Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights

The Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) works to:

  • Promote democratic elections
  • Support the development of democratic institutions
  • Monitor human rights
  • Strengthen civil society and the rule of law
  • Combat discrimination
  • Improve the situation of Roma and Sinti
  • Assist in protecting the rights of trafficked persons and vulnerable groups

ODIHR is based in Warsaw, Poland.  Michael Georg Link of Germany became Director of ODIHR on July 1, 2014.

East & West monitoring

Since its establishment in 1991, ODIHR has become the international “gold standard” institution in developing a systematic methodology for evaluating all stages of the electoral process, including:

  • The process for the selection of candidates
  • The campaign process
  • Media coverage
  • The actual voting process
  • The counting of ballots and determination of outcomes.

In addition to recruiting election monitors, it often works closely with the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly and the European Parliament. With a few exceptions it observes all major elections for parliament and heads of state in all OSCE participating states, and in some newly democratizing countries (such as Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo) it has also played a major role in organizing, implementing, and monitoring municipal elections.

ODIHR’s efforts in election monitoring in its early years tended to focus on the former communist states in Eurasia and the Balkans, and this has led to some criticism that there is an implicit assumption that the only problems with democratic processes occur in the former communist states.

In part to respond to this criticism, ODIHR has monitored elections in the West as well, such as French presidential elections; U.S. presidential and congressional elections; and elections in the UK involving devolution of authority to Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. Although ODIHR reported occasional problems in several of those elections, its reports generally concluded that the elections were held in these Western countries in the context of a long history of democratic practice. This finding, however, has led to criticism from Russia and several other countries that ODIHR is utilizing “subjective” criteria in its election monitoring, rather than focusing on concrete, material evaluations.