Assist emerging ‘bright spots’ to ensure democratic inflection point – USAID’s Power


Democracies must shift from a defensive posture in the face of autocratic resurgence and democratic decline, and seize the opportunity to reverse these trends at a potential “inflection point remembered years from now,” USAID Administrator Samantha Power said today.

As Madeleine Albright predicted, “Democracy is poised for a comeback.” Together, we have to seize this moment to make it happen, Power told Freedom House (above), paying tribute to the group’s “peerless” research and advocacy, including last week’s report on transnational repression.

Forty years ago, President Ronald Reagan’s Westminster address stressed the necessity of establishing the infrastructure for democracy – from labor unions to independent media – that led to democracy assistance as we now know it, helping nascent democracies develop sustainable institutions, she observed.

But just as as illiberal forces have developed new tools and technologies of repression, democracy advocates also need new tools to supplement traditional approaches, she added, announcing initiatives to cement progress in democratic bright spots that help reformers deliver, counter digital authoritarianism, and “shine a light” on oligarchs who hide their ill-gotten gains.

Democracy advocates need to secure sometimes fragile breakthroughs, Power added, not only via democracy assistance but socio-economic aid, financial investment, food supplies, even an infusion of bureaucratic expertise, that will help democratic reformers deliver tangible benefits and forestall illiberal forces making a comeback.

“We have a massive opportunity before us right now. The evidence that proves autocracies are weaker and less capable than democracies is playing out right before our eyes,” with Vladimir Putin’s violent reaction to Ukraine’s aspirations for freedom betraying the inherent fragility of authoritarian rule, she said.

“The world’s democracies, allies in the private sector, civil society, multilateral institutions, religious and diaspora communities, everyday citizens, all of us… must build on the unity we’ve demonstrated in Ukraine to try to extend a broader revolution of dignity to people seeking to be free,” said Power. Building on the Presidential Initiative for Democratic Renewal to extend the global revolution for dignity, she announced…

  • a new ‘dekleptification’ guide—a handbook to help countries make the transition from kleptocracy to democracy;
  • a Partnerships for Democracy fund, using alliances and convening power to support the locally-developed ambitions of pro-democratic forces, as in Moldova which broke oligarchical control of its economy;
  • a new effort by technologists, academics, and civil society to develop a Code of Ethics that promotes principles for how technology should be developed and designed to uphold democratic values and human rights;
  • a new fund, to come online next year, building on the Reporters Mutual insurance fund for investigative journalists, to cover the cost of defending journalists &media organizations from legal harassment;
  • a “bright spots” summit to convene a range of stakeholders in a position to provide assistance and expertise to facilitate and consolidate democratic breakthroughs.

The world’s free nations, multilateral institutions, private sector partners, and civil society can demonstrate that democracies can deliver in a way that autocracies never can, Power said. Democracies can build on the newfound unity on Ukraine to build a broader campaign for dignity.

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