New Delhi: The Election Commission of India is hosting a conference of heads of election management bodies of SAARC countries here from April 30 to May 2 when they will focus on giving a final shape to their Forum.

The setting up of such a forum of SAARC election management bodies was approved in principle at the conference held in Islamabad last year.

The three-day conference will be inaugurated by India's Chief Election Commissioner S Y Quraishi where CEC's of Pakistan, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Maldives and Afghanistan would also be present.

The conference would also see discussions on empowerment of election management bodies, inclusive elections (gender issues, marginalized sections, minorities etc.), voters education, controlling money power in elections and technology for cost-effective elections, said EC's Director General Akshay Raut.

Coinciding with SAARC heads' conference, the foundation stone of a new campus of India International Institute of Democracy and Election Management (IIIDEM) will also be laid by Quraishi at Dwarka in New Delhi in the presence of heads of election management bodies of SAARC countries.

Among those who will attend the conference include chairman of the Independent Election Commission of Afghanistan Fazel Ahmad Manawi, Chief Election Commissioner of Bangladesh C Kazi Rakibuddin Ahmad, Chief Election Commissioner of Bhutan Dasho Kunzang Wangdi, Chief Election Commissioner of Nepal Neel Kantha Upreti, Commissioner, Election Commission of Maldives Ibrahim Waheed, Member of Election Commission of Pakistan Justice (Retd) Muhammad R Essani, and Commissioner of Elections in Sri Lanka Mahinda Deshapriya.

 Raut said the idea of holding such conferences took concrete shape at the 37th session of standing committee of SAARC held in Thimphu, Bhutan, in April 2010. Bangladesh had hosted the first Conference in May 2010 where initial discussions on creating a Forum of SAARC election management bodies were also held.

Giving details of the IIDEM centre in Dwarka, Raut said funds to the tune of Rs 48 crores have been approved for 2011 -12 and 2012-13 for construction of the new campus.

IIIDEM, since its launch in June 2011, has hosted 32 courses for more than 500 election officials and other stakeholders in all aspects of election management, he said, adding training courses are already lined up at IIIDEM in them coming weeks for the upcoming summary revision and general elections in some states.

Besides the national training programmes, IIIDEM has also conducted five courses for Kenyan, Maldivian, Bhutanese and Afghanistan election officials and Nigerian Election Commissioners. There are requests for such courses from Nepal and Fiji, he said.