Since 1993, the IFE has carried out systematic actions to approach, establish links, and cooperate with a wide range of agencies and institutions of the international community who are interested in political and electoral issues. The basic purpose of such activities has been to make available worldwide precise and appropriate information that contributes both to the knowledge and assessment of the transformations undergone by the Mexican electoral system, such as the organization, policies and fundamental programs of the electoral management body.
The IFE’s initial efforts to create international links were concentrated at first on the initiatives of institutional promotion and through the elaboration and distribution of informative documents and the reception of foreign delegations interested in learning about the Mexican electoral system. However, these activities soon opened new spaces and laid the foundations for the Institute to participate in different cooperation networks and technical assistance projects at international level.
Around these central themes, the IFE has managed to structure an integral and systematical strategy of links and collaboration with the international community, which has taken as a guiding principle the contribution to the strengthening and diffusion of the principles and democratic institutions within a framework of respect, harmony and shared responsibility.
All this made possible that the current scope and appraisal of the IFE in the international community is not only related to the level of technical and professional development with which it fulfills its duty of organizing federal elections in Mexico in a transparent and impartial way, but also to its genuine commitment to participate and actively support initiatives of cooperation, exchange and provision of technical assistance at international level.
Some of the most relevant activities from the IFE’s strategy of networking and cooperation implemented between 1993 and 2009 are detailed below.
1. Institutional Promotion and Accreditation
Information and Dissemination
The main support for the IFE’s international action strategy is based on its effort to establish and to maintain a process of connection and permanent communication with foreign organizations and institutions specializing in political and electoral topics, through the elaboration and distribution of several documents and information materials and dealing at the proper time with consultations on the Mexican electoral system and the main programs or activities of the institute, and also through the exchange of knowledge and experiences on specific aspects of the electoral organization.
Reception of Foreign Delegates or Representatives
Practically from the beginning of the IFE’s international activities, several organisms and institutions from other countries (from representatives of electoral bodies, political parties and legislators, to diplomatic representatives and scholars) have been interested in visiting and meeting officers from the institute. At first, the main purpose of those meetings was to learn about and to obtain detailed information on the nature, attributions, and activities of the electoral authority in Mexico.
The IFE has positioned itself as a leading institution in terms of its technical and administrative specialization and development. Thus, the type of requests to visit the IFE has changed. Nowadays, the purpose of the visits is to exchange knowledge and experiences in several areas of specific interest, as well as to explore ideas and proposals that may be useful to develop initiatives of institutional strengthening regarding the administration and logistics of the electoral processes.
To this end, the IFE prepares working agendas for such visits considering time availability as well as the specific requirements and interests of the foreign representations and delegations. From June 1993 to the beginning of the year 2009 the IFE received almost 307 delegations from over 50 countries in different regions of the world as well as representatives from a number of international organizations and institutions and diplomats accredited in Mexico from almost 90 different countries.
Accreditation and Reception of International Visitors
Considering the expectations and the demand of the Mexican society to guarantee the organization of free, plural, transparent and reliable elections, as well as the interest of the international community to witness the election and get direct information on its development and attributions, in 1994 a reform was introduced to the electoral legislation incorporating the figure of international visitors, with the specific purpose of encouraging and regulating the presence of foreign citizens attending federal elections in Mexico. Since then, the General Council of the IFE is entitled to review applications and resolve on their approval and other related issues, for each federal electoral process.
In the course of its duties and in the five times in which it has been possible, that is in the federal elections of 1994, 1997, 2000, 2003 and 2006, as well as for the elections of July 2009, the IFE’s General Council not only approved the agreement that establishes the basis and criteria to assist and provide information to international visitors, but also made a systematic effort to provide them with better guarantees and conveniences to be accredited and carry out their activities.
