International election monitoring missions play an important role in the promotion of democracy and human rights. The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade maintains and administers a roster of observers for such missions. The aim is to ensure that, when requested, Ireland is represented at an appropriate level in international observation missions for both elections and constitutional referendums. The Department carried out a comprehensive review of the election observation roster in 2013. Following a call for applications which was issued by the Department in January 2013, a new roster comprising 200 individuals with a strong mix of skills and experience came into effect on 15 May 2013, for a five year period.
Applications to join the new election observation roster were invited from members of the existing roster and members of the public not on the roster. All applicants were requested to submit an application form setting out their relevant qualifications, knowledge and experience. 263 eligible applications were received and included a combination of existing roster members and new applicants.
In the interests or fairness and transparency, all 263 applications were scored independently by two assessors external to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade against four criteria. These criteria were clearly set out in the Information Note for applicants. They were: Language Skills; Experience of election observation; Knowledge of human rights and/or governance issues; and experience of living in challenging environments. Applicants were asked to demonstrate their proficiency or experience as appropriate and to provide concrete written examples under each of the four criteria to support their application.
In order to ensure fairness and consistency in the scoring of applications, the external assessors were provided with a scoring guideline, which set out how marks were to be awarded under each criterion. All four criteria carried equal weighting. This methodology applied equally to all applicants. Given the high quality of applications received, successful candidates had to score highly against more than one of the criteria in order to ensure selection for the new roster.
I am satisfied that all applicants were treated fairly and impartially. I would note that unsuccessful applicants were invited to request feedback on their applications. In addition, in my reply to a previous Question, I outlined the offer of a review process. On foot of feedback received, two unsuccessful applicants requested a final review of their applications. In both cases, the reviewer was of the view that the scoring of the applications was fair and impartial across all four published criteria. As indicated previously, it was recommended in one case that the applicant’s score be adjusted marginally upwards. This adjustment did not affect the final outcome in relation to placement on the roster, however.