In December 2012, a number of organizations devoted to the promotion of democratic principles, particularly through fair elections, launched a new network. The region these organizations called home was backsliding, and better coordination between the NGOs devoted to monitoring of elections was clearly needed.
– Observing elections was my own entry-point into my now decades-long work to promote democracy and human rights, the Norwegian Helsinki Committee’s Secretary General, Berit Lindeman recalls.
– During the 1990’s, many solid human rights NGOs were observing elections in emerging democracies. Organisations like Golos in Russia, Viasna in Belarus and Opora in Ukraine played significant roles in documenting the state of democratic elections, promoting international standards and pushing governments who increasingly misused electoral processes to strengthen own rule, she adds.
Since then, EPDE has evolved into a professional network of 16 members from Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Germany, Hungary, Lithuania, Moldova, Norway, Poland, Sweden and Ukraine.
The Norwegian Helsinki Committee is proud to be part of a network EPDE which improves the professional quality of its member organizations through peer-learning, tailored training and expert missions.
– Among the many successes of EPDE, I would highlight the quite ground-breaking work to reveal what we call “fake obervers” from democratic countries, who misuse the tools of election observation to legitimise illetimiate election processes in Russia, Donbass, Crimea, Azerbaijan and elsewhere, says Berit Lindeman.
The Norwegian Helsinki Committee was present during the celebration of EBDE’s anniversary in Warsaw this week, where participants took a moment to remember their colleagues from Belarus, now behind bars.
Six members of Human Rights Center Viasna and many of their friends and colleagues are currently held as political prisoners by the Belarusian regime, including Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Ales Bialiatski.
– We look forward to the day when we can observe democratic elections in Belarus together with our friends from EPDE, Lindeman concludes.