In cases approved by the Minister for Foreign Affairs, the AEC assists authorities of foreign countries and organisations in matters relating to elections and referendums.
One of the AEC's functions under the Electoral Act is to provide assistance, in cases approved by the Minister for Foreign Affairs, to authorities of foreign countries or to foreign organisations in matters relating to elections and referendums. The AEC's assistance may include the secondment of personnel and the supply or loan of materiel.
Table 18 summarises the AEC's results against the performance information set out for Output 2.1.6 in the 2008–09 Portfolio Budget Statements.
|Key performance indicators||Targets||Results|
|International assistance by the AEC meets the goals specified for individual projects undertaken||Stakeholders are fully satisfied||Feedback from stakeholders on the way the AEC met its commitments was overwhelmingly positive.|
|Subject to unforeseen contingencies, goals are fully met||All specified goals were met|
Work under this output was primarily focused on provision of electoral advice and assistance in the Asia-Pacific region (with extensive support from AusAID); further development and implementation of the Building Resources in Democracy, Governance and Elections (BRIDGE) capacity development curriculum; secondments; observer missions; participation in international forums and delegations; and cooperation with other Australian Government agencies.
The AEC continued to host the secretariat for the Pacific Islands, Australia and New Zealand Electoral Administrators' Network (PIANZEA) in 2008–09. The network was established in 1997 to facilitate links between election management bodies in the region. The two-yearly meeting of the network, supported by AusAID funding, was held in Nuku'alofa, Tonga, in June 2009.
The AEC also continued to provide targeted advice and assistance to countries in the region during 2008–09, as summarised in Table 19. This work is funded mainly by AusAID.
|Bhutan||In March 2009, an AEC officer travelled to Bhutan to deliver two BRIDGE course modules to staff of the Election Commission of Bhutan.|
|East Timor||A number of BRIDGE courses were delivered for staff of the East Timor Technical Secretariat for Electoral Administration. One such course was delivered in October 2008 in Darwin, in conjunction with a visitor program in which Secretariat staff were able to observe the conduct of the Northern Territory local government shire elections.|
|Fiji||In November 2008, an AEC officer met with the then Supervisor of Elections, Fiji, to provide information, clarification and explanation of issues arising from the preparations for and conduct of the May 2006 Fiji elections; and to discuss planning methodologies for ongoing election preparation activities. The meetings were held in New Zealand, to coincide with that country's general election.|
|Indonesia||Throughout the year, the AEC had a team deployed in Indonesia, providing support to Indonesia's General Elections Commission in a number of different areas relating to the training of staff and the development of training manuals, materials and techniques.|
|Palau||In June 2009, two AEC officers travelled to Palau to undertake a feasibility study for the implementation there of the Generic Voter Registration System, developed by the AEC, which is used in a number of countries in the Pacific.|
|Papua New Guinea||The AEC continued to be represented on the program board for AusAID's Electoral Support Program in Papua New Guinea.|
|Solomon Islands||In November 2008, an AEC officer took part in a workshop in Honiara focusing on lessons learned from by-elections held shortly beforehand. The AEC also made staff available to assist AusAID with the recruitment of key staff for its Solomon Islands Electoral System Strengthening Program, and to serve on the program's management committee.|
|Vanuatu||In July 2008, a Melanesian voter registration working group meeting was held. Funded under AusAID's Pacific Governance Support Program and facilitated by AEC officers, it included participants from Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu.|
The BRIDGE project is an international collaboration that provides a high-quality education package to build the capacity of electoral administrators. The AEC is the lead agency in the partnership, which includes the United Nations Electoral Assistance Division; the United Nations Development Programme; the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance; and the International Foundation for Electoral Systems, the leading United States-based provider of electoral assistance. In November 2008, the AEC hosted the annual BRIDGE partners' meeting in Sydney.
To date, approximately 200 BRIDGE facilitators have been accredited. In July 2008, two AEC staff co-facilitated a BRIDGE Train the Facilitator course in Suva, Fiji. AEC staff also delivered BRIDGE modules to electoral administrators based in the Asia-Pacific region, including at the University of the South Pacific; all the modules received very positive feedback.
In 2008–09, the number of visitors to the BRIDGE website (www.bridge-project.org), which is maintained by the AEC, continued to increase.
In August 2008, work started on an AusAID-funded Civic Education Development Project to develop a comprehensive curriculum and network, for use by adult educators and civic education practitioners, that provides primary resources for delivery as well as methodologies and delivery options that can be contextualised to suit local circumstances. This will build on work done in the development of the BRIDGE curriculum. A pilot of the first curriculum materials developed was conducted in Port Vila, Vanuatu, in May 2009.
