The SADC-ESN was established in January 1998 at a launching conference held in Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania. The SADC-ESN is a network of organisations at country level and at regional network composed of county networks, working in the field of democracy and elections. In its early formation the SADC-ESN focused mainly on domestic election observation and thereafter on regional election observation and building capacity of network members to design and develop voter and civic curriculum and to a limited extent, internal capacity building. The Network provides opportunities for sharing lessons learnt, peer exchange and encourages exchange of best practices at the regional level and provides opportunities for members to participate in various workshops and conferences including workshops on election observation, electoral reforms, gender equity in the democratic process. In an effort to create a legal identity, the network is now registered since January 2015 as a trust under the name Electoral Support Network of Southern Africa (ESN-SA) and is member of the Global Network of Domestic Election Monitors (GNDEM).
While strides have been made in the area of election observation in particular and to a lesser extent voter education, internal capacity strengthening has gaps. Similarly, while several SADC countries have either established domestic networks, such as the Botswana Election Support Network (BESNET) that was formed to observe the 2004 Botswana Parliament elections, the South African Civil Society Election Network (SACSEC), that comes together solely to observer national, provincial and local elections or Réseau National pour l’Obsevation des Elections au Congo (RENOSEC) a network of CSOs that observes elections in the Democratic Republic of Congo, a few countries such as Zimbabwe, Malawi and Zambia have permanent election networks whose interventions continue throughout the electoral cycle such as the Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN), Malawi Electoral Support Network (MESN) and the Foundation for Democratic Process (FODEP) in Zambia.
Gaps still exist in regard to other areas of expertise needed for effective participation in and contribution to strengthening democracy and governance institutions. This project focuses on the vital role that CSOs through their country and regional networks can play in creating a climate conducive for an election where election conflict is managed and resolved peacefully. An election outcome that is perceived as credible and accepted by citizens is an important step toward democracy consolidation.
In some countries, civil society organisations have played a certain role in resolving election related conflict. In general, their contribution in conflict prevention and resolution is still limited. In addition no systematic collection and analysis of data relating to the causes of election violence has been done. This project seeks to address the above-mentionned issues.