Critical priority gaps in funding for The Gambia’s 2021-2023 electoral process

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1. Introduction and context

Following the peaceful transfer of power in January 2017, the Government of The Gambia has made notable progress in key peacebuilding areas, laying the ground for democratic governance and durable peace. The 2021-2023 electoral cycle in The Gambia commences this year with the presidential election scheduled for 4 December 2021, to be followed by the legislative and local government elections on 22 April 2022 and 13 May 2023, respectively. As part of the electoral reform, the Ministry of Justice, the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) and other stakeholders tabled the draft 2020 election bill before the National Assembly on 22 March 2021. The 2021-2023 electoral calendar has been gazetted with the new dates for the voters’ registration exercise from 29 May to 11 July. However, with eight months to the presidential election, the new constitution and the election bill that would have provided the legal framework for electoral administration have not been adopted.

Meanwhile, there are significant gaps in available funding for the electoral process. To mitigate this, the IEC is working on a disbursement plan to be submitted to the Ministry of Finance to address the shortage of funding for its operational activities, including the planned voters’ registration exercise and the 4 December 2021 presidential election. The electoral assistance project, managed by UNDP, is also facing a critical funding gap to address emerging issues in the electoral process such as prevention of election related violence, enhancing judiciary capacity for election dispute resolution, securitization of the elections through the training of The Gambian Police Force, embedding human rights standards in the electoral process, issuance of identity cards to new voters etc. This coupled with the highly anticipated Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC) report (expected by end of June 2021) could heighten tensions ahead of the 4 December presidential election. Whilst the IEC anticipates huge challenges in the conduct of the election if the constitution is adopted after the voters’ registration exercise, it continues to reaffirm its commitment to a transparent and successful voters’ registration and presidential election, and calls for support in addressing critical funding gaps.

This briefing paper clarifies the funding gap of USD 1.8 million in the operational activities of the IEC 2021 budget as well as the funding gap of USD 1.5 million in the UNDP 2021 annual work plan that focuses on the non-operational and critical priority initiatives of the UNDP electoral assistance project. Amidst these budgetary/funding gaps in both the IEC/Government budget and UNDP electoral assistance project, there exists no co-funding mechanism for these electoral activities.