A YIAGA ICT officer works with data clerks on election day in Nigeria. February 2019.

Data center officers with YIAGA AFRICA collect Nigerian election observer reports. Credit: Ryan Dalton

35th Anniversary Report

Working for Democracy,
Making Democracy Work

Read NDI Chairman Madeleine Albright's Latest Thoughts on Democracy

"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."  Continue Reading

Portrait of Madeleine Albright Credit: Timothy Greenfield Sanders

Democracy is inseparable from human dignity and peace.”

NDI Debate-Audience hold up cards to vote for the debate team from Yarmouk University, winner of Jordan's first-ever national student debate competition_Debating on allowing parties to operate in universities.JPG

Ana Usharek participants in Jordan vote in a debate competition.

Our Mission

The human desire for freedom is universal. NDI works to fulfill the demand for democracy by promoting inclusive, participatory, transparent and accountable governance. As a nonpartisan, non-governmental organization, NDI responds to the aspirations of people around the globe to live in democratic societies that are open and free. Our mission is to promote the development and safeguard the integrity of open government, free speech, and democratic processes and institutions worldwide – in other words, to work for democracy and make democracy work.

Regions
Where We Work

NDI has promoted democratic development across five continents. Currently, the Institute has more than 50 field offices and programming in more than 70 countries.

NDI by the Numbers
In 35 years, NDI has:

Worked in:

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156

countries and territories around the world

Fielded over:

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200

International election observer delegations in 67 countries

Supported the efforts of:

1,600

civic organizations

925

political parties and organizations

10,000

legislators

1,300

woman's organizations

Helped partner groups organize more than:

400

Candidate debates in more than 35 countries

Helped:

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300

citizen election monitoring organizations train and deploy

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4,000,000

election observers in

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350

elections and referenda in 85 countries

Trained more than:

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600,000

Party poll-watchers in more than 50 countries

How we work banner

NDI visits Burma/Myanmar's Lwin Thayar constituency in 2014. Photo: Richard Nuccio

How We Work

Since its founding, NDI has worked with local partners in 156 countries and territories, bringing together individuals and groups across partisan affiliations and national borders to share best practices in international democratic development. Partners include governments, legislatures, political parties, civic organizations, and citizens, who are exposed to the newest and most effective ideas in democratic development that can then be adapted to the needs of their own countries. The Institute’s multinational and nonpartisan approach reinforces the message that while there is no single democratic model, certain core principles are shared by all democracies. The principles enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights remain our guidepost.

Lessons Learned

NDI believes successful democracies share core principles that make the world more secure, stable and humane.The following are lessons NDI has learned over the years:

Lesson 01

Democracy takes time, and its legitimacy depends on more than one election or citizen protest. Every democracy, no matter how developed, is a work in progress that requires courageous, determined citizens who are eternally vigilant and committed to safeguarding democratic norms, processes, and rights.

women holding like signs
Lesson 02

Fragile democracies often struggle to overcome corruption, poverty, insecurity and ethnic divisions inherited from previous regimes. Democratic governments must meet popular expectations and show results – particularly in improving living standards – if democracy is to be successful. 

Lesson 03
Building a culture of democracy is as important as developing institutions and processes

Constructing a political culture of dialogue, compromise, inclusion, and respect for law is essential to sustaining democracy and resisting autocratic drift. Absent adherence to such norms, democratic institutions and processes can wither, and democracy become a matter of form, not fact.

Lesson 04
International networks are essential

When international actors share their democratic experiences with those undergoing similar challenges, it helps nations in transition recognize they are not alone and that obstacles can be overcome.

Lesson 05

When women are engaged in politics, democracy is more resilient, development is more sustainable, compromise is more likely, and peace agreements tend to last longer. Democracy is more likely to thrive when all segments of society can participate freely without bias or reprisal – including youth, people with disabilities, ethnic and religious minorities and LGBTI communities.

