Institutionalizing Democracy [Archives:1998/27/Law & Diplomacy]

June 6 1998

The Electoral Reform International Services (ERIS) is a non-governmental organization, established in 1991, to work in developing democracies, providing electoral assistance as well as assistance in the field of institutional development. Most of its work has been in the former Soviet Union and Africa. It has recently come to the Middle East and Asia.
Two of the ERIS senior officers -Mark Power-Stevens and Andrew Bruce – have just visited Yemen. They talked to Dr. Salah Haddash, Yemen Times Managing Editor.
Mark Power-Stevens,
ERIS Program Manager:
The purpose of this visit is to look at a number of future projects in the field of democracy and institutional development. People have told us there are very important subjects on which we can cooperate.
Possibly, we’ll also be working with political parties in the elected parliament to help strengthen the parliamentary institutions. Possible projects will also be discussed with the Supreme Elections Committee. We are not carrying out all these projects, the idea is to look at what’s possible and what’s not.
ERIS activities in Yemen on the invitation of the British Embassy included projects to raise public awareness during the April 1997 elections. The aim was to increase the people’s participattion, targeting women voters in particular because they would be less likely to participate. We worked with a local organizations, helping to develop the materials, but then it was really implemented by the Yemeni people.
We have also discovered that there are a number of organizations carrying out similar projects in Yemen. So we are keen to talk to not only Yemeni organizations, but also to other international organizations to make sure that we don’t do the same things twice. Our goal is to complement or strengthen what others are doing and make the best contribution we can.
Andrew Bruce,
ERIS Program Officer:
Mark and his colleague Fida Nasrallah were in Yemen last year carrying out a project related to the general elections.
I think it’s important to find out what a country such as Yemen wants and needs. We are not here to impose our ideas, but to listen to people and to develop any assistance that might be useful to give.
We would very much like to be involved again in the further development of democracy in Yemen. I know my colleagues Mark and Fida very much enjoyed working here. As an institution and organization we would be keen to have further commitments to this country.