An inaugural election management programme will soon be offered by The University of the South Pacific (USP) following the signing of a partnership agreement with the Fijian Elections Office (FEO), Embassy of Indonesia in Fiji and the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (IDEA), at the Laucala Campus on 5 September 2018.
Professor Richard Coll, Deputy Vice-Chancellor Learning and Teaching Services (LTSS) stated that a Certificate level will be introduced first. This may progress to the Diploma level.
“USP is a proud partner in this partnership and the proposed certificate represents many opportunities for advancing USP’s mission and vision,” he stated.
He remarked that while USP is currently developing its new Strategic Plan, the existing one which ends this year contains a number of initiatives and objectives which relate to the purpose of the Certificate.
“In the Learning and Teaching area, we have an objective which is to ensure that programmes continue to be relevant and responsive to the needs of the region. We do not need to be reminded that elections are extremely important to the entire region,” he said.
Professor Coll acknowledged all the partners for putting the initiative together and also the work of the University’s School of Government, Development and International Affairs (SGDIA).
Ambassador of Indonesia to Fiji, Raden Mohammed Benyamin Scott Carnadi, said they welcomed the idea when approached by International IDEA and the FEO.
“We are excited to help collaborate in this effort in helping to develop an academic qualification in elections management,” he stated.
“We have been experiencing the election process in a step-by-step manner whereby our election Commission and Government collaborate. Like Fiji, Indonesia is also an island country consisting of 17,000 islands so having elections can be a tremendous effort.”
Ambassador Carnadi added that, “there is no recipe that fits immediately or a one-size-fits-all approach but we are always looking at the challenges and shortcomings to improve”.
Supervisor of Elections Mr Mohammed Saneem remarked that over the last few years, the FEO under the current framework, has been able to expose very small organisations such as trade unions, taxi organisations and bigger organisations like university staff and student bodies to election best practices.
“As such I believe it is now necessary for Fiji and our Pacific partners to diversify our electoral education from something that we run internally to build capacity within our own staff and to expose them through direct involvement in education institutions rather than be taught by election management bodies or civil society,” Mr Saneem said.
He stated that the introduction of the election management programme firstly at USP and then eventually at other universities, was an opportunity that the FEO was only waiting to explore.
Also present to share his thoughts and witness the signing was Mr Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, Fiji’s Attorney-General and Minister for Economy, Public Enterprises, Civil Service and Communications who congratulated the four partners.
He spoke of the importance of a free and fair election and emphasised the significance of democracy.
“We need to develop a deep culture of democracy. Democracy is about ensuring the elections we conduct are done with integrity,” he said.
“We need the ability of people who are able to assess electoral management from an objective and non-political perspective and we can then be able to have true democracy,” he added.
Mr Sayed-Khaiyum also commended the University for facilitating the course and wished the programme well.