The PEV-SADC project started on 6th February 2013 and was initially previewed for two years. To respond to the strong demand of beneficiaries that grounded their appeal in the increased challenges around the SADC electoral cycle, the project has been extended twice and will end on November 2016.
As the PEV-SADC project extends into a third year of implementation, many achievements have been registered vis-à-vis the Project objectives. Positive spin-offs of having implemented this regional project during no less than ten SADC elections, is the many new partnerships that the Project has built through its vast platform and thus opened up further avenues to prevent election related conflict. A wide range of capacity building and advisory services was delivered as a response to this request and to situate the Project as a reliable ally to support key actors in the region to position themselves vis-a-vis the changing electoral and political dynamics. By the time the extension was requested it stood clear that the electoral cycle of some beneficiary countries had changed and presented some major challenges in terms of potential outbreaks of election related conflicts. Our predictions at that time were to see conflict, both high and low intensity, related to electoral processes in Lesotho, Madagascar and and Mozambique while we were kept a close eye on Zambia, Tanzania and Zanzibar. In hindsight, the elections played out slightly different than predicted.
There are strong indications that the region is going through wave of challenges that comes with these shifting roles between the countries whereby the identity of the SADC is tied to the heterogeneous member countries and its varied performance to consolidate democracy. In this shifting landscape, partner organisations and electoral commissions requested the project to accompany them further, not only with capacity building activities but also with advisory support to improve their performances and impact on the elections and governance in their respective countries as a part of a more continuous support structure. Another Project extension will thus allow to provide not only tailored training programmes and advisory support but also to collect experiences and lessons learned through the consolidation of the esearch-network that constitutes a “human observatory”. The Project is concerned that without proper follow up and further support to see the many initiatived well-anchored, the activities will still be very impactfull but its full potential would partially be untapped. One of the lessons learned of the PEV-SADC projects is that in order to influence the sound management of conflict and violence and put in place preventative measures, the Action must engage with all electoral stakeholders in order to facilitate structured interaction between key player.
The PEV SADC Project has hitherto succeeded in creating dialogue and function as a platform for exchange including religious leaders, former statesmen and local authorities. By supporting CSO platforms such as the SADC ESN to be in the driver seat of fostering these partnerships, with both formal and informal institutions, the leverage and profile of CSO as a valuable and respected player in electoral processes is raised. CSOs are conventionally excluded from the political arena in many countries and is subjected to suspicion and moreover regarding as a half-worthy counterpart to the polity. In some countries the shrinking space for CSOs are more predominant that others, however it should be said that regional umbrella CSOs face a double challenge since the context in which they operate is more unpredictable and subject to regional dynamics.
It is therefore the Projects ambition, given the more authoritarian trends that the SADC have seen over the last years, in a limited number of countries, regional bodies such as the SADC ESN that have been equipped with a sharpened tool-box should ideally continue to benefit from support in putting them to use.