BRIDGE on the Equator – A Training the Facilitator delivered in Portuguese in the Islands of São Tomé e Principe

14 October 2011

From 27th September to 7th October, the first ever BRIDGE course was conducted in São Tomé, the capital of the islands of São Tomé e Principe, that straddle the line of the Equator.

The 19 participants included members of the National Electoral Commission (NEC), Political Party and Parliament representatives, CSO and Government representatives, and one member of the Angolan Institute for Electoral Systems and Democracy (IASED). In addition, and four National Officers working for the UN development agencies in São Tomé also had the opportunity to participate in the training.

As in the standard TTF curriculum, participants were exposed, inter alia, to the various facilitation techniques, learning styles, as well as to the characteristics of a good facilitator, before having the opportunity to put these into practice.  Two modules were chosen for the presentations:  Introduction to Electoral Administration, and Media and Elections. The TTF curriculum in São Tomé took into consideration that the national official language is Portuguese, and therefore the sessions were held both in Portuguese.

In São Tomé e Principe, the legal framework states that the NEC ceases all its functions 30 days after elections day. Legal provisions to establish and enable a permanent secretariat are very limited and were never followed by the necessary administrative and operational measures to allow such provisions to have significant impact. Consequently, in between elections the NEC is formally replaced by a technical cabinet working within the Parliament but in practice, this cabinet has not enough human and technical resources to cope with the very limited tasks foreseen in the legal framework.

In consequence, it is very challenging to capacitate the EMB in São Tomé e Principe throughout the electoral cycles and not only during elections. One of the most efficient ways to do this is to support the establishment of a kind of national roster with national and local human resources more and more experienced and skilled in elections’ management while a legal reform is waited. These national human resources encompass electoral experts, EMB permanent non permanent staff, political party representatives normally dealing with elections, CSO personnel involved in civic education campaigns, UN development national practitioners dealing with elections in their portfolio, etc. Through BRIDGE they can become an excellent asset in a long term capacity development programme aiming to national ownership and sustainable institutions.

In a period preceding the annual voters’ registration operations, with local elections foreseen for 2012, the BRIDGE TTF was very much welcomed by all stakeholders as a very inclusive and efficient strategy targeting the improvement electoral administration exercise in of São Tomé e Principe’s . Semi-accredited BRIDGE workshop facilitators will contribute critically to launch the building block of the national roster of capacitated human resources in the field of elections administration and adult training that can be used by the EMB at any moment in the electoral cycle.

Several participants noted that, as a result of the BRIDGE TTF and the knowledge obtained therein, they had strengthened their resolve to continue to expand their professional and personal development.

As foreseen within the Pro PALOP-TL Annual Work Plan framework, at least other two BRIDGE thematic seminars in Portuguese will be delivered in São Tomé e Principe until the end of the first quarter of 2012.

The facilitators for this BRIDGE TTF were Fabio Bargiacchi, Chief Technical Adviser, PRO PALOP-TL; Ricardo Godinho Gomes, Electoral Assistance Specialist, PRO PALOP-TL; Cláudio Albasini Langa, Director of Civic Education and Training, STAE Mozambique; Deryck Fritz, Training Specialist of the PRO PALOP-TL.

This TTF completes all planned TTF for the six beneficiary countries of the PRO PALOP-TL project (Angola, Cabo Verde, Guinea Bissau, Mozambique, Sao Tome and Timor Leste). As foreseen, before the end of 2011 the PRO PALOP TL project have semi-accredited more than 120 persons in the Portuguese speaking countries tackling the lack of BRIDGE Facilitators in those countries, also considering that BRIDGE was never delivered before in Portuguese in some of these countries.

The strategy agreed with the six beneficiary countries, foreseen up to 12 persons each country to get the full accreditation within via co-facilitation of BRIDGE thematic seminars.  This would allow a creation of an important number of BRIDGE accredited workshop facilitators that will disseminate electoral administration knowledge in regions and districts of their countries to peers and other electoral stakeholders ensuring the sustainability and effectiveness of the BRIDGE programme in the long run in the Portuguese Speaking world.

The Pro PALOP-TL is geographically concentrated on strengthening electoral processes and institutions in Angola, Cape Verde, Guinea Bissau, Mozambique, Sao Tome and Principe, and Timor Leste.  It is fully funded by the EU with 6.1 million EURO, implemented by UNDP with a project management unit based in Guinea Bissau and a liaison office within the premises of STAE Mozambique.

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