UN Resident Coordinator: Update on Government Request for Electoral Assistance

The United Nation’s electoral support is guided by periodic UN General Assembly resolutions. Such assistance is provided only at the request of the Member States concerned. The UN’s internal guidelines on electoral support articulate the standard procedures for the provision of electoral assistance to requesting Member States.

Accordingly, the UN Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs (DPA) serves as the UN Focal Point for Electoral Assistance, while UNDP provides technical assistance for electoral activities.

In a letter dated 6 February 2013 to the UN Resident Coordinator, the Government of Zimbabwe made an official request to the UN for assistance in mobilizing resources for the upcoming constitutional referendum and harmonized elections.

As per the UN guidelines on electoral support, the request was transmitted to the UN Focal Point for Electoral Assistance at UN Headquarters. In accordance with standard policy, the UN Focal Point reviewed the request and advised the Government of Zimbabwe that a UN Needs Assessment Mission would need to be dispatched.

A Needs Assessment Mission is a required first step in responding to a request from a Member State for electoral support submitted to the UN. Once a Needs Assessment Mission is conducted, the findings of the assessment are submitted to the UN Focal Point at Headquarters.  Based on the findings of the assessment, the Focal Point will determine the level of support the UN may provide and, as appropriate, recommend that UNDP prepare an electoral assistance project.

Such a project would follow standard UNDP procedures and serves as a tool to mobilize resources from donors. The level of funding that would support an eventual project will be informed by the recommendations of the Needs Assessment Mission and depend on the contributions received from donors. The management and disbursement of funding would be guided by the standard agreements signed between the Government and UNDP, as in the case of any other UNDP project.

The UN Focal Point in his communication of 15 February forwarded the regular Terms of Reference of the proposed Needs Assessment Mission to the Government of Zimbabwe for its consideration. As of 15 March 2013, the United Nations awaits clearance from the Government of Zimbabwe on the dispatching of the Needs Assessment Mission. With reference to recent media reports indicating that the Government will request a change in the Terms of Reference transmitted on 15 February, the UN has not received any such request to date.