A person is casting a paper ballot during elections.
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In support of democracy: EU election observers

The EU sends observers on missions worldwide to see if elections are held freely and fairly. GIZ ensures their work runs smoothly and safely.

It may only be a little cross, but it makes democracy tangible: in 2024, millions of people across the globe will be casting their ballot. At the invitation of the host country, the European Union (EU) sends observers on missions to document the election process. The Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH provides the all-important logistics, security and administrative support for these missions, which means the observers can devote their full attention to the whole electoral process, including the campaigns, the casting and counting of votes on ballot day, and the publishing of results.

Safety from start to finish

At the outset of every mission the observers complete a security training. As project director Julie Joré explains, “they learn how to move around safely in the respective country and what they should do in the event of an emergency.” In some countries, protests and outbreaks of violence can jeopardise a mission. Among other things, therefore, the observers are told whom to contact in critical situations and what the protocol is for an evacuation. ”In Côte d’Ivoire in 2010 and Burkina Faso in 2015,” says Joré, “the security situation deteriorated to such an extent that we had to evacuate all the observers and experts of the mission within a very short space of time.”

From ball-point pens to ferry boats

For a mission to run smoothly, the observers also need flights and accommodation, transport to polling stations, internet connections and a functional working environment. On behalf of GIZ, Eric Vandromme has been in charge of the logistics for several EU Election Observation Missions (EOMs). “For each mission, we set up a headquarters and provide equipment for a hundred or more staff members,” he explains. This ranges from computers, mobile phones, furniture and stationery, through to vehicles and satellite communication equipment. During the EOM several dozen observers then arrive in the country from the EU. “Last year in Sierra Leone, we even chartered ferry boats to get everyone from the airport across the bay to the capital Freetown.”

In the last 15 years, GIZ has facilitated 29 observation missions for the EU in countries including Burkina Faso, Chad, Egypt, Kenya, Mali, Paraguay and Sri Lanka. The most recent missions were in Guatemala and Sierra Leone in 2023.

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