No voter to be left behind—this is the motto that Chief Election Commissioner Dr Nasim Zaidi gave to the first ever global conference on voter education that he inaugurated in Delhi on Wednesday. Titled ‘Voter Education for Inclusive, Informed and Ethical Participation’, the conference is being organised by the Election Commission in association with UNDP from October 19 to 21.
The conference represents nearly 40 per cent of the world’s population under a single roof, bearing testimony to its importance on the world stage. The gathering of over 200 delegates consisted of heads and members, specialists and domain experts from EMBs of 27 countries along with representatives of the UNDP and international institutes like IFES, International IDEA, University of Haifa and Malaysian Commonwealth Studies Centre.
“In the lofty discourse of democracy, it is often missed that elections belong to the people, elections are about the people and elections are of the people,” Dr Zaidi observed. People were at the centre of focus of this two-day conference and deliberations would be held in great detail so as to adopt best practices across the world to ensure voter education and maximum electoral participation of the people, he added.
The CEC gave a call to bring about a mutually-agreed vision framework on engagement among Election Management Bodies (EMBs) around the world, titled ‘New Delhi Declaration on Voter Education’.
The proposed draft resolution of the conference notes that the voter is the central point of the electoral framework and every voter must be thoroughly aware and educated about the electoral processes and procedures, so as to ensure his or her informed and ethical participation.
Dr Zaidi also highlighted the success of the systematic Voter’s Education and Electoral Participation (SVEEP) in 2014 Parliament elections in India. The programme was initiated in 2009 by the ECI after coming across a glaring deficiency on the aspect of voter education in India. Subsequently, SVEEP resulted into highest ever voter participation (66.4%) achieved in 2014 general elections and an unprecedented success in reducing the gender gap from 4.4% (2009) to 1.55% (2014), he informed.
The conference, over the two-day period, would bring to the table complex problems and a global bouquet of innovative interventions and initiatives through multi-modal and multi-disciplinary approaches.