Targeted peacebuilding efforts are frequently used to prevent election violence, notes Jonas Claes (right), a senior program officer at the U.S. Institute of Peace, conducting research and analysis on the prevention of electoral violence and mass atrocities. Practitioners possess a variety of programming options or interventions, including peace messaging campaigns, preventive diplomacy, dedicated youth programs or monitoring missions, he writes:
But the ability of election violence prevention to achieve its intended outcome merits further investigation. What works, what does not, and under which conditions? The choice among preventive measures is often made intuitively or impulsively, rather than based on empirical evidence, risk assessments or thorough practice evaluations. Commonly the practice selection is driven by the mandate of the implementing actors, or their familiarity with a given preventive approach. For example, if small NGOs develop a reputation around youth programming, they will make a case for it regardless of whether it matters in a given context or not.
USIP recently concluded an ambitious study to assess whether prevalent intervention models demonstrate a measurable impact on electoral violence. Such evaluations expand our knowledge base, and help practitioners prioritize the most appropriate and cost-effective prevention tool in a given context.
Five recent elections were carefully selected for this practice evaluation: Bangladesh, Honduras, Malawi, Moldova and Thailand, Claes adds. Each displayed similar levels of risk, but experienced very different levels of violence. So, did prevention make the difference? Or was it the context that explains this variation?