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The Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria, cordially invites you to a virtual conference on 4 and 5 November 2020. The theme of the conference is ‘Elections and COVID-19: Harnessing the pandemic to improve elections.’ The conference is organised by the Democracy and Civic Engagement Unit and the Expression, Information and Digital Rights Unit of the Centre for Human Rights. The conference invites academics, policymakers, practitioners, researchers and other stakeholders with a keen interest in democracy and elections, information technology and human rights law in the African context.

Download the invitation

Download the programme


Virtual conference on elections and COVID-19: Elections and COVID-19: Harnessing the pandemic to improve elections

Date: 4 – 5 November 2020 
Online Conference (Zoom)

Click here to register


Purpose of the conference

The African continent had more than 20 elections scheduled to take place in 2020. From major presidential elections in Tanzania, Burundi, Malawi, Ghana and Niger, to smaller by-elections in Nigeria and Zimbabwe to mention a few. Elections are continuous democratic processes that involve a complex interplay of activities, logistics and crowd control. However, with the COVID-19 pandemic, many countries have had to halt, or postpone their elections. For those states that choose to go ahead with elections, the ensuing political climate presents the risk that the pandemic could be exploited to cement the control of the ruling party. In countries where the pandemic is not used politically, the ever-present threat of contracting the virus risks suppressing voter turnout. While African states are forced to take decisive actions to curb the spread of COVID-19, these actions should not undermine the rule of law and threaten the promotion of democracy. This means governments are in a position that needs a delicate balance of preserving human rights and maintaining democratic principles.The African continent had more than 20 elections scheduled to take place in 2020. From major presidential elections in Tanzania, Burundi, Malawi, Ghana and Niger, to smaller by-elections in Nigeria and Zimbabwe to mention a few. Elections are continuous democratic processes that involve a complex interplay of activities, logistics and crowd control. However, with the COVID-19 pandemic, many countries have had to halt, or postpone their elections. For those states that choose to go ahead with elections, the ensuing political climate presents the risk that the pandemic could be exploited to cement the control of the ruling party. In countries where the pandemic is not used politically, the ever-present threat of contracting the virus risks suppressing voter turnout. While African states are forced to take decisive actions to curb the spread of COVID-19, these actions should not undermine the rule of law and threaten the promotion of democracy. This means governments are in a position that needs a delicate balance of preserving human rights and maintaining democratic principles.

Already, election bodies across the continent are working to make the best of the situation, crafting contingencies, redrawing their calendars, and even exploring technological solutions.  The impact of technology has already been seen in public debate and political campaigns. This is particularly important in the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic where one-on-one engagement of political parties and candidates, election officials, civil society organisations (CSOs) and the electorate is discouraged. It will be interesting to see whether and how the twelve African countries that have suspended their elections and the seven countries yet to conduct their elections in 2022 will look to technological solutions to allow for enhanced voter engagement in the electoral process. However, challenges such as the digital divide, poor infrastructure, digital illiteracy, poverty, and suppression of online freedom of expression and access to information in authoritarian states grossly undermines the ability of many African countries to realise the opportunities presented by the digital space. Further, the proliferation of disinformation and misinformation online compromises meaningful debate on democracy and elections that is crucial to the development of an informed electorate. 

It is against this backdrop that the Centre for Human Rights seeks to hold this conference to further explore measures to improve elections in Africa and consolidate democratic gains in the context of a global pandemic.

Objective

To contribute to the scholarship on elections and democracy in Africa with a focus on the threats and opportunities presented by the COVID-19 pandemic

Themes

Among others, the conference will explore:

  • The effect of COVID-19 on political processes.
  • The impact of national responses to COVID-19 on elections and democracy.
  • The effect of the pandemic on cohesiveness within the political establishment.
  • The unique political and electoral situation in selected African countries.
  • Human rights and the socio-legal ramifications of postponed or cancelled elections.
  • Feasibility of technological solutions for enhanced voter participation in Africa.
  • Opportunities and challenges for electoral deliberation in Africa’s digital space.

Please note:

  • No registration fee is charged but pre-registration is compulsory.
  • The conference will be recorded and live streamed on the Centre’s Facebook page and YouTube channel.

For more information, please contact: 

Ms Bonolo Makgale
Manager: Democracy and Civic Engagement Unit

Tel: +27 (0) 12 420 4199
Fax: +27 (0) 86 580 5743
bonolo.makgale@up.ac.za

Ms Marystella Auma Simiyu
Researcher: Expression, Information and Digital Rights Unit

Tel: +27 (0) 12 420 4199
Fax: +27 (0) 86 580 5743
marystella.simiyu@up.ac.za

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The Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria, cordially invites you to a virtual conference on 4 and 5 November 2020. The theme of the conference is ‘Elections and COVID-19: Harnessing the pandemic to improve elections.’ The conference is organised by the Democracy and Civic Engagement Unit and the Expression, Information and Digital Rights Unit of the Centre for Human Rights. The conference invites academics, policymakers, practitioners, researchers and other stakeholders with a keen interest in democracy and elections, information technology and human rights law in the African context.

