Democratization from the Outside In: NGOs and International Efforts to Promote Open Elections

  • Vikram K. Chand
Part of the International Political Economy Series book series (IPES)


Until recently, the monitoring of elections in a sovereign country by outside actors was extremely rare. The United Nations (UN) had significant experience in conducting plebiscites and elections in dependent territories but did not monitor an election in a formally independent country until 1989 when it reluctantly became involved in the Nicaraguan electoral process. At the regional level, the Organization of American States (OAS) occasionally sent small delegations to witness elections in member states, but these missions were too brief to permit any real observation of the processes, and failed to criticize fraud.1 Since the 1980s election-monitoring has become increasingly common in transitional elections from authoritarian to democratic rule. Non-governmental organizations (NGOs), domestic and international, were the first to become involved in election-monitoring in the 1980s followed by international and regional organizations like the UN, the OAS and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in the 1990s. Election-monitors played a crucial role in transitional elections held in the Philippines (1986), Chile (1989), Panama (1989), Nicaragua (1990) and Haiti (1990). In addition, elections began to form a crucial element of UN ‘peacebuilding’ strategies in countries torn apart by civil strife such as Namibia (1989), Cambodia (1993) and El Salvador (1994).


United Nations Electoral Process Mexican Government Observer Group Free Election 
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© Third World Quarterly and Academic Council on the United Nations System 1998

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  • Vikram K. Chand

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