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What kind of qualifications and experience do I need in order to become an election observer?

Election experience: It certainly helps to have some kind of experience in election observation – either as an observer for the ODIHR/OSCE, or other international missions like the Carter Center, the Organization for American States, the Commonwealth etc. Perhaps you have election experience in your own country, as a polling station official or election commissioner? Maybe you’ve been on an election observation mission to another country organised by a non-governmental organisation or by a government ministry?

Ideally, it would be great if you had some experience helping with the administration of an election, especially abroad, as part of an electoral technical assistance project, such as those run by the United Nations Development Programme. Have you thought of applying for a post as a UN Volunteer? This is an excellent way to get experience in the field of elections.

Ask yourself, what do I have to offer a country going through an electoral process? What experience in democratic development and political understanding can I bring?

Team work skills: We cannot stress this enough – you have to be the kind of person who likes working in teams! You must be prepared to work hard on making sure the team functions well throughout the mission. Observers always work in teams of two. It is very unlikely that you will know the person you’re going to be partnered with prior to your deployment. Your ability to connect quickly and work well with others of different backgrounds, ages and cultures, will be vital to the quality of your input to the mission. If you’re the kind of person who prefers to work alone, this is not the kind of job for you.

Language skills: Make sure that you can speak and write the mission language fluently. Don’t think you’ll manage once you get there. It places an extra burden on your partner, who will have to do all the talking and writing for the team. Ensure you speak the mission language well enough to do your job.

Reporting skills: If you want to be a Long-Term Observer, you have to be very good at summarising and analysing information. You may have anything from 15 to 30 meetings per week, which have to be consolidated and summarised into weekly reports of five pages and ad hoc reports of one page. Your ability to write succinctly and to be able to analyse the situation (election, political, media, campaign etc) will be your main contribution to the quality of the mission. It is also very important to how your performance as an observer will be evaluated. If you know you cannot write well, work on it – take a course – before you apply to join a mission.

Official EU observer selection criteria:

  1. Previous experience of election monitoring and/or other relevant experience or know-how and specific training, national and/or international – good experience of working languages of EU EOMs (either English, French, or Spanish or a combination of those languages);
  2. interpersonal skills (e.g. capacity of balanced judgment, ability to work in teams, ability to cope with difficult situations, respect for local attitudes, good communication skills, readiness to work in a multicultural environment);
  3. ability to maintain professional independence and strict impartiality in the conduct of duties in the host country;
  4. demonstrated commitment to democracy and human rights;
  5. EU Member State citizenship;
  6. familiarity and experience with electoral laws and procedures (including inter alia electoral rolls, national electoral committees), not limited to a single electoral tradition;
  7. special knowledge of human rights and democratisation issues;
  8. basic knowledge of institutional aspects of the EU;
  9. analytical and drafting skills.