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NDI

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.

January 13, 2015

Democracy Aid at 25: Time to Choose

Carnegie Endowment for International Piece

On the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, democracy expert Thomas Carothers reflects on the field of democracy aid and international assistance over the past quarter century.

Carothers outlines a new set of challenges democracy practitioners face, including slowing momentum for democracy reform, reluctance from countries to accept democracy aid, Western liberal democracy's tarnished brand and reduced commitment to democracy support among Western democracies.

Given these challenges, Carothers concludes that it is up to the democracy-aid community to decide whether they will retreat, “or reveal a pattern of sustained productive engagement and iterative progress in the face of significant adversity.”

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January 9, 2015

Give democratic Tunisia the U.S. support it needs and deserves

Washington Post

In an op-ed in the Washington Post, Vance Serchuk, who joined the NDI Observer Delegation to Tunisia's 2014 Presidential Run-Off Election, identifies three areas​ where​ the United States should step up its support for Tunisia’s new democratically-elected government, as part of the country’s overall transition to democracy since the 2011 revolution.

First, ​he said, U.S. government officials ​should visit Tunisia to show support for the country’s path to democracy. Second, the United States ​should monitor treatment of the minority party as a way to assess democratic governance. Finally, the United States needs to continue supporting Tunisia’s democratic institution-building to ensure that democratic transition continues.

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January 7, 2015

Taking Democracy for Granted

Washington Post

In an op-ed piece for the Washington Post, columnist Anne Applebaum argues that those who live in “functioning democracies” should be aware of how lucky they are and shouldn't be too critical of the difficulties faced by democracies in transition.

Drawing from the work of economist Esther Duflo on poverty issues, Applebaum contextualizes the global struggle for democracy by pointing out, “Americans and Europeans don’t have to write their constitutions from scratch in order to elect a government or change their entire court system if they want justice — but Libyans and Ukrainians do. Ask yourself if you would find that easy.”

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December 22, 2014

Why is the United States shortchanging its commitment to democracy?

Washington Post

The United States should increase its commitment to democracy around the world, writes Thomas Carothers, vice president for studies at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, in the Washington Post. Since 2009, the U.S. Agency for International Development has cut funding for democracy, governance and human rights programs by 38 percent. While democracy assistance may not produce instant results, patient support for democratic institutions can have sustained benefits, which cut across all sectors of development. “No emergency health delivery measures, no matter how heroic in the short term, will solve the deeper governance problem,” Carothers writes.

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December 16, 2014

The Other War in Ukraine

Foreign Policy

Battling corruption is a far greater priority for building democracy in Ukraine than foreign aggression. That’s the consensus among several key observers, including NDI’s 2014 Democracy Award winners Serhiy Leshchenko and Oleksandr Solontay, in a new Foreign Policy article. Cracking down on a long-standing culture of corruption in Ukraine is a top priority for democratic reformers and legislators in the country. That includes curtailing the influence oligarchs have on Ukraine’s economy, enacting campaign finance reform and implementing internal reforms within the country’s military. While many of these reforms are expected to take years to implement, Geoffrey Pyatt, U.S. ambassador to Kiev, stresses that for democracy to thrive in Ukraine, the status quo cannot continue. “Business as usual,” says Pyatt, “is a bigger threat than Russian tanks.”

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December 12, 2014

Azerbaijan Imprisons an Investigative Journalist

Washington Post

The Washington Post editorial board criticized Azerbaijan President Illham Aliyev’s recent move to jail Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty investigative journalist Khadija Ismayilov, calling it a sign that the country is drifting toward “a bleak dystopia for human rights and democracy.”

The detainment adds to a list of recent actions taken by Aliyev to silence dissenting voices in Azerbaijan, including jailing a group of human rights activists. With Aliyev’s attempts to attract Western economic interests to Azerbaijan’s energy resources, the Post said, the president’s poor human rights record will undermine his efforts and ultimately hurt the country.

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November 4, 2014

America’s Big Bet on Indonesia

The New York Times

With the inauguration of Indonesia’s new president Joko Widodo, the world’s most populous Muslim country has marked its place as an important emerging democracy, writes the New York Times Editorial Board. According to the article, Indonesia’s presidential election in September, along with Tunisia’s parliamentary elections last month, provides “further evidence that Muslim nations can evolve peacefully under democratic systems.” Indonesia nascent democracy will face many challenges ahead of it in the coming years, including endemic poverty, corruption, and the threat of religious extremism.

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November 3, 2014

Remember What They Died For

Foreign Policy

International democracy support still has an important place in the world, say Srdja Popovic and Slobodan Djinovic, former leaders of Serbia’s Otpor movement and co-founders of the Center for Applied Nonviolent Action and Strategies. In a recent article in Foreign Policy, the two say that in spite of discouraging developments around the world and continued flaws in Western-led democracy promotion efforts, people around the globe still aspire to the freedoms and dignity of democratic rule. Though the struggle to spread democracy may be difficult, it is “worth fighting for now more than ever.”

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October 24, 2014

Chasing Away the Democracy Blues

Foreign Policy

Larry Diamond, professor of political sociology at Stanford University and one of the world’s leading experts on democracy studies says, that now is the time to redouble efforts at democratization. According to Diamond, the last fifteen years have seen the democratic successes of the post-Cold War period recede. Rather than abandon faith, however, the United States and other liberal democracies must still support democracy, but that will take assessing and reforming the way it is done.

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October 2, 2014

A Way Out of Crisis

Foreign Policy

Genuine political and economic reform can seem a daunting task, especially in an age of widespread corruption and public dissatisfaction. However, according to democracy and governance specialists Kristen Sample and Jorge Valladares M., reform-minded politicians can be politically successful and create positive change at the same time. The key to success, they argue, is focusing on broad programmatic policies versus patronage or identity politics. By focusing on clear policy objectives politicians will attract allies and legitimize them in the eyes of their constituents.

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