Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) of India, Dr. Nasim Zaidi, 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’. Dr. Zaidi was giving a keynote address here today after inaugurating the first ever Global Conference on Voter Education titled ‘Voter Education for Inclusive, Informed and Ethical Participation’. It is being organized by the Election Commission of India (ECI) in association with UNDP from 19th to 21st October, 2016.
The CEC noted that, “This Conference represents nearly 40% of the world’s population under a single roof, bears the testimony to the importance of the Conference on the world stage.” He further observed that, “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.”
Giving the motto of “No Voter to be Left Behind”, Dr. Zaidi said that People are at the center 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 proposed Draft Resolution of the Conference also 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 about 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.
Further, during his address, Dr. Zaidi proposed that the participating EMBs resolve to establish a Global Knowledge Network on Voter Education, VoICE.NET, which will be an innovative wide platform to share knowledge resources, interact on discussion board, sharing platform for events and practices in various countries and also extend its knowledge and resource support to all other stakeholders.
The CEC also inaugurated an exhibition showcasing Voter Education tools and materials from India and across the world consisting of informational material, model polling station, provision of live voting on EVM, photos, videos, 3D models, interactive games developed by ECI has been kept on show. The EVM and VVPAT have especially been demonstrated for the delegates on their request. A substantial quantum of Voter Education material developed by ECI, the voter education guides/brochures, the compilation of Human Stories and other literature including the praiseworthy Braille brochures on voting education are also on display.
In their address, Election Commissioners, Shri A.K. Joti and Shri O.P. Rawat touched upon various issues, challenges and innovative solutions that the ECI has taken for augmenting Voter Education and Participation. Shri Joti stressed upon the need of tapping the young voter through the use of Social Mediaand increasing accessibility for voters with disability by establishing special polling stations in hospitals, old age homes, blind schools etc.
Deputy Election Commissioner, Shri Umesh Sinha, gave an informative presentation to the delegates focusing upon the novel interventions by ECI for increasing voter awareness and participation in the elections by Information, Motivation and Facilitation.
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. Mentioning this, Dr. Zaidi emphasized on the use of technological advancements in Information & Communication Technology and penetration of Internet in transforming the relationship between the citizens and EMBs.
The distinguished gathering of over 200 delegates consisted of Heads and members, specialists, 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.
Amongst the national participants, Senior officials from Ministries of HRD, Information and Broadcasting, Social Justice, External Affairs etc. whoare partnering ECI in SVEEP have been invited for the Conference. Special Invitees consist of the Former CECs of India, SECs, CEO’s as well as SVEEP Nodal officers from all states. The CSOs and NGOs who lend an integral support in ECIs mandate of Voter Education and Electoral Participation are also present.