‘Modernizing the toolkit’ for cultivating democracy


It is time to grasp the “opportunity to reinvigorate, strengthen, and modernize approaches”  to advancing democracy “in the face of the growing specter of transnational oppression and evidence of a global democracy recession,” according to a report from the Ronald Reagan Institute’s Westminster 2.0 Working Group.

“The time has come to modernize our toolkit to advance freedom in the context of the challenges and opportunities of the 21st century,’ say the authors of  “A Campaign for Freedom: Cultivating Democracy in the 21st Century,” released to coincide with the 40th anniversary of President Reagan’s June 1982 Westminster address to the British Parliament.

Who knew at the time of Reagan’s address that communism would follow leg-warmers and New Coke into the dustbin of history? Under Secretary of State Uzra Zeya told the Reagan Institute. We could not counter authoritarianism without the “indispensable contribution” of the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) family which remains “at the forefront” of defending and advancing that legacy, she added.

Reagan had confidently declared that “the march of freedom and democracy … will leave Marxism-Leninism on the ash-heap of history,” but the resurgence of new forms of autocracy has placed democracies on the backfoot.

“America must find ways to make technology work for democracy activists seeking to wrestle power from dictators. We must deliver support to embattled independent voices in closed countries, especially civil society activists and journalists,” the working group states in an updated “Presidential Westminster 2.0 Speech.”

The working group — co-chaired by former International Republican Institute head Mark Green and former National Democratic Institute chair Kenneth Wollack – outlines five recommendations for “modernizing the toolkit” for defending freedom and democracy, and countering autocratic regimes’ “more muscular posture”:

  • develop targeted technology tools;
  • launch an International Platform for Freedom;
  • underscore connection between anti-corruption and democratization;
  • inject additional resources and create a new grant-making entity to support independent media and journalism; and
  • build flexible coalitions around specific pillars of free societies.

“We must provide activists fighting repression and corruption with more tools to expose corruption and show that democracy is a bulwark against the abuse of political power for illicit gains,” the report adds in a proposal “for a future presidential speech on developing a Westminster approach for the 21st century.”

Download the report here.

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