International Election Observation Project

Through its International Election Observation Project, CANADEM deploys Canadian Election Observers to bilateral or multilateral Election Observation Missions (EOM) around the globe. In the past ten years, with Canadian Government funding, CANADEM has deployed over 2,000 election experts across the world, including Europe, Africa, Latin America, Asia and the Middle East.

Most of these EOMs are undertaken by multilateral organizations, partners to CANADEM and CIDA, who are recognized for their long-standing expertise in election observation. These include the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), the Organization of American States (OAS), and the European Union (EU).

Canadian bilateral missions have included Ukraine 2004, Lebanon 2005, and West Bank & Gaza 2005.

CANADEM also mounts complex EOMs, including the International Mission for Iraqi Elections (IME) 2005-2006, the International Mission for Monitoring Haitian Elections (IMMHE) 2005-2006, and the Canadian Mission for Accompanying Haitian Elections (CMAHE) 2006. More recently, CANADEM mounted and managed the Mission Canada delegation observing Ukraine's 2010 Presidential elections as well as Ukraine's 2012 parliamentary elections.

CANADEM's performance was assessed in an independent evaluation done for DFATD: “Evaluation of DFATD’s Multilateral Elections Observation Program” by Plan:Net March 20th 2014 and released under ATIP June 2014: see Report here. Some key excerpts about CANADEM have been copied: see Excerpts here, and below are three of those excerpts”

CANADEM performance has been exemplary in acting as a service organization to operationalize Canadian election observers for both multilateral and bilateral missions.” p.55 »

CANADEM and its staff were professional, effective and efficient” p.15 »

“the high degree of professionalism and competence displayed by CANADEM and its staff” p.21 »

CANADEM Election Program Stats:

icon_warp5Number of Missions with the OSCE: 48 291M0350 LR sRGB
icon_warp5Number of Missions with the EU: 21
icon_warp5Number of Missions with the OAS: 4
icon_warp5Number of Bilateral Missions: 3
icon_warp5Number of Complex Missions: 4
icon_warp5Election Expert Missions: 2
icon_warp5Total Number of Missions Deployed: 81 291M0567 LR sRGB
icon_warp5Number of Women Deployed: 558
icon_warp5Number of Men Deployed: 1108
icon_warp5Total Observers Deployed: 1666
Women Afghan Voters 291M0560 LR sRGB



Election observation: An Awesome Experience!

For Government Employees

Where an employee of the Government of Canada volunteers to go as an observer for elections abroad, the employee may be required to either make a request for annual leave or leave without pay for other reasons. This application is based on the interpretation of the leave without pay, leave with pay policies and/or collective agreements in the National Joint Council (NJC) directives. Employees of the Government of Canada should verify this with the NJC directives and enquire with their supervisor.

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CANADEM manages the International Election Observation Project with financial support from the Government of Canada through the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA). « CANADEM réalise le Programme d’observation électorale internationale avec l’appui financier du Gouvernement du Canada agissant par l’entremise de l’Agence canadienne de développement international (ACDI). »
Want to be deployed to an International Election Observation Mission?

Under CIDA’s International Election Observation project, CANADEM short-lists observer candidates for selection by the election observation partner (OSCE/ODIHR, EU, OAS), and conducts deployment logistics for those who are selected.

To be considered for participation in an election observation mission sponsored by the Government of Canada, you must register with CANADEM. This is a free service for those registering. All registrants on the CANADEM roster are considered for each and every mission. Only those who meet the selection requirements for a position will be contacted about their availability. Please update your file with us regularly. Although everyone registered with CANADEM has valuable skills and work experience, selection is not guaranteed. Competition for positions can be fierce.

CANADEM is delighted that so many Canadians are eager to contribute to the democratic progress of countries around the world. Before you register with us, we encourage you to read the information below and equip yourself with the skills necessary to be an effective international observer.

Need a Canadian elections expert without deployment services?

Not a problem!  If you are a non-profit international organization looking for qualified Canadian election experts, we will find you a match - our service is free of cost! CANADEM's roster currently holds over 2,000 experts in fields of international election observation, democratization, governance, electoral law and related fields. 

Please contact us for more information.

What is Expected of a Canadian Election Observer?

CANADEM and all other stakeholders involved in sponsoring electoral observation missions expect that each selected election observer will contribute as an active member of the mission. It is CANADEM's objective to provide each selected candidate with easy access to the information they will need to be an informed and effective election observer. It is the selected candidate's responsibility to read the information provided and actively engage in their own preparations for departure.

