mission was deployed in Bangladesh following a decision of the UN focal point for electoral assistance by the Under Secretary General for political affairs during July 24 and August 2.
During the deployment period, the team met with the main EC officials and visited EC’s district office at Manikganj, they said.
They said that the UN lent support to the electoral process in Bangladesh since 1995, most recently through the UNDP project for ‘Strengthening Election Management in Bangladesh’ which was terminated by UN in July 2015.
In April 2012, the five-year project titled ‘The Strengthening of Election Management in Bangladesh (SEMB)’ was taken by the UN in collaboration with the EC to build its capacity for holding fair, credible and transparent elections in line with its constitutional mandate.
The UN project also sought to help the EC with its capacity building so that it becomes a permanent, professional, credible and independent institution of governance.
The UN terminated the project in July, 2015 after the controversial general election was held in Bangladesh on January 5, 2014, boycotted by the main opposition BNP and the other parties.
According to the Electoral Integrity Project, an academic research project based in Harvard and Australia’s Sydney Universities, at least 21 people were killed in political violence in the controversial general election which saw ruling Awami League’s 153 MPs elected unopposed making it automatically the majority party in a House of 300 MPs.
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