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The experience of election observers: lessons for the process of timber verification

Research reports

As is the case with independent monitors in the timber sector, election observers are responding to an element of doubt over the functioning of a routine process. They act to check on the veracity of claims, to improve the performance of the managing institutions and the overall governance system, and increase the legitimacy of the operations under review. This VERIFOR paper's case study discussion covers key questions arising in the verification debate, namely that of how to promote independence and ownership over the system; and the implications of the activity for the promotion of a broader concept of good governance.

Questions are raised as to whether such a monitoring function can be a significant lever for governance reforms or whether simple indicators have little impact on the overall quality of governance. In solid democracies, the role of election observers and monitors is played by well-embedded national institutions - independent electoral commissions, non-partisan poll watchers, the press and independent courts. An interesting issue remains therefore as to whether efforts and resources are better used in developing these horizontal institutions of democracy rather than on just one facet of the process - election observation.

Cecilia Luttrell and Robert Nash