All Canadian election observers should conduct themselves with the utmost professionalism. Each will be asked to sign a letter of agreement and code of conduct prior to departure. The general principles and rules to which all observers must adhere are:

  • Observers will maintain strict impartiality in the conduct of their duties, and shall at no time express any bias or preference in relation to national authorities, parties, candidates, or with reference to any issues in contention in the election process;
  • Observers will undertake their duties in an unobtrusive manner, and will not interfere with the election process, polling day procedures, or the vote count;
  • Observers will carry the prescribed identification issues by the host government or election commission, and will identify themselves to any interested authority upon request;
  • Observers will not display or wear any partisan symbols, colours, or banners;
  • Observers may wish to bring irregularities to the attention of the local election officials, but they must never give instructions or countermand decisions of the elections officials;
  • Observers will base all conclusions on well documented, factual, and verifiable evidence;
  • Observers will refrain from making any personal or premature comments about their observations to the media or any other interested persons, and will limit any remarks to general information about the nature of their activity as observers;
  • Observers will participate in post-election debriefings, by fax or telephone if necessary;
  • Observers must comply with all national laws and regulations.
  • All Canadian Election Observers are expected to observe all the terms and conditions of the letter of agreement and the code of conduct.

As CANADEM strives to continually improve the elections program, an ongoing evaluation process is in place to ensure we are sending, at all times, the best possible candidates.

What are some things an election observer should expect from a mission?

  • Long Working Hours: Expect the possibility of one or more 24 hour days.
  • Security Issues: Generally we are sending people to lesser developed countries where personal security risks are a factor.
  • Simple Accomodations: Do not expect that you will necessarily be provided air conditioning, room-service, a pool, bathroom facilities in your room, etc
  • Room Sharing: It may happen that you will be placed in a room with another person. Room assignment changes are not permitted.
  • To Follow Directions: The logistics and security for large missions like these require a more "military" approach. Be punctual. Respect curfews. Follow directions. Assist coordinators when asked. Avoid excessive behaviour.
Real Impartiality

Observers must maintain strict impartiality in their conduct, and never express any bias or preference in relation to the national authorities, parties, candidates, or any issues in contention in the election process.

Perceived Impartiality

Regardless of how impartial and professional an observer is, the perception of bias or conflict of interest is a huge challenge, particularly for observers who are returning to their country-of-origin. Therefore in many situations election observer missions cannot be staffed by observers who originated from the country in which the election is taking place. Regardless of how good they are, local voters will assume that they are not impartial. At a minimum, the standard practice is that the number of country-of-origin observers on an international mission must be relatively small.

What Conditions Make an Effective Election Observation Mission?

A key role of an international electoral observation mission is to reassure local voters that a process was sufficiently free and fair, or to call attention to any irregularities which have compromised the election. To ensure a credible observation mission, election observers must maintain professional independence and strict impartiality.

What information is a must read for all international election observers?

The below documents are fundamental for all election observers.  

The ODIHR Election Observation Handbook: The Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) organizes and administers Election Observation Missions in Europe.

Declaration of Principles For International Election Observation: The United Nations Declaration of Principle and Code of Conduct for International Election Observers, adopted in 2005.

The Handbook for EU Election Observation: European Union guide on International Election Observation, 2008

Gender in Election Observation

As an organization and as a partner of CIDA, CANADEM supports the achievement of gender equality. The promotion of free and fair elections requires attention to how gender is incorporated at every level of the election process.

During an election observation mission, each observer deployed by CANADEM completes a Gender Checklist which asks questions about how gender concerns were incorporated into the procedures of the host organization and the electoral process itself. For example, did the multilateral organization running the mission provide information about gender issues relevant to the mission? Did the observer’s personal understanding of gender change as a result?

The Checklist also asks for observers’ feedback concerning gender as an issue during the election. Were women and men equally represented as voters, as election officials, and as candidates? Finally, the Checklist also asks observers to comment on legislative requirements concerning gender for the particular election that they observed, including laws concerning the gender breakdown of candidates on party lists, how many women must hold seats, etc.

The Gender Checklist builds the capacity of election observers and furthers their professional skills by promoting awareness of gender issues within election observation, electoral processes, and in general. Because it reports on multiple levels about gender, it promotes accountability across different organizational levels.

CANADEM uses the data from Gender Checklists to monitor and report on gender issues to CIDA. This data is accompanied by detailed reporting on gender in CANADEM’s own recruitment processes, where the goal is to achieve equal opportunity for men and women to participate as observers, and gender equality among observers.