"Being a UN Volunteer is a source of pride because I work for the good of humanity," Samantha starts sharing her story.
Samantha is one of eight United Nations Volunteers (UNV) working as part of the UNDP-UNV Graduate Initiative. She and three fellow UNVs work in the Solomon Islands Electoral Commission Office (SIECO) while four work for the Office of the Registrar of Political Parties (ORPP).
The programme incorporates volunteer-based solutions through the mobilization of volunteers to support the work of these institutions through research and awareness, communication, advocacy, procurement and event logistics. Launched in 2021, the Initiative is led by the Strengthening the Electoral Cycle in the Solomon Islands Project with financial support from the Australian Government.
Young people all over the world are different because of their unique traditions, mentalities and environments in which they live and interact, but the challenges they face are similar, as they try to work out their directions, seek recognition and acceptance, strive to get employed and attempt to participate in the political process of elections.
William, Samantha, Peter and Jason are UN Volunteers, who work with the Solomon Islands Electoral Commission since the launch of the UNV Graduate initiative in 2021.
United by their belief in democracy and peace, they hold different roles and responsibilities but equally contribute to the Commission’s efforts to promote and uphold democracy within the electoral cycle and processes in the country.
Jason serves as a Media and Public Relations Assistant, writing press releases, developing social media content and interacting with the media.
Jason’s work supporting many awareness and advocacy events for the Commission has enabled the volunteer family to inform the public on elections.
“Volunteering with United Nations is a lifetime opportunity, and the value of volunteering is essential. We are strongly committed to reinforcing the [electoral project] mandate,” Jason asserts.
He added, “Our experience with the UN Volunteers program contributes not only to our career development but also helps us see the bigger picture and the future we want for our country.”
This is also true for Samantha who serves as a Civic and Voter Awareness Assistant with the Solomon Islands Electoral Commission Office.
Samantha advises electoral stakeholders about the challenges of boosting access to information and building the bridge of trust between voters and candidates. One of the biggest highlights for her was helping the Commission organize the celebration for the International Day of Democracy on September 15.
The open-air event hosted a number of tent towns where people could engage in activities to learn more about the history of the Democracy Day and its connection to the Electoral Commission, the Office of the Political Parties and electoral processes. The event hosted government and ministry officials, partners from civil society organizations, women and youth groups, and members from the people with disabilities (PWDs) community.
Samantha used the opportunity to boost people’s knowledge about the Commission’s role.
“We created a space where students could have a dialogue with representatives from the Commission and the Office of the Registrar," Samantha describes. "This was a special scenario where young people interacted with the government to learn more about elections and the electoral processes taking place in the country.”
William Osifooa supports the Electoral Commission in the planning, development, and execution of procurement plans in alignment with the mandate and priorities of the Electoral Commission and the Solomon Island Government Procurement Rules and Policies.
William strongly believes in effective, accountable, and transparent institutions that promote democracy. He believes that his role would be greatly enhanced with equal participation of women and men in the procurement process including vendor registration, selection of vendors and the procuring of assets.
“Participation builds a better future,” says William.
“Even though procurement staff are the behind-the-scenes heroines and heroes, we have the power to change and build a more equal world by engaging diverse sectors of the population, including civil society organisations, the private sector and academia in every procurement request we work on.”
UN Volunteers like Jason, Samantha and William are highly qualified, motivated young professionals committed to serving provinces and communities in promoting peaceful elections for a peaceful Solomon Islands.
Commenting on the work of the UN Volunteers, Ms. Taeasi Sanga, one of the Commissioners of Solomon Islands Electoral Commission, describes their engagement as a “fresh approach to electoral work” and key to “long-term involvement of youth in the country’s development.”
“By opening the Commission’s doors to the youth, we are automatically getting closer to the voters. Thanks to the innovative ideas of the volunteers, we have increased our interaction with communities, and which had also increased the turnout of people in the recent provincial elections.”
According to Mr. Michael Burke, UNDP Chief Technical Adviser and Project Manager for Strengthening the Electoral Cycle in the Solomon Islands Project, the UN Volunteer Initiative is providing UNDP with a “unique opportunity to change public perceptions about the abilities and participation of young people in the development processes of the country.”
Mr. Burke also believes that the active and visible involvement of youth in the public sphere “lays the foundation for their increased positive engagement, their social and economic integration in the communities across the country.”
The UNDP Strengthening the Electoral Cycle in the Solomon Islands Project (SECSIP) supports the national authorities to conduct credible and inclusive electoral processes with the overarching objective of strengthening the link between elections and other key governance processes and institutions contributing to social cohesion and the development of a pluralistic society. SECSIP is implemented by UNDP Solomon Islands with financial support from the Australian Government.