The National Democratic Institute is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization working to support and strengthen democratic institutions worldwide through citizen participation, openness and accountability in government.
News and Views
Commentary from experts on the directions and challenges of democracy assistance programs.
|July 19, 2013||
Hopeful signs have emerged in Burma after decades of military rule, including the release of Aung San Suu Kyi and the partial opening up of the political system by the military. But ending military dominance isn’t the only challenge. Building a strong, durable democracy in a country where there is limited civil society experience and a “complex ethnic and religious mix” is a daunting task.
U.S. engagement in Burma must be sustained, and U.S. policy must take experiences of democratic transitions in countries like Egypt and Turkey into account.
“Organizations such as the International Republican Institute, the National Democratic Institute, the International Foundation for Electoral Systems and Freedom House are working to bolster the institutional capacity of political parties and civil society, fostering dialogue among ethnic groups and political parties and bringing youth and women into these policy exchanges.”
“Burma today represents a fundamental truth: No oppression can forever deny to people the realization of their core human aspirations. Ultimately, the dreams of the Burmese people will be realized. We should do our best to help them along the way.”Read More
|July 4, 2013||
Egypt’s “people-backed military coup” on Wednesday is similar to many others countries in recent history where crowds have begged the military to oust democratically elected governments. Results of similar coups have resulted in violence, human rights abuses and political conflicts that last for decades.
“Egypt’s secular elite insists that something had to be done to stop the Muslim Brotherhood from monopolizing power and gutting democracy from the inside. But there were ways to stop the Morsi government’s excesses well short of a coup — and of ensuring that Islamists did not return in the next election.”
“...The ultimate losers in this week’s coup will be those who cheered it on.”Read More
|July 4, 2013||
“There is no ambiguity about what happened in Egypt on Wednesday: a military coup against a democratically elected government and the wrong response to the country’s problems,” writes The Washington Post Editorial Board.
According to a law passed by Congress, U.S. aid to Egypt should be suspended until a genuine democratic transition is pursued.
“Had the armed forces not intervened, democracy probably would have led to the defeat within months of the Muslim Brotherhood in legislative elections. If it does not provoke the eruption of violent conflict, this coup may well ensure that Islamist forces, including more radical groups, grow stronger. The United States must focus on preventing the worst outcomes in a vital Arab ally, including civil war or a new dictatorship. That means dropping its passivity and using the leverage of aid to insist on a democratic transition.”Read More
|July 4, 2013||
Egyptians and outside observers are arguing about what happened in Egypt on Wednesday, and whether it should be described as a “coup.” Michele Dunne of the Atlantic Council argues that the U.S. was late in seeing the crisis coming and that it has “made a hash of its Egypt policy.” The U.S. needs to return to core principles and call what happened in Egypt a coup, while also acknowledging that Morsi had taken undemocratic steps that provoked opposition.
Egyptian generals and civilian officials can prove that they are staying on a democratic path by supporting freedom of expression and human rights, resolving the case against 43 NGO workers carrying out democracy-promotion activities and allowing civil society to work in peace.
“U.S. policy in Egypt based on fear rather than principles has alienated all sides. Instead of focusing on how to avoid calling this week’s events a coup so they can maintain financial aid to the military, U.S. officials ought to be asking how they can use the Egyptian military’s desire to regain international legitimacy after this coup as leverage to press for a rapid return to democratic rule.”Read More
|June 27, 2013||
New democracies are increasingly seeking to not only strengthen democracy at home, but also support its development in neighboring countries. They are uniquely qualified to support democratic transitions and have a lot to contribute to support efforts of established Western democracies.
Newer democracies, like Poland, for instance, have played a valuable role in spreading democratic values by serving as models of “democratic norms and practices” for other countries to emulate. Cooperation between these new democracies and Western democracies “could prove crucial to the spreading and consolidation of democracy around the globe.”
“What distinguishes Central and Eastern European democracy assistance from that of more established democracies is that these countries are exporting democratization strategies based on their own fairly recent transitions. That is, they have their own models of democratization, whereas more established democracies tend to export their own models of democracy.”Read More
|June 15, 2013||
The recent politically driven conviction of 43 employees of foreign nonprofit groups for receiving illegal funds under a deeply flawed Mubarak-era law "sends a chilling message to Egyptians who want to work for democratic change.” President Morsi has recognized that the law under which they were convicted is flawed, but his proposed substitute does not meet international human right standards. Such acts by the Egyptian government can have lasting, irreversible effects.
“Egypt’s stability and its ability to build durable democratic institutions, establish a sound economy, respect the rights and freedoms of its citizens and uphold the peace treaty with Israel are hugely important. The United States needs to find a more effective way of getting that message across.”Read More
|June 5, 2013||
In the wake of the June 4 sentencing of 43 NGO workers in Egypt and President Morsi’s draft law that would stifle Egyptian civil society, many are questioning U.S. support for “civil-society-led demcoracy efforts.” But civil society is essential to social progress, U.S. diplomacy and Egypt’s democratic transition.
“The fate of Egypt's beleaguered civil society and the international groups that work within it should remain a central U.S. concern in shaping its policy toward Egypt -- under the Morsi government or any other.”
“The U.S. and other international efforts already undertaken have bolstered the local NGOs campaigning for better laws and respect for associational freedom. Such efforts stalled a draft law proposed by former President Hosni Mubarak in 2010, and torpedoed the Shura Council's almost identical proposal earlier this year. The intensive public-relations campaign by Morsi's staff over this issue reveals his sensitivity to international criticism. This is no time to let up the pressure -- there is simply too much at stake.”Read More
|June 4, 2013||
A crackdown on NGOs that was begun by Egypt’s transitional military government in December 2011 resulted in 43 NGO employees being sentenced to prison terms June 4. Though the crackdown was launched by “holdovers” from the Mubarak dictatorship, the new Muslim Brotherhood-led government did nothing to stop the prosecutions. President Morsi has also submitted a bill that would place tight restrictions on Egyptian civil society groups, which has drawn disapproval from Egyptian and international NGOs, as well as Western governments.
“It’s essential that the United States show with actions as well as words that the suppression of Egypt’s civil society is unacceptable.”Read More
|June 1, 2013||
Keynote speaker Abigail Disney discussed her work documenting to the day-to-day plight of women and in war-torn countries around the world and her efforts to empower them at NDI’s annual Madeleine K. Albright Awards Luncheon, which also marked the launch of the Madeleine K. Albright Women’s Project aiming to “break down the barriers that keep women from engaging in politics.”
According to Disney, “'There is no group of people more suited to this technological challenge than women…This is our moment.'”
“Disney’s brand of activism is probably not what her father had in mind, but she’s stretching the family name in ways that women across the globe appreciate and applaud.”Read More
|May 29, 2013||
On May 30, experts will make recommendations to the U.N. Secretary-General on how to address the post-2015 global development agenda after the deadline for the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) has passed.
Citizen empowerment and desire for freedom is one of the strongest global trends, but two recent surveys among citizens and U.N. member state governments, respectively, show a "widening gap between citizens and their governments." According to the results, many citizens see democratic governance as a priority, while governments don't.
“Even though several countries have managed to achieve economic development without much democracy, democracy is essential if such development is to prove sustainable. Democracy and development are mutually reinforcing -- and that's why the new development goals also need to be democracy goals."Read More