Cowater International successfully delivers election observation mission in Lesotho News

21 February, 2023

Election observation contributes to strengthening democratic institutions and processes. The European Union (EU) has been funding election observation missions (EOMs) for more than 20 years. EOMs advance EU’s foreign policy goals of supporting democracy, human rights, and the rule of law around the world. Since 2008, Cowater International has implemented on average two EOMs per year within the EU Framework Contracts for EU EOMs.

The importance and relevance of EOMs has become even greater as we are witnessing a weakening of democratic systems. The global decline of the strength of democracies, coupled with the inclination of non-consolidated democracies to diverge into more authoritarian systems has also been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. According to Freedom House, in sub-Saharan Africa, only seven countries are now in the free category—the lowest figure since 1991 – making smaller countries like Lesotho, which are considered partly free, potential strongholds of democratic electoral processes.

The Economist Intelligence Unit Democracy Index 2021, which measures the strength of democratic institutions, ranked Lesotho 64th in the world, with a score of 6.30 out of 10 – between Serbia and Guyana – a decline from 6.64 in 2017. Belgium, for example, ranks 36th in the Index, with an overall score of 7.51.

Cowater International was recently awarded the implementation of a full-fledged Election Observation Mission in Lesotho. Each EOM is implemented following an interest expressed by the electoral institutions of the receiving country. Once the invitation is sent to the EU, the body assesses the feasibility of a mission and decides whether to respond positively to the invitation.

The duration of the field mission was approximately 3 months and involved around 87 international members, including Members of the European Parliament. The objective of the EOM was to contribute to the conduct of transparent and fair electoral processes that would allow citizens to freely express their choices and reassure the public that the electoral outcome reflects their choices.

The EOM to Lesotho provided a wide range of services to enable the success of the observation mission. Cowater International ensured the timely and coordinated provision of administrative, financial, operational, IT and security services; managed the mobilization of all international mission members and established and equipped a fully functional office space in Lesotho for a core team of 11 experts, 11 teams of two long-term observers, 15 teams of two short-term observers and a delegation of Members of the European Parliament, which was deployed to every district of Lesotho. It also ensured that mission members were safe throughout their stay in the country through constant interactions with local security institutions and regular security analyses.

“We need to consolidate democracy and the EU Election Observation Missions are of extreme importance for their contribution to foster democratic values around the world. As the CO (Chief Observer) of the EU EOM to Lesotho, it was a real pleasure to coordinate the team of experts in the country. The kindness and availability of Cowater International’s staff contributed to making this experience invaluable”, highlighted Ignazio Corrao, Chief Observer, Lesotho Election Observation Mission.

Cowater International fully supported the interaction of the mission with national institutions, such as the National Electoral Commission, political parties and civil society organizations by providing suitable visibility and communication platforms (website, social media accounts) and ensured the needed IT infrastructure to allow the core team of analysts and the Chief Observer to receive, process and analyze information coming from the observers deployed in the field.

At the end of the EOM, Cowater produced a report for the EU, presenting in detail the support provided to the EOM, and issuing recommendations for the logistic, operational and contractual management of future EOMs.

The experience in Lesotho has confirmed Cowater International’s expertise in managing EOMs and, more widely, in delivering fast-paced programs in politically sensitive contexts.

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