Data center officers with YIAGA AFRICA collect Nigerian election observer reports. Credit: Ryan Dalton
"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
Democracy is inseparable from human dignity and peace.”
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.
Supported the efforts of:
Helped partner groups organize more than:
Trained more than:
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Malala Yousufzai, then 13 years old, participates in an NDI program in Pakistan with Serish Nasim, a future Andi Parhamovich Fellowship recipient.
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.
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.
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.