A Message from NDI's New President, Dr. Tamara Wittes

Tuesday, March 19, 2024

Democracy Springs Up, Even in Barren Places

It’s no accident that democratic movements are often labeled “Springs.” Like warm sun after a long winter, the promises of freedom, voice, and choice that democracy offers present a vision of a better future. This is the promise of democracy; and even when the climate is chilly, citizens everywhere continue to seek that promise. Despite global headlines marred by violent conflicts, authoritarian attacks on democratic freedoms, and extreme levels of polarization and mistrust in politics, the universal human yearning for freedom continues pressing upward like the green shoots of springtime, even in barren places. 

We see it in the eyes of Evgenia Kara-Murza, rallying supporters even as Putin has unjustly imprisoned and threatened the life of her husband. We see it in the hundreds of Russians who dared arrest to gather at Alexei Navalny’s funeral, and the brave Iranian women who defy constraints on their freedom on the streets daily. We see it in the Guatemalan citizens who stayed in their streets all night to ensure that their elected president was sworn into office. We see it in the resilient and determined Ukrainian people as they defend their sovereignty while also pressing for reforms that will strengthen their democracy. And we see it in the people of Taiwan as they resist aggressive threats from the Chinese Communist Party to cast their ballots. These brave democracy defenders insist on forging their own destiny – and if they haven’t lost faith, we must not either. 

At NDI, their calls for freedom drive our mission: to keep democracy’s green shoots alive and growing. At a time when democratic societies face challenges both within and outside their borders, I seek no higher calling than this essential work. In 2024, nearly half the world’s citizens will vote in elections, choosing how they want to be governed and by whom. At NDI, we are determined to ensure that those choices bring meaningful benefits, especially the expansion of freedom, for the citizens making them. 

Democracy is about communities making collective decisions even when people may have real differences of view – and so healthy democracy relies on fostering open dialogue and trust. Without that trust, every political argument and every election becomes a zero-sum, existential battle. 

That’s why NDI’s work to nurture, expand and strengthen democracy is not just about training and skill-building. We help our partners envision and work toward a common future in their societies, even across differences. We support those who stand up to autocracy and cultivate their ability to forge alliances and create durable majorities for democracy. We strengthen democratic institutions that are transparent and accountable to citizens; we advance credible elections that strengthen people’s trust in politics; and we create space for everyone to participate – especially women and youth, and with democratic rights for all.

Securing and expanding freedom’s reach is a defining issue for the world in this young century. I am proud to lead NDI into our fifth decade, to keep those green shoots of freedom strong and growing across the globe. I am proud to stand alongside our superb global staff and our generous donors, whose support for NDI empowers millions of people to shape their own destiny. Together with our democratic partners all over the world, we are showing how democratic politics enable us to learn from our past, to innovate new ways to tackle our challenges, and to persist and shape our shared future into one of greater security and prosperity. 

As I take up the leadership of NDI’s sacred work, I want to thank you for being part of our community. Together, we will continue working for democracy and making democracy work – for everyone.


Dr. Tamara Wittes, President

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About This Resource

Author: Dr. Tamara Wittes
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