The Asia Foundation Supports Kathmandu Declaration for Free, Fair, and Transparent Elections
Program Year: 2024
In Nepal, participants of the sixth Asian Electoral Stakeholder Forum (AESFVI) affirmed their commitment to strengthening democratic processes by signing the “Kathmandu Declaration to Strengthen Democracy and Promote Electoral Integrity through Electoral Reforms.” From December 6-7, the forum was joined by over 300 stakeholders from election management bodies, local and international NGOs, election experts, reformers, media, and intergovernmental organizations from Asia and beyond. Chief Election Commissioner, Election Commission of Nepal (ECN), Dinesh Kumar Thapaliya, and Rohana Hettiarachchi, Chairperson, Asian Network for Free Elections (ANFREL), signed the declaration. According to ANFREL, the Kathmandu Declaration is aligned with the principles of international election standards, emphasizing the commitment to recognized norms and best practices in democratic processes.
The two-day event, co-hosted by ANFREL and ECN, focused on the theme of “Building Sustainable Democracies: Addressing Electoral Challenges and Opportunities.” It featured panel discussions on seven key issues, including sustainable democracy through electoral reforms; inclusion of marginalized communities in Asian electoral processes; online media, elections, and democracy; elections and civic space; and money’s influence in elections.
Stakeholders agreed to navigate affirmative action policies for increased representation of marginalized communities, particularly people with disabilities, in electoral management practices. This includes implementing disability-friendly measures and regular training of Election Commission staff. Additionally, they pledged to launch civic education campaigns to emphasize the importance of elections in strengthening the quality of democracy at different levels of government. Social media literacy campaigns will also be used to educate the public on discerning credible information from misinformation, disinformation, or malinformation.
Our Country Representative in Nepal, Meghan Nalbo, chaired a session on the “Use of Alternative Voting Mechanisms and Technology in Increasing Political Participation,” highlighting technology’s importance in the electoral process and the function of AI and cybersecurity. Panel speakers emphasized the role of information technology in increasing voter participation and expressed a need for collaborative efforts among government, election organizers, civil society, and citizens to adapt and utilize technology effectively.
Panelists addressed ongoing issues in electoral processes, such as implementing a Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, tackling low women representation, and combatting the rise of misinformation and hate speech.
Our USAID Civil Society and Media (CSM) Program, South Asia Grants Program (SAGP), and Australian government-funded Sub National Governance Program (SNGP) supported the AESF VI in Nepal. These programs have been fostering free, fair, accountable, transparent, inclusive, and democratic elections during local and general elections. The SNGP supported the General Election Observation Committee (GEOC) in observing and reporting on electoral processes across 32 districts during the May local elections. The USAID CSM Program initiated the Election Civic Engagement Challenge Fund, through which three organizations received funds to observe the election across the seven provinces. The organizations, Youth in Federal Discourse (YFD) (a newly established youth-led organization), Sankalpa (a consortium of women rights defenders’ organizations), and the General Election Observation Committee (GEOC) collectively engaged a total of 854 observers, 60.1 percent of which were women.
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