Democracy in Senegal an inspiration for Africa: UNDP chief

Friday, July 27, 2012
Dakar/New York: Senegal’s ongoing progress to strengthen its democracy was high on the agenda of UNDP chief Helen Clark’s six-day visit to that country.   While there she met newly elected President Macky Sall, Prime Minister Abdoul Mbaye, and other senior officials to discuss their development strategies and how to overcome challenges in the region to their stability.

“The outcome of Senegal’s Presidential election last March and the early steps of President Sall’s administration demonstrate that not only is one of Africa’s oldest democracies not willing to part with its democratic institutions, but also it is acting to make them stronger,” said Helen Clark during an address with the President to UN leadership in Africa. “This outcome is important not only for the people of Senegal.  It sends a powerful message across the continent, and in so doing, can help inspire free and fair elections more widely.”

In March 2012, President Sall was elected by a large majority, setting a milestone in the country’s political history.    Senegal passed another milestone in that election when it elected an unprecedented number of women to Parliament, with women now holding 44.6 percent of the seats.

During the tense campaign period before the presidential and legislative elections, UNDP supported women leaders in Senegal as they worked with political parties and community groups to promote a peaceful election process.

Women were able to play an important role in the electoral process thanks to UNDP support for the establishment of the "Platform of Women Watcher for Peaceful Elections in Senegal" The platform, which is made up of 60 African women organizations, Senegalese women and international partners, mobilized thousands of women and hundreds of youth to promote peaceful elections, organized an active and constant monitoring of the situation to deliver messages of peace and react quickly to early signs of violence.

After their training, these observers from Senegal, and about thirty other African countries, were able to monitor 698 polling stations.

“What happened was of utmost significance for Africa, because the continent needs good role models and experiences of what can be achieved by women,” said Helen Clark. “The steps taken to ensure civil society and communities can remind politicians of what is expected of them is truly inspirational.”

The visit started with a field trip to the northern region of Saint Louis, where Helen Clark met communities from rural Gandon who benefit from a project regenerating 2000 acres of mangrove.  Through support from UNDP, the Global Environment Fund, and others, this project made it possible for 400 women from 5 villages to earn a daily income of USD$10 from the exploitation of seafood, including oysters which have recently appeared from the regeneration of the mangrove. A green mutual fund that protects the environment has funded more than 8870 economic projects, effecting over 2000 people, over half of whom are women.
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