The Election Commission of India, as the current Chair of the Forum of Heads of Election Management Bodies of SAARC Countries, has hosted a meeting of all forum members to strengthen mutual cooperation in the field of electoral management.
The Heads of Election Management Bodies and their representatives from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, Maldives, Pakistan and Sri Lanka attended the meet in New Delhi.
The forum decided to formulate an action-oriented Work Plan for 2013-14, and to initiate action to link the web-sites of the member-Commissions, as a precursor to a Forum web-site to facilitate faster connectivity, coordination, exchange of information and experiences.
The forum also decided to rename itself as the 'Forum of Election Management Bodies of South Asia'. The next meeting of the forum will be hosted by Bhutan later this year.
Election Commission of India (ECI) simultaneously hosted a seminar titled "Towards More Inclusive Elections - Interventions in South Asian Region".
Each delegation shared their perception of the challenges faced by them in working towards inclusive elections and the attempts they have made to ensure that all eligible voters are registered and are able to vote.
The delegates also attended the national-level celebration of the National Voters Day function on January 25, and were invited to the Republic Day Parade.
Chief election Commissioner of India and Chair of the Forum, V.S. Sampath, in his key-note address at the Seminar, emphasized the need to work for inclusion of all eligible voters in the electoral roll and the fullest participation of all sections of the society in the electoral process.
He noted that the challenges that the South Asian Election Commissions face in this task are quite similar and called for joint endeavours to ensure inclusion.
Election Commissioners H.S. Brahma and Zaidi urged the participants to mount concerted efforts to correct under-representation of certain sections of eligible voters in the electoral process such as women, apathetic urban voters, vulnerable and disadvantaged groups and to motivate and facilitate them in exercising their right to vote. The Chief election Commissioner and Election Commissioners assured their South Asian counter-parts all support in conduct of elections.
CECs and delegates from Election Commissions of South Asia pledged to Cooperate for ensuring more efficient and qualitative elections. They lauded ECI's leadership in election management in this region.
Delegates from Pakistan informed the meet that they have adopted from India the concept of the National Voters Day to enhance people's participation in elections.
Coinciding with the meeting of the Forum of Election Commissions, a two-week Training Programme has been conducted at ECI's India International Institute of Democracy and Election Management (IIIDEM) exclusively for election officials nominated by the forum members.
The programme titled "Capacity Development for Election Management" includes field level exposure to ECI's election machinery, with visits to Agra and Bhopal.
ECI/IIIDEM is scheduled to organize another course for Capacity Development in Election Management, this time exclusively for Afghan Election Officials, in February 2013.
The Election Commission of India also hosted a visit by a ten-member team from the Election Commission of Bhutan to witness the State Assembly elections in Gujarat last month. (ANI)