Thursday, 15 October 2020
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
Election Monitoring Missions
158. To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the number of members on the election observation roster; the steps taken to establish the number of roster members able and willing to volunteer for overseas election observation missions in view of the Covid-19 pandemic; if he will make temporary additions to the roster by the appointment of experienced observers in order to ensure Ireland is in a position to make a meaningful contribution to international election observation missions as they arise; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30840/20]
The current roster of volunteers available for nomination to election observation missions organised by the EU and OSCE has 199 members, as listed in the response to Parliamentary Questions No. 338 and No. 342 of 21 July 2020. Roster members were selected on the basis of an open competitive application process in 2018. The roster, which is facilitated by the Department of Foreign Affairs, is effective as of 1 January 2019 and is set to run through 2023. Those successful in the competition have subsequently been vetted and trained, and thus there is a large pool of high-calibre election observers available for nomination when the public health situation allows. By way of context, the average number of roster members participating in missions annually is fewer than 60.
At present, based on public health advice and measures in place to combat the spread of COVID-19, the Department of Foreign Affairs advises against non-essential overseas travel. Election observation missions pose particular challenges in the context of COVID-19, given extensive travel within the destination country and close contact with residents as well as election observers from other countries. This has implications not only for the health of election observers but also of those with whom they would come into contact in carrying out their duties and upon their return from mission.
In light of these concerns, and as outlined in response to Parliamentary Question No. 396 of 6 October 2020, the Department has taken the decision not to nominate volunteers for election observation missions at this time. Officials are continuing to monitor the situation, taking into account Government policy as well as communications with EU and OSCE focal points for election observation missions. As mission requests arise, we will continue to evaluate the epidemiological situation, health and travel advice, and safeguards put in place both by mission organisers as well as host countries, and will decide on nominating observers accordingly. Given the unprecedented nature of the COVID-19 pandemic and its current resurgence, the health and safety of volunteers, as well as of their families and broader contacts, is at the core of our considerations.
For information, the OSCE has advised that planned election observation missions to Ukraine, Georgia and Republic of Moldova in October and November 2020 have been reconfigured as limited election observation missions not requiring volunteer observers due to the difficulty which OSCE members have in nominating volunteers given the extent of the pandemic. Similarly, the EU has scaled back election observation for the forthcoming general election in Bolivia, which will be an election expert mission not requiring volunteer observers.