On November 29th, the International Republican Institute (IRI) and the National Democratic Institute (NDI) co-hosted a bipartisan event to explore the challenges to international democracy and U.S. foreign policy. Entitled a Bipartisan Celebration of Democracy, the discussion was particularly well-timed in the wake of one of the most divisive U.S. elections in recent memory, and with forces pushing back against democracy around the world.
American support for democracy in foreign countries has always been a bipartisan initiative. Since their creation in 1983 by an Act of Congress which established the National Endowment for Democracy, IRI and NDI have responded to the aspirations of people around the world to live in democratic societies that protect basic human rights. The Institutes have worked with political parties, civic groups and parliaments in more than 100 countries to strengthen democratic institutions, safeguard elections, advance citizen engagement and promote open and accountable government.
The evening featured a panel on "American Leadership Abroad: Foreign Policy Challenges and Opportunities." IRI Chairman Senator John McCain and NDI Chairman Madeleine Albright shared remarks while Washington Post Editorial Page Editor Fred Hiatt moderated the discussion.
“We are the indispensable nation, but there’s nothing in the definition of that that says ‘alone.’ It just means that we need to be engaged,” said Secretary Albright on the continued leadership role of the United States. “Democracy is about helping those who want to help themselves be a part of a democratic system.”
Senator McCain touched more specifically on the role of the legislative branch: “The Congress of the United States has got to play their proper role as the co-equal branch of government, and part of that has got to do with exercise of appropriations,” he said. “We as members of Congress have a job to do as far as our credibility, our leadership and our responsibilities lie.”
U.S. foreign policy works best when it has bipartisan support; the support of democracy worldwide reflects the convergence of our national interests and our values. The work of IRI and NDI advance long-term economic and social development that improves quality of life, spurs trade, advances peace, and addresses conditions that lead to extremism.
Former Danish Prime Minister and NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen delivered remarks on the need for the U.S. to continue supporting democracy and peace around the world.
Former Danish Prime Minister and NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen deliveres remarks
Reflecting on the historical importance of American global leadership, Rasmussen said, “If the U.S. retrenches and retreats… it leaves behind a vacuum that will be filled by the bad guys…I trust America and American leadership. Of course, America makes mistakes. But who else should be the leader of the free world? The world’s democracies must rise to the challenge, and America must exercise determined global leadership.”
The Bipartisan Celebration of Democracy concluded with a video of democratic activists around the world describing in their own words what democracy means to them. Words like “dignity,” “freedom” and “respect” resounded from every corner of the globe, spoken in the voices of people who work for these values every day - reminding us of the common thread that ties us all together.
See the discussion on Twitter via #DemocracyisBipartisan.
Watch the entire program on NDI’s Facebook page.