communications

Republic of Georgia versus COVID-19: Securing an Early Win, Beating Back a Late-Stage Challenge 2020 – 2021

Author
Tyler McBrien
Focus Area(s)
Critical Tasks
Country of Reform
Abstract

As soon as the Republic of Georgia’s National Center for Disease Control and Public Health (NCDC) sounded an alarm about a cluster of unusual pneumonia cases in Wuhan, China, Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia’s government set its pandemic response into motion.  It was early January 2020, and there was still no hard evidence that the infection had spread across borders, but the country’s health leaders were wary. As outbreaks of the virus, identified as COVID-19, began to appear in other countries, the government quickly created a multisectoral coordination council chaired by the prime minister and then adopted a number of emergency response measures. Working with a network of local public health centers, the NCDC launched a communications blitz, with scientists and physicians at the forefront. The public health campaign encouraged compliance with stringent—and unpopular—lockdown measures. Through the first half of 2020, the weekly number of new cases remained low, even as infections surged in many high-income industrial countries. But it was too early for a victory lap. Pressure grew to open up resort centers during July and August in an economy heavily dependent on tourism. During September, October, and November the number of new cases per day climbed sharply, driven mainly by expansion of the outbreak in Adjara, a vacation destination. Compared to most European countries, the incidence of disease remained low, however, and the number of new infections later plummeted, approaching initial levels by March 2021. This case study highlights how a small, middle-income country with a privatized and decentralized health-care system initially succeeded in its pandemic response, struggled with sharp reversals, and then brought the infection rate close to earlier levels prior to vaccine distribution.

Tyler McBrien drafted this case study based on interviews conducted with Nona Tsotseria, MD, PhD, in January and February 2021. Case published June 2021. This case study was supported by the United Nations Development Programme Crisis Bureau as part of a series on center-of-government coordination of the pandemic response.

The views expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent those of the United Nations, including UNDP, or the UN Member States.

Shaping Values for a New Generation: Anti-Corruption Education in Lithuania, 2002–2006

Author
Maya Gainer
Core Challenge
Country of Reform
Abstract

In 2002, Lithuania was struggling to defeat corruption, which had flourished during the Soviet occupation. Once viewed as the key to survival in an administered economy, offering gifts for services had become an accepted social norm. More than a decade after Lithuania regained independence, polling showed that although 77% of Lithuanians considered this form of corruption a problem, few were willing to change behaviors they saw as practical. The country’s recently created anti-corruption agency, the Special Investigation Service, faced the challenge of changing those social expectations. It decided to focus on a new generation of Lithuanians. The Modern Didactics Center, an educational nongovernmental organization, and a dedicated group of teachers stepped in to help the agency work toward the ambitious goal of changing the attitudes of students across the country. The group experimented with a variety of educational approaches both in and outside the classroom, including a curriculum that integrated anti-corruption elements into standard subjects and projects that encouraged students to become local activists. Despite resistance from educators that limited the program’s scale, the effort developed new approaches that illuminated the ethical and practical downsides of corruption for students across the country.

Maya Gainer drafted this case based on interviews conducted in Vilnius, Mažeikiai, and Anykščiai, Lithuania, during February 2015. Case published June 2015.

Weathering the Storm: Felipe Calderón’s Office of the Presidency, Mexico, 2006-2012

Author
Robert Joyce
Focus Area(s)
Country of Reform
Abstract

In 2006, incoming Mexican president Felipe Calderón had to work quickly to deliver on ambitious campaign promises that included improving infrastructure and confronting organized crime. Limited by his country’s constitution to one six-year term, Calderón, a hands-on manager, sought to ensure coordination and follow-through among members of his Cabinet by creating a strong Office of the Presidency. At first, he appointed Juan Camilo Mouriño, a close aide and political adviser, to head a centralized office that combined political and policy responsibilities in his chief-of-staff role. Later, Calderón moved Mouriño to the Cabinet, shifting political responsibilities out of the office, flattening the structure, and assuming more-direct management responsibility than he had exercised as president earlier. Mouriño’s untimely death later the same year coincided with twin crises that tested the office and the presidency. Although Calderón’s tenure demonstrated successful planning and coordination, his experience also illustrated the limitations of an organizational structure that relied too heavily on the chief executive’s participation.