To this end, the IFE and the competent agencies of the Federal Executive Branch not only disclose an international campaign to disclose the information and requirements to apply for and obtain accreditation as international visitors but also design and operate an integral strategy to give them the support and opportunities to carry out their activities. Such strategy includes a series of informative meetings with the Institute’s officials so that international visitors may get to know the relevant aspects of the federal electoral process. In the frame of these activities, the presence of international electoral authorities has allowed the IFE to organize international discussion panels to analyze electoral topics from a compared perspective.
The agreement regulating the presence of international visitors for the federal elections of July 5, 2009, was approved in January, and those interested in attending must submit their application for accreditation before June 23.
For the 1994 federal elections, 943 applications of citizens from thirty-four countries were approved; in 1997, 397 applications from thirty-three countries were approved; and in the year 2000, the number of approved applications amounted to 860 applications from fifty-eight different countries; in 2003, 180 applications from thirty countries; and in 2006, 693 from sixty countries for a total of 3,073 foreign visitors from 1994 to 2006.
2. International Cooperation and Assistance
The relations gradually developed by the IFE with different agencies and institutions of the international community have helped create the conditions to identify and explore projects and initiatives of collaboration in areas of common interest, which in some cases have been formalized through agreements of technical assistance and cooperation.
Agreement with the United Nations
For the 1994 elections, the IFE significantly benefited from the technical support and assistance from several international bodies, specially the United Nations, with whom an assistance agreement was set forth. This agreement was crucial in the orientation and encouragement of the observation task of several citizen groups to assess the advances in the Mexican electoral system through the work of an international group of experts, from a technical standpoint.
Since then, the Mexican federal electoral authorities have periodically ratified cooperation and technical assistance agreements with the UN, which have served not only as the basis for different programs of promotion and strengthening of the federal elections, but also to project the Mexican electoral organization potential among the international community and have allowed the IFE to participate in international projects of technical assistance.
Technical Cooperation Agreements
There are some exchanges that led to the signing of formal agreement due to their level of development and specificity. They have strengthened the links between institutions and have encouraged the development of joint projects and initiatives in areas of common interest.
The IFE has signed agreements with the following organizations:
- The International Foundation for Election Systems (IFES), in 1994.
- The National Electoral Council and the National Registry Office of Colombia, in 1996.
- The Chief Electoral Officer of Canada (EC), in 1996.
- The International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (IDEA), in 1998.
- The electoral authorities of Spain, which are the General Council of the Judicial Branch, the Central Electoral Board, and the General Board of Internal Policy of the Ministry of the Interior, in 1999.
- The National Election Jury of Peru, in 2003.
- The Electoral Tribunal of Panama, in 2003.
- The Independent Electoral Commission of the Republic of India, in 2004.
- The Organization of American States (OAS), in 2008.
- The Association of European Election Officials (ACEEEO), in 2009.
- The Electoral Institute of Southern Africa (EISA), in 2009.
The entry of the Mexican federal electoral authorities to the Inter-American Union of Electoral Organizations (UNIORE) in 1996, was crucial in the cooperation and linking processes. The UNIORE, founded in 1991, was formed by the vast majority of the electoral authorities in the continent, with the purpose of fostering the exchanges and cooperation between these organizations, as well as contributing to the promotion of secure, efficient, and democratic electoral systems.
Participation in Technical Assistance Missions
Since the end of 1993, and as the result of bilateral and inter-institutional measures as well as explicit invitations from international organizations and institutions (particularly UN, IFES and CAPEL) specialists and officials of the IFE have collaborated in sixty-one technical assistance missions in thirty-one countries, sixteen in the American continent (Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay and Peru), ten in Africa (Algeria, Burkina Faso, Congo, Ghana, Equatorial Guinea, Morocco, Namibia, Nigeria, Zambia and Zimbabwe), three in Asia (Indonesia, Mongolia and East Timor) and two more in the Middle East (Iraq and Lebanon).
