Afghanistan Electoral Reform and Civic Advocacy
Building on its work on Afghanistan election observation and electoral reform in 2009 and 2010, Democracy International initiated the Afghanistan Electoral Reform and Civic Advocacy Project in 2011. This USAID-funded program worked to facilitate an Afghan-led electoral reform process to strengthen Afghan democracy and foster innovations in governance through electoral reform.
DI supported an Afghan-led electoral reform process by engaging with reform-minded civil society activists and advocacy organizations and by facilitating public opinion research on electoral reform issues. As part of these efforts, DI organized and led four fact-finding missions for civil society leaders and elected officials to observe models of electoral systems and administration in India, Mexico, South Africa, and New Zealand. DI also facilitated several training programs on electoral systems—particularly focusing on mixed, single non-transferable vote (SNTV), and proportional representation systems—for political parties, civil society organizations (CSOs), members of parliament, parliamentary staff members, academics, and journalists. DI awarded small grants to Afghan CSOs to implement civic education and advocacy training activities in the provinces to encourage widespread participation in the electoral debate and facilitated collaboration among CSOs and political parties on joint advocacy efforts. DI also provided essential support to the formation of the Afghanistan Civil Society Elections Network (ACSEN), which brought together more than 140 CSO members to advocate election-related reforms. In April 2013, DI hosted a conference for Islamic scholars and mullahs from all provinces in Kabul to discuss elections from an Islamic perspective, with a focus on women’s political participation. DI worked with CSOs to engage religious leaders at the district and provincial level in civic education efforts throughout the country.
Through the program’s research component, DI facilitated research on public support for electoral reform and developed Afghan capacity to conduct research and analysis. DI’s research gathered previously unavailable data on the potential policy effects of electoral reform and public opinion regarding the current system for civil society, members of parliament, electoral institutions, and government officials. DI has conducted some of the most comprehensive survey research in Afghanistan, including nationwide surveys in 2011 and 2012 on public perception on democracy, elections, and governance and in 2010 on voter attitudes towards the parliamentary elections. In 2012, DI conducted the first-ever survey of Afghan members of parliament to better understand their opinions on the current electoral framework, key changes proposed by the Independent Electoral Commission, and electoral reform issues generally. DI conducted a second wave of the Afghan MP survey in December 2013 and a third wave in January 2015. DI facilitated the expansion of the National Centre for Policy Research (NCPR) research network and built the capacity of CSOs to conduct high-quality research and monitoring and evaluation of their project activities. This initiative developed a corps of trained researchers able to initiate their own research on electoral reform without relying on expatriates for technical assistance.