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EU Ambassador Tom Vens confirmed the EU's commitment to support the electoral process in Sierra Leone: "I'm confident that the presence of EU election observers will contribute to the credibility of the electoral process and will boost the confidence of all electoral stakeholders. The EU has gained a wealth of experience in election observation around the world and has been a steadfast partner in election observation in Sierra Leone. I call upon all electoral stakeholders to ensure a level playing field and to demonstrate their resolve to keep the electoral process peaceful."
In October 2017 the EU undertook an exploratory mission to determine the advisability, usefulness and feasibility of sending EU election observers to Sierra Leone. On the basis of this mission's recommendations, Federica Mogherini, the EU High Representative / Vice President decided to deploy an Election Observation Mission.
This is the fourth time the EU will deploy an EU Election Observation Mission in Sierra Leone, having done so in 2002, 2007 and 2012. This underlines the EU's continued commitment to supporting the democratic process in Sierra Leone.
EU election observers maintain strict impartiality, objectivity and independence in the conduct of their mandate. They are bound by the Code of Conduct for EU Election Observers and also adhere to the Code of Conduct for International Election Observers. In addition to observing the run up to the elections and election day itself, the EOM will also monitor any challenges or complaints processes that may take place after the elections.
The mission will have nationwide coverage. The long-term presence of the Observation Mission will allow it to make an impartial and comprehensive assessment of the electoral process and environment, as well as of the conduct of the elections themselves. The EU EOM will liaise closely with other observation missions.
The EU is also contributing €2 million to a multi-donor project implemented by UNDP, entitled "Support to the National Electoral Commission". After the March 2018 elections, EU technical assistance to NEC will aim to ensure that capacities are sustained across the electoral cycle, including through support to further electoral reforms. In addition to that, the EU finances National Elections Watch (NEW) to carry out activities in the run-up to the March 2018 elections; the programme amounts to €314,000 over 18 months, funded from the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights. Finally, a project in six northern and southern districts of Sierra Leone, implemented by Search for Common Ground, includes the dissemination of key civic and voter education messages ahead of elections.