Much of the assistance has been focused on topics related to the making up, maintenance and updating of the Electoral Roll. However, this focus has gradually widened and diversified. Nowadays it comprises planning, logistics and electoral training; campaign funding and surveillance; electoral systems; civil education, and preliminary results programs, among others. The significance of this activity for the IFE is twofold: It strengthens the Institute’s cooperation links while contributing to the development of electoral projects in other countries. And it encourages the sharing and exchange of experience and knowledge with its counterparts in areas of common interest.
Participation in Electoral Observation Missions
As the IFE has established and strengthened relations with similar institutions from other countries, it has received diverse invitations to participate in international technical assistance missions promoted by electoral authorities with the purpose of exchanging technical information under the principles of respect and reciprocity.
This practice is not only a common one in the American countries, already known as a privileged space for the exchange of knowledge and experiences which may result in concrete cooperation projects and technical collaboration, but it is also expressly stated in the Inter-American Union of Electoral Organizations protocol.
Since 1993, representatives of the IFE have participated in eighty-seven electoral observation missions in twenty-four countries, integrated by electoral bodies in different electoral processes. Most of them have been carried out in the Americas, from Canada to Chile, and some of them in countries such as Spain, the Russian Federation, India and South Africa.
The IFE has also been invited to participate in the directive boards of the international missions to monitor the organization of elections as well as to provide technical assistance in Haiti and Iraq, after a proposal of the UN and by request of these two countries electoral bodies. In fact, for the Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq, carried out in 2005, the IFE contributed in the making up of technical reports on the updating of the Electoral Roll and certification of political parties and candidates.
International Program on Electoral Research and Training
The ultimate and most recent expression of the IFE’s participation in international nets of technical cooperation and exchange is the initiative along with the UNDP Mexico and the Federal Electoral Tribunal to create an International Program for Electoral Research and Training. The key purpose of this program is to support the strengthening and professionalizing processes of the electoral bodies through specialized training and updating programs. These programs are aimed at the directive and executive bodies of the institutions with an emphasis on medium and long term strategic planning and electoral management.
This initiative has been proposed and discussed with a number of electoral institutions worldwide. In December 2006, it was formally acknowledged by the United Nations system as a preparatory project, and the UNDP Mexico was appointed to take over the initial development and lining up.
Several international seminars on electoral management have been were held in Mexico city as part of this project. First, the one held by the UN’s initiative in June 2004, to share knowledge and experiences with the members of the Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq in order to train them for the crucial responsibilities they had to face in order to conduct and organize the electoral cycle of the political changes in that country in 2005. Second, a workshop organized in 2005 for the Provisional Electoral Council of Haiti. More recently, the seminar organized in December 2008, for the members of the Independent Electoral Commission of Bosnia and Herzegovina, then the workshop for the Supreme Electoral Tribunal of Guatemala, in February 2009; the one carried out for the members of the Ministry of State and Ordinary Administration of the Territory and the Technical Subsecretary of Electoral Administration (MAEOT and STAE by their acronyms in Portuguese) of the Democratic Republic of East Timor in March 2009. There was a worshop on Media and Elections from a compared perspective for Lebanon in March and April 2009; and finally the one prepared for the Electoral Commission of Zambia in April 2009.
Likewise, and sheltered by the collaboration agreement recently signed with the OAS, it is important to point out the Inter-American Electoral Training Seminar held in November 2008, with the collaboration of International IDEA and the Latin American School of Social Sciences (FLACSO by its acronym in Spanish) that reunited specialists from the electoral bodies of the countries affiliated to the OAS to exchange information and experiences of common interest by means of a new format of approach and discussion, and is expected to be repeated on a yearly basis.
3. Promotion of the Democratic Culture and Values
The international activities of the IFE also include a wide scope of research and dissemination of information intended to promote the democratic culture and values. They are focused on the research, reflection or study of national and international significant and current topics, many times as a result of pacts negotiated within the collaboration agreements with international institutions and organizations, and in some cases on its own initiative.
Reflection and Analysis Forums
Since 1993, the IFE has organized and co-sponsored many international forums. It has also been invited to participate in several forums held abroad, usually to provide information on the Mexican political and electoral system. Some of the most relevant international forums that the Mexican electoral authorities have hosted include:
- The first Trilateral Conference Canada-United States-Mexico on Electoral Systems, in May 1994.
