The present report describes the activities of the United Nations system in providing electoral support to Member States over the past two years. The United Nations continues, by mandate and experience, to promote the principle periodic and genuine elections at a time when it is high on the international agenda. The mandate of the Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, the United Nations focal point for electoral assistance activities, is to ensure organizational coherence and political and technical consistency in all United Nations electoral activities. The focal point is supported in these functions by the Electoral Assistance Division, which is required to maintain a roster of electoral experts and the electoral institutional memory of the United Nations.
In peacekeeping or post-conflict environments, assistance is generally provided through the electoral components of the missions of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations or through the special political missions managed by the Department of Political Affairs. The Electoral Assistance Division assists these missions in designing and staffing the electoral component and provides technical guidance, as required. The United Nations Development Programme increasingly helps countries develop national capacity for professional electoral management and frameworks for inclusive electoral participation over a sustained period. A growing number of United Nations departments, programmes and agencies are providing components of electoral assistance, as are intergovernmental organizations and numerous non-governmental actors.
United Nations electoral assistance is provided only at the request of a Member State or on the basis of a resolution of the Security Council or the General Assembly. Since 1992, the United Nations has received 406 requests from 107 Member States. During the reporting period, the United Nations provided electoral assistance to 43 Member States.
Over the years, a number of trends have emerged. Demand from Member States for electoral assistance continues to be high, and initial scepticism that such assistance might encroach on national sovereignty has gradually diminished. Requests to organize or observe elections have decreased substantially; technical advice and assistance to electoral authorities and other institutions is the norm. The complexity of requests, including for technological innovations, is increasing. A growing number of projects are focused on local elections, which can be technically and politically more complex, and more costly, than national elections. There is an increasing realization that building capacity to organize credible elections may require assistance over a sustained period. Finally, successful elections require credible and transparent technical operations as well as the commitment of political actors to creating the appropriate environment to ensure acceptance of results and government formation in a peaceful atmosphere.
In its years of experience in this field, the United Nations has developed practices that have proven effective. The Organization must continue, however, to adjust its practices to meet emerging trends and challenges. The present report presents a series of recommendations to ensure the continued strengthening of the role of the United Nations in supporting Member States to conduct credible, periodic and genuine elections.