The key objective of the Bangkok Declaration on Free and Fair Elections is to “identify the most significant and widespread barriers to free and fair elections in Asia and strengthen the resolve of the Asian people to address them by involving all relevant national, regional and international stakeholders.”

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On December 10 and 11, 2012, representatives of Asian electoral management bodies and civil society organizations met in Bangkok for the first-ever regional gathering of these two often disparate groups to promote democratic, transparent elections on the world’s most populous continent. The Asian Electoral Stakeholder Forum (AES Forum) convened a two-day conference with participants from 11 Asian electoral management bodies and 30 Asian civil society organizations (representing 17 countries) devoted to advancing the cause of free and fair elections.  Guests from the Libyan, Australian and Mexican electoral management bodies, as well as observers from foreign embassies in Bangkok and from governmental and non-governmental bodies based in Europe and the Americas, were also on hand to witness the event.

The endorsement of the Bangkok Declaration on Free and Fair Elections was the culmination of a year of effort, which formally began in January 2012 when representatives of election-focused civil society organizations from around Asia met in Pattaya, Thailand to discuss the challenges to free and fair elections that were faced by many countries in the region and how to work to overcome those challenges.

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Attendees agreed that a Declaration of Principles could aid their efforts. It would serve to outline the challenges to elections in the region and raise solutions to those challenges using principles that meet accepted international standards for holding free and fair elections. However, they further agreed that such a Declaration must be sensitive to the culture, religion and customary practices in Asia while being reflective of the international norms reflected in such documents as the “Declaration on Criteria for Free and Fair Elections,” adopted by the Inter-Parliamentary Council on March 26, 1994.

Over the following months, the civil society representatives worked to write the Bangkok Declaration, using inputs provided by all attendees in the January meeting. After civil society members crafted a draft that reflected Civil Society’s inputs, the draft was then discussed with representatives of several electoral management bodies at a two-day meeting held in September in Bangkok.  The EMB representatives offered a great deal of recommendations and improvements addressing both theoretical and practical concerns from the perspective of an election management professional. Following the September EMB feedback and planning session, further refinements were vetted, discussed, and incorporated into the draft to ensure that the draft reflected both the views of Civil Society and Election Management Bodies.  Finally, the document was ready for a final discussion, which was held at the beginning of the 2-day session in Bangkok, and, on the second day, the Bangkok Declaration was endorsed by the delegates to the AES Forum.

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