CYC/POA ELECTION ARBITRATION NOTICE

4 June, 2021.

FROM:

CYC Panel of Arbitrators (POA)

FAO:

CYC Members

CYC General Assembly Presidents (past and present)

CYC Executives (past and present)

CYC Elections Candidates

CYC National Youth Delegates

CYC Electoral Board

CYC Stakeholders Panel

Commonwealth Secretariat

Commonwealth Member States through the Ministries of Youth.

 

CYC/POA ELECTION ARBITRATION NOTICE

_______________________________________

 

COMMENCEMENT OF ARBITRATION AND ELECTION DISPUTE RESOLUTION FOR THE COMMONWEALTH YOUTH COUNCIL

Following the Commonwealth Youth Council (CYC) Elections 2021 and complaints relating to the general conduct of the CYC Elections 2021, appeals and disciplinary cases referred to the CYC Panel of Arbitrators (POA) by the Commonwealth Secretariat, CYC members, candidates and delegates; and as communicated in a letter issued by the CYC Elections Returning Officer (ERO) on 29 May 2021, the POA hereby gives written notice of the commencement of arbitration and election dispute resolution for the CYC, in accordance with the CYC Constitution Article 21 (4) and CYC Elections Regulations (Rule 11) of 2015 as amended.

The arbitration will begin on Monday 7th June 2021 and the final report/determination of the POA will be delivered on Friday 11th June 2021. This timeframe is subject to change, based on the cooperation of parties.

The arbitration will be held virtually. Hearing schedules, POA rules of procedure and other arrangements will be communicated in due course.

The POA seeks to engage the concerned parties including CYC executive members, candidates, delegates, and as well as take evidence from the ERO and designated representatives from the Commonwealth Secretariat. Independent observers will be invited to witness the hearings, where practically possible.   

The POA will address the general conduct of the CYC Elections 2021, hear all appeals and disciplinary cases. The POA will address issues concerning the CYC Constitution and Elections Regulations, and judiciously advise the CYC on appropriate course of action.  The final report of the POA shall be approved by all arbitrators (without objection), in line with the Commonwealth principle of consensus.  

It is important that, before deciding to follow the arbitration rules and to take part in the arbitration proceedings, parties are encouraged to seek independent legal advice (at their own cost) and parties should bear the following points in mind, which they are legally required to comply with:

The decision of the Arbitrator shall be final and cannot be appealed further.

  1. FIRST; by agreeing to the arbitration and election dispute resolution process, the parties of the appeals pending before the POA, pursuant to CYC Constitution Article 21 (4) and CYC Elections Regulations (Rule 11) of 2015, to engage in arbitration concerning the general conduct of the CYC Elections 2021, the parties understand that this arbitration requires the consent of the parties affected by the dispute, and that once the arbitration election is filed with the POA, the parties are no longer entitled to challenge the CYC elections outside the remit of the POA and that further review is strictly limited. Further, the parties understand that the decision of the arbitration is binding and irrevocable on the parties agreeing on the resolution of the pending disputes. The decision of the arbitrator is final (as per CYC Elections Regulations (Rule 11)), unless vacated by a court of competent jurisdiction, based on the provisions of the governing law in a member state of the Commonwealth. The parties also acknowledge that they are familiar with the arbitration provisions of the CYC Constitution and Elections Regulations and agree to abide by them.

Further appeals, complaints, evidence are to be submitted before the deadline.

  1. SECOND; the POA hereby directs parties to submit further appeals, complaints, evidence before the deadline of Monday, 7th, June 2021. Provisional Election results are typically released during the election week, therefore, any arbitration petition must be filed with the POA before or after the provisional results within a specified deadline. Submitting the arbitration elections appeal is not the first step but, rather, the final action in a multi-step process to properly initiate an election challenge and disciplinary actions. All necessary steps must be taken within this deadline so that the arbitration appeal can be properly submitted and determined in a timely fashion. The POA prerequisites to submitting an arbitration election appeal include the complainant providing the POA with the following: (1) advance written notice of the specific nature of the dispute and issue; (2) a demand for relief, and a reasonable opportunity for the POA to determine the applicable relief sought; and (3) notice of any intention to seek legal action in the absence of a resolution of the dispute. If the concerned party fails to satisfy these three prerequisites, then the POA will refuse to hear the dispute and the election challenge will be dismissed.

Media engagement, social media comments and allegations in public domains

  1. THIRD; the POA hereby directs parties to immediately stop all media engagement or otherwise remove/delete all social media claims and allegations including petitions, articles, flyers which may be deemed prejudicial to the arbitration process and breach of the CYC Constitution and regulations (see article 27 of the CYC Constitution relating to communication and confidential information) by the deadline of 7th June 2021. If the concerned party fails to satisfy this directive, the POA will refuse to hear the dispute and the election challenge submitted by defaulting party and the matter will be dismissed. The burden of proof determines which party is responsible to prove an assertion made in the arbitration proceedings or in public domains. Standard of proof, on the other hand, defines how much evidence is needed for either an individual issue or a party’s case as a whole to aid the arbitration process. The POA notes that most election disputes and challenges begin with an informed hunch, rumors and/or ‘inside information’ among the parties, which must first be investigated and its accuracy vetted prior to submitting an arbitration appeal or otherwise to engage in media activities or social media activism. While these are all valid reasons and platforms for challenging an election, those hunches and rumors must be validated prior to submitting the arbitration appeal. The POA will not want to arbitrate an election challenge over a rumor or hunch that turns out to be unfounded. The intent of this direction is not to discourage parties from making election challenges or speaking out in line with their democratic rights and freedom of speech but, instead, to brief parties on the process involved, so that they are well prepared at the outset, and ensure all parties are treated fairly and equally before the law. If there is a valid reason for challenging and disputing an election, then, any person desiring to appeal or challenge, should do so.