The AEC's strategic partnership agreement with AusAID, signed in May 2008, continued to provide a framework for close cooperation between the two agencies. Among other things, the agreement envisages deepening staff links through exchanges or collaborative work. From August to September 2008, a Timorese staff member from AusAID's office in Dili undertook a work placement with the AEC in Canberra, following which he was seconded from AusAID to East Timor's Technical Secretariat for Electoral Administration for on year, to provide support for preparations for local elections.
From October 2008 to May 2009, an AEC officer was seconded to the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (International IDEA) to serve as Senior Programme Officer, Electoral Processes.
Staff of the AEC took several opportunities to observe the conduct of major elections overseas in 2008.
In April 2009, three AEC officers travelled to Indonesia to observe the polling and counting at that country's legislative election. The visits built on links with the Indonesian General Elections Commission (KPU) going back to 1999.
In 2008–09, the AEC was able to share valuable electoral expertise by taking part in international forums and visiting counterpart organisations overseas.
The AEC also welcomed the exchange of ideas by hosting visits to Australia by delegates from the electoral authorities of Egypt, Hong Kong, Papua New Guinea, the Republic of Korea, Thailand and Zambia, and from International IDEA. The AEC also provided a briefing for a visiting legislator from Taiwan.
In July 2008, an AEC officer participated in the Australian Defence Force Peacekeeping Centre's annual international peace operations seminar, to which another AEC officer gave a presentation. An AEC officer also gave presentations to the Australian Defence College's Centre for Defence and Strategic Studies and to the Australian Command and Staff College.
In its August 2008 report on Australia's involvement in peacekeeping operations, the Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade observed that:
The Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) provides a good example of how an Australian agency is having notable success in developing local capacity by educating and training local people and involving them in formulating and implementing programs … The AEC's ability to provide supervision and training in host countries to ensure that electoral processes are free and fair is an important contribution to Australia's peacekeeping efforts. Its work in regional capacity building by educating and training local people in election processes is producing significant dividends, especially as these people are now using their skills in other Pacific countries. The committee commends the AEC for its work in international electoral assistance and capacity building.
In April and June 2009, AEC officers provided briefings as part of the pre-deployment training programs organised by the Australian Federal Police's International Deployment Group.
One of the great success stories in the AEC's international work has been the implementation of BRIDGE (Building Resources in Democracy, Governance and Elections) workshops in East Timor. The AEC is the lead agency in the development of BRIDGE, a high-quality education package to build the capacity of electoral administrators.
The AEC's involvement with the support of electoral processes in East Timor began in the 1999 'popular consultation' on East Timor's relationship with Indonesia. It continued with the AEC's 2001–02 electoral capacity-building project in East Timor. The success of the project was noted at the time by international observers at the 2001 and 2002 elections.
BRIDGE has at its core a capacity development ethos. Since 2001, the AEC has been instrumental not only in conducting BRIDGE workshops in East Timor but also in training East Timorese BRIDGE facilitators.
Current AEC activities in East Timor flow from a planning exercise undertaken jointly with AusAID in September 2007, and are being funded by AusAID. The objective is to provide support for the East Timorese in the delivery of BRIDGE courses, and in preparations for the local elections due to be held in 2009. The project's priority is to help strengthen the institution of East Timor's Technical Secretariat for Electoral Administration, known in Portuguese as Secretaiado Técnico de Administração Eleitoral (STAE) to enable it to carry out its electoral functions more effectively.
During 2008–09 three BRIDGE modules were conducted for staff of the STAE. The Electoral Management Design and Electoral Training modules were delivered in Dili. The Voter information BRIDGE module was delivered in Darwin, in conjunction with an election visitor program. The Northern Territory Election Commission invited STAE staff to visit the Northern Territory and take part in a program focusing on the conduct of municipal and shire elections.
Other activities to build the capacity of the STAE during 2008–09 included work placements. The AEC hosted a Timorese AusAID officer in August and September 2008. The placement was regarded by both AusAID and the AEC as a great success. At the end of his placement, the officer was seconded to the STAE for 12 months.
The officer, who had been a staff member of the independent Electoral Commission of East Timor in 2001 and 2002, was also a graduate of the world's first BRIDGE course, conducted in East Timor in 2001. He offered the comment that 'the success stories surrounding elections in East Timor from 2001 onward were the effect of the great BRIDGE courses offered by the AEC. The courses are really well designed and were delivered by fantastic facilitators.'