Download the invitation

Download the programme


Virtual conference on elections and COVID-19: Elections and COVID-19: Harnessing the pandemic to improve elections

Date: 4 – 5 November 2020 
Online Conference (Zoom)

Click here to register


Purpose of the conference

The African continent had more than 20 elections scheduled to take place in 2020. From major presidential elections in Tanzania, Burundi, Malawi, Ghana and Niger, to smaller by-elections in Nigeria and Zimbabwe to mention a few. Elections are continuous democratic processes that involve a complex interplay of activities, logistics and crowd control. However, with the COVID-19 pandemic, many countries have had to halt, or postpone their elections. For those states that choose to go ahead with elections, the ensuing political climate presents the risk that the pandemic could be exploited to cement the control of the ruling party. In countries where the pandemic is not used politically, the ever-present threat of contracting the virus risks suppressing voter turnout. While African states are forced to take decisive actions to curb the spread of COVID-19, these actions should not undermine the rule of law and threaten the promotion of democracy. This means governments are in a position that needs a delicate balance of preserving human rights and maintaining democratic principles.The African continent had more than 20 elections scheduled to take place in 2020. From major presidential elections in Tanzania, Burundi, Malawi, Ghana and Niger, to smaller by-elections in Nigeria and Zimbabwe to mention a few. Elections are continuous democratic processes that involve a complex interplay of activities, logistics and crowd control. However, with the COVID-19 pandemic, many countries have had to halt, or postpone their elections. For those states that choose to go ahead with elections, the ensuing political climate presents the risk that the pandemic could be exploited to cement the control of the ruling party. In countries where the pandemic is not used politically, the ever-present threat of contracting the virus risks suppressing voter turnout. While African states are forced to take decisive actions to curb the spread of COVID-19, these actions should not undermine the rule of law and threaten the promotion of democracy. This means governments are in a position that needs a delicate balance of preserving human rights and maintaining democratic principles.

Already, election bodies across the continent are working to make the best of the situation, crafting contingencies, redrawing their calendars, and even exploring technological solutions.  The impact of technology has already been seen in public debate and political campaigns. This is particularly important in the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic where one-on-one engagement of political parties and candidates, election officials, civil society organisations (CSOs) and the electorate is discouraged. It will be interesting to see whether and how the twelve African countries that have suspended their elections and the seven countries yet to conduct their elections in 2022 will look to technological solutions to allow for enhanced voter engagement in the electoral process. However, challenges such as the digital divide, poor infrastructure, digital illiteracy, poverty, and suppression of online freedom of expression and access to information in authoritarian states grossly undermines the ability of many African countries to realise the opportunities presented by the digital space. Further, the proliferation of disinformation and misinformation online compromises meaningful debate on democracy and elections that is crucial to the development of an informed electorate. 

It is against this backdrop that the Centre for Human Rights seeks to hold this conference to further explore measures to improve elections in Africa and consolidate democratic gains in the context of a global pandemic.

Objective

To contribute to the scholarship on elections and democracy in Africa with a focus on the threats and opportunities presented by the COVID-19 pandemic

Themes

Among others, the conference will explore:

  • The effect of COVID-19 on political processes.
  • The impact of national responses to COVID-19 on elections and democracy.
  • The effect of the pandemic on cohesiveness within the political establishment.
  • The unique political and electoral situation in selected African countries.
  • Human rights and the socio-legal ramifications of postponed or cancelled elections.
  • Feasibility of technological solutions for enhanced voter participation in Africa.
  • Opportunities and challenges for electoral deliberation in Africa’s digital space.

Please note:

  • No registration fee is charged but pre-registration is compulsory.
  • The conference will be recorded and live streamed on the Centre’s Facebook page and YouTube channel.

For more information, please contact: 

Ms Bonolo Makgale
Manager: Democracy and Civic Engagement Unit

Tel: +27 (0) 12 420 4199
Fax: +27 (0) 86 580 5743
bonolo.makgale@up.ac.za

Ms Marystella Auma Simiyu
Researcher: Expression, Information and Digital Rights Unit

Tel: +27 (0) 12 420 4199
Fax: +27 (0) 86 580 5743
marystella.simiyu@up.ac.za