Lesson 06

Elections become credible when citizens are informed and participate without fear, political candidates and media compete freely, and election authorities and the judiciary act impartially and transparently. Credible elections lead to legitimate governance.

Lesson 07

Technology and social media can empower citizens and contribute to democracy’s success. But autocrats and unscrupulous politicians can also manipulate political outcomes through disinformation, especially during elections. When information is monopolized – and technology is used to sow confusion, division and social alienation – democracy itself is undermined. Democracies must improve their understanding of both the advantages and risks of new technologies.

Lesson 08
Democracy must take account of spoilers

Autocracies protect themselves by exporting their repressive models and by undermining democratic values and norms both at home and abroad. Democracies must remain vigilant, and recognize that democratic values and effective governance are their greatest strengths.

Lesson 09

If, as Benjamin Franklin said, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, democratic development is cost-effective in the extreme. Whether measured in terms of averting war, humanitarian crises, refugee flows, economic destruction, or violent extremism, democratic development pays for itself many times over.

Photo of three Iraqi women from different ethnic backgrounds in traditional dress raising their hands together in solidarity.
Lesson 10

NDI’s effectiveness depends on its relationships of trust and confidence with governments and peoples around the world. Building and sustaining these relationships are at the heart of the Institute’s work to support the democratic aspirations, rights and dignity of people everywhere.

Our Impact

NDI is a global innovator in developing new initiatives to advance democracy and tackle deep-seated problems in countries and regions around the world. These are examples of NDI’s  impact to help citizens and democratic institutions achieve better results.

Haiti

Mobilizing Citizen Participation

Informed and active citizens who voice their interests, act collectively and hold public officials accountable are essential elements of democracy. NDI programs empower citizens to engage in the political process – on election day and in the years between – through civic and voter education, get-out-the-vote efforts, issue organizing and advocacy campaigns, and oversight of government activities. Civil society organizations bring citizens together to aggregate their interests. Since 1983, NDI has given technical and financial assistance to more than 15,000 civic organizations across the globe.

Kosovo's Week of Women 2018. Credit: Arben Llapashtica

Renewing Political Parties for the 21st Century

Political parties are an essential building block of democracy, providing a forum for voters to organize around common interests, choose political leaders and influence government policy. In too many developing countries, however, political parties are weak institutions that are organized around personalities, rather than policies, and engage voters only at election time. NDI supports the development of vibrant, accountable and inclusive multiparty systems that offer citizens meaningful choices. NDI’s 21st Century Parties’ Party Renewal Initiative and its Blueprint for 21st Century Parties provide parties with practical tools to modernize their operations, and become more inclusive and responsive to voters. The Institute fosters peer-to-peer exchanges, facilitates productive dialogue between parties and civil society, and works to expand participation of marginalized groups.

Take action! Donate today to support developing 21st Century Political Parties
Digital Technology
Harnessing Digital Technology for Democracy

Digital technology is transforming democracy in fundamental ways. While technology has enabled more open government, and empowered citizens to amplify their voices and hold governments accountable, such as during the Arab Spring and the Revolution of Dignity in Ukraine, it has also been used to inhibit participation, exacerbate social divisions, and cause citizens to become more disconnected from politics and government. Through its office in Silicon Valley, NDI is working with digital technology companies to help them design for democracy and mitigate harm their platforms may cause.NDI created DemTools, a suite of technology software, to help democracy activists apply 21st century solutions to the common challenges they face, such as collecting and analyzing election data, tracking constituent concerns, managing citizen contacts, and organizing petition drives.

Overcoming Barriers to Women’s Political Participation
Overcoming Barriers

Malala Yousufzai, then 13 years old, participates in an NDI program in Pakistan with Serish Nasim, a future Andi Parhamovich Fellowship recipient.