Robert Joyce drafted this case study based on interviews conducted in Mexico City in January 2015. Case published in June, 2015.

Kayode Idowu

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X
Focus Area(s)
Ref Batch Number
3
Country of Reform
Interviewers
Gabriel Kuris and Rahmane Idrissa
Name
Kayode Idowu
Interviewee's Position
Chief Press Secretary
Interviewee's Organization
Attahiru Jega
Country
Date of Interview
Reform Profile
No
Abstract

In this interview, Kayode Idowu describes his role as Chief Press Secretary for Attahiru Jega, chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). He explains the transparency and accountability that Jega has brought to INEC through changes such as maintaining open, honest communication with the media and taking responsibility for problems as they arise. For instance, Idowu recounts the delay in the April 2ndelections, explaining that INEC chose to postpone elections rather than use non-official result sheets that were not secure.  He also comments on how the rise of social media has changed media relations, making both INEC and the conventional media more accountable. Idowu discusses his experiences handling the public relations surrounding election violence, distinguishing the security aspects from the electoral aspects of the issue. In response to election violence, INEC initiated cooperative efforts with security agencies; Idowu describes this process as well as INEC’s communication and cooperation with other groups, including Parties, civil society, and the State Electoral Committees. Throughout the interview, Idowu explains how his background in print media helps him understand and relate to the media with whom he works. 

Profile

At the time of this interview Kayode Idowu was serving as the Chief Press Secretary to Attahiru Jega, the chairman of the commission. Jega recruited Idowu in July of 2010 from his post as deputy editor of The Nation. Idowu previously served as editor of the SaturdayPunch, deputy editor of the SaturdayThis Day, and chief sub editor ofThe Guardian. He is also a former Saturday editor of the now-defunct The Comet.

 

George Sarpong

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E
Focus Area(s)
Ref Batch Number
2
Country of Reform
Interviewers
Ashley McCants
Name
George Sarpong
Interviewee's Position
Executive Secretary
Interviewee's Organization
National Media Commission, Ghana
Language
English
Nationality of Interviewee
Ghanaian
Town/City
Accra
Country
Date of Interview
Reform Profile
No
Abstract

George Sarpong explains the role of the National Media Commission in Ghana, and the role the media plays in elections in Ghana.  He goes into detail about the way media is employed by the political parties and the electoral management body, distinguishing between state-owned media and privately owned media in this process.  He also explains the role of the media in educating the public in terms of voter registration and how the media has been used to reach out to marginalized populations.  He explains how the media commission regulates negative campaigning, and he discusses the overall role of the commission.  Finally, he describes how election monitors are used and what their goals are in monitoring elections.
 
 
Profile

At the time of this interview, George Sarpong was the executive secretary of the National Media Commission in Ghana.  His extensive experience included involvement with media issues relating to elections through his capacity as the executive director of the Youth Network for Human Rights and Democracy, working with youth to increase capacity to participate in democratic discourse, and on issues to prevent violence in elections.  He served as a member of the Coalition of Domestic Election Observers, coordinating media activities, and consulted regularly on media, media monitoring, and governance issues for multiple organizations.  He also was involved in elections in Sierra Leona, Cameroon and Liberia.  

