Message from Madeleine Albright and Derek Mitchell
When NDI opened its doors in 1983, programs to support democratic development essentially did not exist. Given a mission but not a roadmap, the Institute built its practice from scratch, creating a unique international network of political practitioners dedicated to sharing their democratic experiences and ideas with other nascent democracies.
NDI has become a leader in the democracy field by prioritizing creativity and innovation, and crafting programs that account for the unique context of each country. NDI promoted democratic reform in the Philippines and Chile in the 1980s; in Eastern Europe after the fall of the Berlin Wall; and across Africa, Asia and Latin America in the 1990s following the end of the Cold War. We began programming on the inclusion of traditionally marginalized populations such as women, youth and the disabled in the 2000s. More recently, NDI has supported activists whose homegrown efforts inspired the Arab Spring in 2011, the Ukrainian Revolution of Dignity in 2014, and other democracy movements in newly formed and fragile states.
We have found over the past 35 years that, whatever its shortfalls, democracy works. Through transparent processes that affirm basic human dignity, democracy allows nations to settle their internal differences peacefully through elections, open debate, accountable governance, and rule of law. It is the only form of government that allows for peaceful self-correction. The alliance of democratic nations, and the rules-based system they created 70 years ago, led to the greatest period of sustained global development in human history.
Translating democracy’s promise into a better life for all can be frustratingly slow and difficult. Traditional mindsets refuse to die. Intolerance and demagoguery can overwhelm the capacity of new democratic institutions to withstand and resist. Authoritarians who have long used oppression to silence voices at home now learn from and cooperate with one another. They use new technologies to spread division and disinformation farther and faster than ever before.
Nonetheless, alongside brave local partners, NDI has helped nurture the seeds of democracy in some of the toughest places on earth. While democracy's success is neither inevitable nor irreversible, NDI knows from first-hand experience over more than three decades that free people in every corner of the world continue to yearn for the promise of democracy. We are privileged to work with exceptional women and men whose tireless efforts on behalf of human dignity in their countries – and beyond – seek to make the world a more just, secure and prosperous place.
A century ago, Woodrow Wilson urged us to build a world safe for democracy. Today, we strive for democracy to keep our world safe. The challenges of our time only reinforce why the work of NDI remains as essential as ever.
Madeleine K. Albright