- The 3rd Conference of the Inter-American Union of Electoral Organizations, in July 1996.
- The International Seminar on Voting Abroad, in August 1998.
- The Trilateral Conference on Voting Abroad, in September 1998.
- The International Seminar on the Participation of Children and Youths in the Civic and Electoral Processes, in November 1998.
- The International Workshop on Electoral Management Bodies as Governance Institutions, in May 1999.
- The 9th Inter-American Course on Elections and Democracy, in November 1999.
- The International Seminar on Money and the Political-Electoral Contest: Challenges for Democracy, in June 2001.
- The Seminar on Democratic Transition and Consolidation: the International Context and the Mexican Experience, in February 2003.
- The 2nd Conference of the Global Electoral Organization Network, in March 2003.
- The International Seminar on Mass Media and Elections, in October 2005.
- The International Seminar on Democratic Institutions: Compared Electoral Experiences, in March 2006.
- The 12th Inter-American Course on Elections and Democracy, in April 2006.
- The 1st Inter-American Electoral Training Seminar, in November 2008.
The IFE has developed or collaborated in several studies on relevant topics from a compared international perspective. These studies have also contributed to the strengthening of inter-institutional cooperation. Sometimes, these projects have responded to specific initiatives or institutional requests, but they may also be part of cooperation agreements with international bodies or institutions.
Among the compared studies by institutional initiative are: the Compared Study on Voting Abroad, jointly published with the UN and TEPJF in 2002 in Spanish and English; and the Estudio Comparado sobre los Regímenes de Financiamiento y Fiscalización y las Condiciones de Equidad en 19 Países de América Latina (Compared Study on the Financing and Monitoring Systems and Equity Conditions of 19 Latin-American Countries), jointly published with the Organization of American States in 2005. Due to the nature and relevance of their contents, efforts are being made for their systematic update.
As part of the inter-institutional cooperation activities in the matter, the IFE collaborated with International IDEA in the making up of the International Handbook on Voting Abroad, originally published in English in November 2007. The Spanish version was finished in November 2008. The IFE has also been responsible for preparing the Spanish version of other IDEA works such as the Electoral System Design: the New International IDEA Handbook.
Information Production and Specialized Electoral Services
The IFE participates as a partner organization of the project called ACE Electoral Knowledge Network, that enabled not only to have the first electronic consultation service with comprehensive and authoritative information on elections but has also become a network of knowledge and specialized services on the matter and may be consulted at www.aceproject.org.
Since 1998, the IFE participates actively in the Administration and Cost of the Elections Project (ACE by its acronym in Spanish, English and French), for the development and promotion of the Project. Since 2004, the IFE is one of the nine partner organizations with full right currently in force by the Project.
Essentially, the ACE Electoral Knowledge Network is an integral concept that seeks to offer institutions and people interested in a wide range of informative products and services, that contribute to the strengthening and professionalizing of electoral management bodies around the world.
The other institutions that share the status of partner organizations are: International IDEA, the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES), the Electoral Institute of Southern Africa (EISA) and Elections Canada; whereas the UN is represented by three different agencies: the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA), the Development Program (UNDP) and the Electoral Assistance Division. The Council of Europe is an ex officio member.
Within this project, the IFE has three basic functions. First, as one of the partner organizations, it participates in the activities to develop, maintain and update the products and services offered worldwide by the project. Second, it is responsible for preparing and updating the Spanish version of the project, that includes essentially the contents of the Spanish website. And Third, since the end of 2007, the IFE operates as the regional support and promotion center for Central America, Panama and the Caribbean.
It is expected that soon and in collaboration with the National Election Jury of Peru, that is the Regional Center for South America, the IFE will set forth an initiative to offer an on-line consultation service for Spanish speakers with the assistance of a wide range of specialists throughout the region