Full Audio File Size
44 MB
Full Audio Title
George Sarpong - Full Interview

Nyimbi Odero

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X
Focus Area(s)
Ref Batch Number
1
Country of Reform
Interviewers
Gabriel Kuris
Name
Nyimbi Odero
Interviewee's Position
Technical Consultant
Interviewee's Organization
INEC (Independent National Electoral Commission)
Language
English
Town/City
Abuja
Country
Date of Interview
Reform Profile
No
Abstract
In this interview, Nyimbi Odero explains the role of the Independent National Electoral Commission in providing a certified voters’ register for the 2011 elections in Nigeria.  He describes his role in designing and obtaining the necessary equipment to run the election through the mechanism of a reverse vickery auction designed to improve transparency.  He details the process by which the INEC redesigned the power system to run on extended lithium ferrous phosphate batteries to increase efficiency.  He explains how he led the INEC in taking advantage of existing open source software and altering it to fit the Nigerian context.  He elaborates on how this effort to be cost efficient was initially met with a backlash from companies that had traditionally profited from the elections.  Odero describes how his team installed a patching infrastructure to facilitate the process of installing software on a large number of computers that were used for the voter registration, and explains how culturally embedded meanings of the word ‘patch’ caused Nigerians to be skeptical of the new technology.  He discusses how severe time constraints forced the INEC to train people and improvise with equipment throughout the registration process rather than before it began.   Odero touches on the key role that Nigerian youth played throughout the process.  He explains how the INEC used social media to involve the Nigerian electorate, and details the widespread use of mobile phones to improve security and information sharing.  He concludes by emphasizing the potential of open source software to improve the transparency and efficiency of democratic elections across the African continent. 
 
Profile

At the time of this interview, Nyimbi Odero was a consultant for the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in Nigeria.  A native to Kenya, Odero has extensive experience as a software, Internet, and network entrepreneur with various startups in Africa.  Prior to joining INEC as an electoral assistant, he worked as the Office Lead for English-speaking West Africa at Google.  In that role, he created programs, initiatives and projects to increase the number of Internet users in Nigeria, Liberia, Sierra Leone, and the Gambia.  He has experience engaging the government as well as the public and private sector regarding policies regulating the competitiveness and accessibility of the Internet.  Odero has a special interest in education, and he initiated the Google University Access Programme, which delivers bandwidth, wireless networks and inexpensive computing devices to university students and communities.  

Full Audio File Size
68 MB
Full Audio Title
Nyimbi Odero - Full Interview

Neel Kantha Uprety

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K
Focus Area(s)
Ref Batch Number
12
Critical Tasks
Country of Reform
Interviewers
Varanya Chaubey
Name
Neel Kantha Uprety
Interviewee's Position
Commissioner
Interviewee's Organization
Election Commission of Nepal
Language
English
Nationality of Interviewee
Nepalese
Country
Date of Interview
Reform Profile
Yes
Abstract
Neel Kantha Uprety discusses his role at the Election Commission of Nepal and the changes that took place since 1990 through its role as a constitutionally appointed independent body. He details the changes and challenges encountered in voter registration methods, voter education, the type of electoral system used, and the creation of the election management body through legislation and the constitution. He also talks about the methods adopted to build trust among the people and the need to have open consultations between political parties through formal and informal meetings. He describes how the commission became more transparent over the years with increasing interaction with civil society through regular meetings, and grassroots level projects. Uprety details the election process in Nepal from the commission’s perspective in terms of scaling up staff, training, use of ballot boxes, the introduction of electronic voting, and procurement. He offers insights into common problems encountered on election day, such as voter identification and the use of identification cards, and discusses how to overcome them.
 
Profile

At the time of this interview, Neel Kantha Uprety was commissioner at the Election Commission of Nepal. He became involved in electoral work in Nepal in the early 1990s. He also worked for the United Nations as a senior election coordinator in Afghanistan and as an election observer in Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Pakistan. He earned a master's degree in economics and public administration in Nepal, and a post-graduate diploma and master's degree in computer science in the U.K.

Full Audio File Size
80.4MB
Full Audio Title
Mr. Neel Kanth Uprety-Full interview

Rebooting the System: Technological Reforms in Nigerian Elections, 2010-2011

Author
Gabriel Kuris
Focus Area(s)
Core Challenge
Country of Reform
Abstract
In 2010, President Goodluck Jonathan appointed committed reformer Attahiru Jega to chair Nigeria’s electoral commission, building hope that the West African nation would finally break its chain of discredited elections. With under a year to prepare for the April 2011 elections, the commission turned to emerging technologies such as open-source software and social media to register 73 million voters from scratch and open a direct dialogue with the electorate. A small team of young Nigerian engineers guided by Nyimbi Odero pioneered these innovations, many of which contradicted the advice of elections experts. Despite some initial technical difficulties, Nigeria’s homegrown technology enabled the commission to prepare for elections goals on schedule and under budget. The credibility the commission earned helped spur unprecedented levels of voter participation. Ultimately, domestic and international observers validated the 2011 elections as the most free and fair in Nigeria’s history.
 

