The United Nations (UN) team that held discussions here about what electoral assistance may be needed for the two upcoming elections, visited after the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) formally requested an internationally recruited Information Technology specialist. Stabroek News understands that in February this year, GECOM sent a letter to the United Nations Resident Coordinator in Guyana, requesting UN electoral assistance. This request had not been made public by GECOM here. GECOM, this newspaper was told was requesting that the UN provide the IT expert to aid the Commission in voter registration and the 2018 local government and 2020 general elections.
GECOM Chairman, Justice (rtd) James Patterson was not available for comment when this newspaper contacted his office.
Following approval of this request, a United Nations Electoral Needs Assessment Mission (NAM) was deployed to Guyana. The team which was led by Hassan Sesay, Senior Electoral/Political Affairs Officer was deployed here on May 7 and completed its work here on Friday.
This newspaper was told that the purpose of the mission was to evaluate the current political and electoral environment in Guyana as well as to assess the form of future UN electoral assistance.
The areas of assessment included the political, legal, institutional, technical and security environment and the electoral framework; the capacity and needs of election stakeholders and in particular the electoral management body or bodies; the UN capacity for electoral assistance and co-ordination mechanisms; current and planned electoral assistance by other organizations; sustainability and cost-effectiveness of requested or proposed electoral assistance and the potential for election-related violence.
Meetings, this newspaper was told focused mainly on electoral authorities, electoral stakeholders and members of the international community.
The presence of the mission to Guyana was unknown until the Chambers of the Attorney General (AG) sent out a press release on Thursday.
The release stated that the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) team, which consisted of Sesay; Fernanda Lopes, Election/Governance Expert and Guillermo Kendall, Senior Political Affairs Officer met with Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Basil Williams, SC and team on the request made by GECOM for provision of technical aid in preparation for the two elections.
The release said that the discussion covered a range of issues that will be dealt with in preparation for the Local Government and General Elections. “Those issues are the results tabulation process; developing the necessary software to expedite the process; the biometric instrument used at polling stations; verifications of electoral listings; and to ensure security at the polling stations”, the release said. The UNDP will render support and guidelines in those capacities and where else necessary. At the end of the visit a report will be prepared with recommendations which will be submitted to UNDP Guyana.
This newspaper has since learnt that the team previously met with GECOM’s Chairman and commissioners and was set to meet with them again on Thursday.
IT experts have been recruited internationally for past elections.