Overcoming Barriers to Women’s Political Participation

When women participate in politics, the results can be socially and economically transformative. Today, women comprise 22 percent of legislative bodies and 17 percent of executive branch ministers worldwide. Despite significant progress in women’s political participation, there is still substantial resistance. 75% of all legislators in the world are still men, and at current rates, political parity for women will not be reached until 2080. Equality in politics remains one of the highest hurdles that democracy still faces. 

NDI supports the efforts of women to overcome barriers to political involvement. Violence against women in politics is a pervasive deterrent to their political participation. NDI’s #NotTheCost initiative helps stop violence by raising women’s awareness, collecting data on the threats and mitigating its impact with local partners. The Institute’s online incident reporting form collects examples and testimonies from women political leaders to highlight the global prevalence of violence. Our work with the Office of the UN Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women and Girls is helping raise awareness and build the case for more global action.

Young people
Inspiring the Next Generation of Youth Leadership

The new ways in which young people communicate, engage with government, and organize around social and political issues are impacting every nation. Despite comprising more than half of the population in many countries – particularly in Africa, the Middle East and Asia – young people often struggle to gain the respect of public officials and party leaders. Their exclusion from decision making can leave them frustrated with politics and vulnerable to extremism. The youth bulge in much of the world offers both a challenge and a critical opportunity for democracy.

Including People with Disabilities, LGBTI Communities and Other Marginalized Groups

Libya

Including People with Disabilities, LGBTI Communities and Other Marginalized Groups

Democracy is more likely to endure when all segments of society are free to participate without suffering discrimination or reprisal. Yet in many new and emerging democracies, discrimination based on age, disability, ethnicity, sexuality, gender identity and religion is common. More than 80 percent of people with disabilities live in developing and post-conflict countries, where achieving equality can be difficult. Discriminatory legal barriers can prevent lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) individuals from accessing public services, gaining employment and engaging in political life. Additionally, marginalized groups are often targets of physical and psychological violence. NDI polling across six Western Balkans countries, for instance, revealed that one-third of LGBTI people experienced physical violence due to their sexual orientation or gender identity. 

Inclusion in election observation and issue advocacy helps marginalized communities gain greater visibility, power and influence. NDI has helped representatives from these groups run for political office, advocate for legal reforms, and pressure governments to implement international agreements such as the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities. This support is a crucial aspect of building inclusive and sustainable democracy, which depends on the broad protection of human rights.

Democratic Practice

Masih Alinejad, an Iranian women’s rights activist, author and journalist speaks at NDI's 35th Anniversary Gala. Credit: Margot Schulman

Promoting Democratic Practice in Conflict Zones and Closed Societies

For over three decades, NDI has supported democracy in closed societies and countries ravaged by conflict in the most challenging places in the world, including Afghanistan, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Colombia, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Iraq, Kosovo, Libya, Northern Ireland, North Korea, South Sudan, Syria, Ukraine, and the Northern Triangle in Central America. Cooperation, inclusion, and nonviolence lie at the heart of democracy. Failure to resolve disputes through peaceful, democratic means often results in fractured communities and institutions, discrimination and political exclusion of certain groups, and potentially devastating violence that can lead to large-scale internal and external migration. In conflict or post-conflict environments, NDI convenes political and civic leaders across divisions to strengthen their commitment to peaceful politics, build mutual trust, discover shared interests, and cooperate in service of citizen needs and priorities. In closed societies, NDI works with those seeking to build their political capacity as a foundation for the moment when a more open, democratic society becomes possible.

Nepal's National Election Observation Commission call center gets geared up to take reports from 1,100 observers on election day 2017. Photo: Santosh Shah

Get Involved

NDI's work upholds the idea that democracy is a human right – a principle enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. But it's a human right that many around the world still struggle to attain. You can be part of the solution. Join the movement for democracy.

Connect with Us

NDI's work upholds the idea that democracy is a human right – a principle enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. But it's a human right that many around the world still struggle to attain. You can be part of the solution. Join the movement for democracy.

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