National Election Watch (NEW) is a coalition of civil society organizations that began operations surrounding the 1997 Sierra Leonean Presidential elections. It has continued to grow and flourish with a interest in observing the 2008 Local Council elections. Since then, NEW has established itself as a permanent group with a common desire to implement and a capacity to support Sierra Leone’s young democracy. NEW has established a decentralized structure across the country and operates through this system. NEW committed to play a vital role to ensure the 2007 National Elections and 2008 Local Council Elections were free and fair. Through a consultative and participatory process in 2005 NEW developed a strategy to position itself to realize that commitment. This resulted in a decision by NEW that its role for the elections would be to enhance citizens’ participation and ensure a transparent electioneering process by:
- Observing not only polling day but the entire electoral process
- Deploying an Observer in every polling station and
- Preparing a situational report with appropriate recommendations
In line with the recommendations emanating from its observation process, NEW is working to strengthen the civic education available for all Sierra Leoneans. To support this, NEW has recently conducted a baseline study with its district teams in order to assess more specifically the level of understanding and knowledge of Sierra Leoneans on key issues identified as themes in the campaign. This assessment provides a basis to develop district strategies on how to deliver the campaign tools in order to strengthen the already existing district structures and increase the knowledge of the specific targets namely the politically and economically active young people and those who did not have the opportunity to go to school.