Avery Tomaso l Palladium - Mar 18 2024
2024 is the Biggest Election Year in History—Why It Matters for International Development

This year, over 4 billion people will head to the polls, fill out a ballot, and cast their vote. That’s more than half the world’s population in over seventy countries, including a massive and highly politicised presidential election in the United States. Palladium implements projects in a number of these countries—for example, there are at least fifteen countries with upcoming elections that are relevant to Palladium’s USAID-funded PROPEL Health project alone.

Elections, especially when they result in a major shake-up, have the potential to impact the nature and course of the development sector as a whole, and being informed and prepared for the impacts of elections is a critical part of the job.

According to Eduardo Gonzalez-Pier, Senior Technical Director for Health Financing, the potential effects of an election come in waves. “It’s everything that happens before the election and everything that happens after the election,” he says. “There’s a disruptive phase that varies by country, but it can go forward six months to a year depending on the complexity of the election.”

Preparing for the multitude of possible outcomes requires strategy and anticipation—it’s almost akin to investigative work. “You have to look at the polls, you have to see whether the new government, or whoever is leading the polls, will be aligned to what you want to do,” explains Gonzalez-Pier.

In Guatemala, the PROPEL Health team led by Country Director Herminia Reyes Aguilar de Muralles knows how impactful elections can be on project implementation. In August of 2023, Guatemalan citizens elected President Bernardo Arevalo, a progressive leader who differs greatly from his conservative opponent and former president Alejandro Giammattei.

In the midst of the first full year of project implementation, the team in Guatemala had to be prepared for change.

Prepared for Every Outcome

In the months leading up to the election, the team received numerous technical orientations and part of their preparation strategy was to analyse the political plans and offers of the competing parties. “We identified what this party was offering to Guatemala in different areas—in health, education, development, national security… once the election process finished, we identified the plan of the winner, and now we’re ready to identify some places to work with the government,” says Reyes de Muralles.

To maintain cohesion with the new government’s priorities, the team did their research, and aligned their own work with national priorities. Luckily, says Deputy Director of Localization and Capacity Development for PROPEL Guatemala, Albertico Orrego Gongora, many of those same priorities were included by the future minister.

Before the new government even stepped into office, the team had a good idea of what could be done and how to move forward to achieve it.

For Reyes de Muralles, another one of the keys to their success was how much the new government trusted the team.

Although PROPEL Health is focused on strengthening health systems, their technical team is well-respected across the government agencies in Guatemala. Orrego Gongora was identified as someone who could aid the new government in their transition process and had a direct role in doing so alongside three other staff connected to the PROPEL Health project. The team worked weekends and overtime outside of their usual role to aid in the transition and was dedicated to making the process as smooth as possible.

“I am really proud of the people with whom I am working. They are recognised as excellent,” Reyes de Muralles says.
The PROPEL Guatemala team is a case study for success, but according to Gonzalez-Pier, “we can still benefit from much more experience sharing across countries – understanding what is different about each country and what is similar across political movements.”

To be better prepared for the potentially disruptive elections to come, knowledge-sharing and building responsive structures is essential. “You can anticipate, you can prepare, and you can respond adaptively,” says Gonzalez-Pier, “so that we are much more effective and efficient in delivering what we're being asked to do.”

For more, contact info@thepalladiumgroup.com.