 Upholding the goals and values of the Commonwealth.

  1. FOURTH; the POA notes that effective arbitration and resolution of electoral complaints is integral to the integrity and legitimacy of the CYC. If the rules governing the CYC elections and resolution of election claims are incoherent, do not provide for effective remedies, or elections officers and arbiters are biased or poorly engaged, the election and arbitration process can destabilise CYC, undermine public trust, and negatively affect the interest of the Commonwealth and its young people. To avoid these outcomes, POA works to: ensure the compliance of electoral rules, in line with CYC Constitution and Elections regulations obligations; promote effective and fair investigation and arbitration processes by engaging CYC members and observing election, campaigns; and develop appropriate triage and credible processes, to handle complaints in a timely and unbiased manner.

Throughout the past seven years since the establishment of the CYC, the Commonwealth Secretariat and member governments have been dedicated to working with the CYC and other stakeholders to hold free, fair and credible elections, and develop effective methods for the resolution of complaints in an effort to guarantee the integrity and legitimacy of elections and CYC around the Commonwealth.  The POA has not recorded any complaint or otherwise concern in previous elections. CYC Elections 2021 is therefore a test case, which the POA, in working together with all parties is committed to confront and address.

The POA notes that conducting a virtual election online, amid COVID19 can be challenging, but despite the disputes in the elections, the POA hopes to resolve all complainants and concerns with mutual respect and understanding, and through peaceful and legal means.   

The POA notes the CYC is the largest, and most diverse youth-led organisation in the world. It plays an integral role in advancing the youth development agenda. The Commonwealth Heads of Government in Perth endorsed the establishment of the Commonwealth Youth Council in November 2011. Her Majesty the Queen of England (the Head of the Commonwealth) together with the Heads of Government at the CHOGM in Colombo, Sri Lanka welcomed the election of the inaugural Executive of the CYC in November 2013. The establishment of the CYC to engage and empower young people in decision-making and national development is directly aligned with the Commonwealth Charter. The Magampura Commitment to Young People by Commonwealth Heads of Government calls for strong partnerships between the CYC, member governments, youth and relevant Commonwealth institutions.

 The Panel of Arbitrators (POA)

  1. FIFTH; Pursuant to the CYC Constitution Article 21 (4) and CYC Elections Regulations (Rule 11) of 2015, the POA notes that it is within its mandate and jurisdiction to continue to serve as arbitrators for the CYC, given the election of arbitrators at the first CYC General Assembly (with no term-limit). This decision was subsequently confirmed and without objection at the CYC General Assembly held in the United Kingdom. Therefore, the mandate of the founding arbitrators continues, until such time when new arbitrators are elected by the CYC General Assembly. Notwithstanding constitutional arrangement and provisions, the CYC General Assembly is the highest and most powerful decision- making body of the Council and consist of representatives of all Full Members and Affiliated Observers, as provided for in the CYC Constitution Article 13(1)

The POA notes that all arbitrators must be always and remain impartial and independent. The requirements of independence and impartiality serve the purpose of protecting parties against arbitrators to be influenced by factors other than those related to the merits of the case/evidence.

The POA notes that the arbitrators will be guided by the general principles of the Commonwealth Charter, the CYC Constitution, CYC Elections Regulations, and will conduct the arbitration in the best interest of the Commonwealth and its young people, and in line with democratic principles of free, fair, and credible elections.

 

 Authorised by:

 

Mr Messeh Leone

From Sierra Leone/United Kingdom

Arbitrator Africa and Europe Region (POA Chair)

  • Director/Independent Legal Adviser, Commonwealth Global CIC
  • Founding Coordinator of CYC/Programme Officer, Commonwealth Secretariat
  • Principal writer, CYC Constitution and Election Regulations
  • Former Chair, CYC Constitutional Review/Drafting Committee
  • Former Consultant, United Nations/ Africa Union Commission – Africa Youth Forum
  • Former Member, UNHABITA Global Youth Panel Elections Committee
  • Former Member, British Youth Council
  • Former Member, Commonwealth Youth Parliament
  • Former President, Sierra Leone Children’s Forum/Parliament
  • Former Executive, National Youth Coalition of Sierra Leone

Ms Shiromi Samarakoon

From Sri Lanka

Arbitrator Asia Region (POA secretary).

  • Currently, leads the Royal Commonwealth Society’s Reform53 campaign and Literacy working group within the Asian region.
  • Former Youth Transition Executive, Commonwealth Youth Gender and Equality Network
  • Former Special Interest Group Representative, CYC and familiar with the CYC Constitution, and brings women’s voice and special interest groups to the arbitration process.
  • Former Senator, Sri Lanka Youth Parliament

 

Mr Timothy Ferdinand

From St. Lucia

Arbitrator Caribbean & the Americas Region

  • Inaugural Chairperson, Caribbean Regional Youth Council
  • Former member of the Drafting Committee, CYC Constitution and familiar with the CYC constitution
  • Former Board Member, CYC Electoral Board
  • Former Vice President and President, St. Lucia National Youth Council

 

Mr Harry James 

From Solomon Islands

Arbitrator Pacific Region

  • Current Vice Chairperson, Pacific Youth Council 
  • Former Pacific Regional Representative, CYC and familiar with the CYC Constitution
  • Former Solomon Islands’ Youth Caucus Member to the Commonwealth Youth programme.

 

PLEASE NOTE: Typographical, errors, omissions, misrepresentations arising from this POA notice shall not be used to question or otherwise challenge the arbitration process and determination of the appeals.  The CYC constitution and electoral guidelines remain SUPREME.

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