Gabriel Kuris drafted this case study on the basis of interviews conducted in Abuja and Lagos, Nigeria, in October 2011. Case published March 2012. For a broader analysis of Nigeria's 2011 elections, see "Toward a Second Independence: Repairing Nigeria's Electoral Commission, 2010-2011."

Associated Interview(s): Nyimbi OderosDapo Olorunyomi

 

Alex Paila

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A
Focus Area(s)
Ref Batch Number
2
Country of Reform
Interviewers
Ashley McCants
Name
Alex Paila
Interviewee's Position
Voter Education and Public Relations Officer
Interviewee's Organization
National Electoral Commission, Sierra Leone
Language
English
Nationality of Interviewee
Sierra Leone
Town/City
Bo District
Country
Date of Interview
Reform Profile
No
Abstract

Alex Paila discusses various aspects of national and local election management in Sierra Leone during 2007 and 2008. These areas include the recruitment, training, evaluation and monitoring of election staff; election security; voter registration, audits and curtailment of voter fraud; information dissemination, media relations and enfranchisement of marginalized groups; and financial and logistical constraints and concerns.  He also emphasizes cooperation with community-based civilian organizations as key for information dissemination and higher voter turnouts, and he stresses relations with international organizations to improve workers’ training and monitoring, and secure funding. Paila also speaks about the issues of districting and determining electoral timetables.  Finally, he reflects upon some of the challenges faced by Sierra Leone during the elections in 2007 and 2008, as well as possible hurdles that the country may face in the future.    

Profile

At the time of the interview, Alex Paila was the voter education and public relations officer at the National Electoral Commission in Sierra Leone. Prior to that, he worked as a journalist for various newspapers, including the Ceylon Times and the Spectator. He was also employed, first as a reporter and then as deputy news editor, at the Sierra Leone Broadcast Service. Paila holds a bachelor’s degree in mass communication. 

Full Audio File Size
84 MB
Full Audio Title
Alex Paila - Full Interview

Managing the Political and Practical: Nepal's Constituent Assembly Elections, 2006-2008

Author
Michael Scharff
Focus Area(s)
Country of Reform
Abstract
Appointed chairman of Nepal’s Election Commission in October 2006, Bhojraj Pokharel faced an uphill battle. One month after his appointment, a peace agreement between major political parties and Maoist rebels ended a 10-year conflict and set the stage for elections to a Constituent Assembly that would write a new constitution. An interim government would choose a new electoral system and set the rules for the contest. With the Maoists threatening to resume hostilities if the elections did not take place on schedule, Pokharel, a former civil servant with no previous experience managing elections, had to work quickly. His main goal was to ensure the elections were maximally inclusive, free of fraud and peaceful so as to avoid giving the parties reason to pull out of the electoral process or boycott the results and send the country back into chaos. Pokharel worked closely with the interim government, providing valuable information and counsel on electoral rules and requirements. He oversaw the updating of voter lists, hired poll workers and helped assemble a special police service. Political squabbling forced the commission to delay the elections twice, yet as the chief architect of the process, Pokharel managed to keep the parties engaged. In April 2008, Nepalese citizens finally went to the polls. Although there was violence during the campaign period and on election day, as well as reports of voting irregularities, the election strengthened the fragile peace. The Maoists joined the government, and democratically elected representatives began the difficult task of drawing up a new constitution. In 2012, the peace continued to hold even though persistent disagreements in the Constituent Assembly had stymied efforts to produce a constitution.
 
Michael Scharff drafted this case study based on interviews conducted in Kathmandu, Nepal, in December 2010 and using an interview conducted by Rushda Majeed in July 2011. Case published in June 2012. Most ISS case studies rest on large numbers of interviews. This case study was informed in large part by an interview with Bhojraj Pokharel, who served as chief election commissioner of the Election Commission of Nepal from 2006 to 2008.
 
Associated Interview(s):  Neel Kantha Uprety