International election observation has come a long way during more than 20 years of continuous activity. From unstructured activities that took place in the 1960s and 1980s, which often served to rubber-stamp elections, through the hard lessons learned in the early 1990s, international election observation evolved in the new millennium to become a serious and rigorous undertaking, and is now widely recognized as a crucial instrument for democracy support. The global evolution of international election observation is well encapsulated in the Declaration of Principles for International Election Observation and Code of Conduct for International Election Observers endorsed in 2005.
Regional organisations advocating universal norms are well placed to perform efficient and cost effective election observation. Furthermore, they are also in a unique position to contribute to the implementation of the follow-up to the recommendations of the election observation missions and to facilitate the understanding of national interlocutors of the necessary reforms to meet regional and international obligations.
The Organization of American States (OAS) started to monitor elections in the 1960s. The African Union (AU), the European Union (EU), the League of Arab States (LAS) and the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) are all currently undertaking EOMs, as does the OSCE in its member countries if and when invited. The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) has undertaken EOMs in the past. The Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) has so far conducted a limited observation mission in Myanmar for the by-elections in 2012 and is currently considering the feasibility of election observation in the region. In the past five years or so, regional organisations around the world become more involved in election observation. The OAS, AU and PIF have signed the aforementioned Declaration of Principles for International Election Observation and have taken steps to develop a long-term observation methodology.
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