Advancing democracy ‘through engagement and partnership’


state-usaid-strategic-goal-frameworkThe United States invested $585 million in advancing democracy, human rights and governance over the past year, according to the Department of State’s financial report for fiscal year 2016.

“In an era of diffuse and networked power, we are focusing on strengthening partnerships with civil society, citizen movements, faith leaders, entrepreneurs, innovators, and others to promote democracy and good governance and address gender-based violence,” states the report, Addressing Global Challenges Through Engagement and Partnership.

“However, only a nation itself – its people – can truly bring about sustainable democracy within its borders,” the report adds. “Studies show that democratic progress can take decades, and setbacks are common. Consistent engagement is necessary to contribute to sustainable progress.”

During a period of democratic regression, the report nevertheless identifies areas of progress.

Writing in the report’s preface, Secretary of State John Kerry notes that “we have supported important democratic gains in Sri Lanka, Nigeria, and Burma.”

Strategic goal

U.S. leadership in advancing democracy and human rights, including labor rights, and strengthening civil society worldwide is a strategic long-term investment in our security, a matter of principle, and a crucial source of our international influence and strength, states the report:

The National Security Strategy makes clear that in order to advance our common security, we must address the underlying political and economic deficits that foster instability, enable radicalization and extremism, and ultimately undermine the ability of governments to manage threats within their borders and to be our partners in addressing common challenges. These political and economic deficits often have roots in weak or nonexistent democratic institutions, governmental repression of universal human rights, disengagement of large sectors of the populace including women and youth, and an absence of robust civil society that drives positive change and counterbalances poor policymaking. Our efforts to promote democracy and human rights protect core U.S. interests by combating causes of instability and violent extremism, increasing inclusiveness in the political process, strengthening political and economic partnerships, and ensuring our development assistance contributes to lasting progress.

“Strong, moderate, issues-based democratic parties are particularly integral to ensuring healthy political debate and progress that recognizes the importance of all voices in a society,” it notes.

Advancing democracy and promoting stability are complementary, not alternatives, the report states.

“We promote democracy and foster stability around the world,” the report adds. “Stable democracies are less likely to pose a threat to their neighbors or to the United States.”


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