Obstacles to democracy breed innovation


Obstacles can be opportunities for innovation, according to Carl Gershman, the outgoing President of the National Endowment for Democracy (NED).

“Back in 1987 we were the target of a really nasty attack in the press. It made me realize that we needed to tell our story to Congress and the public, and so we organized our first international conference, which we held in the US Congress,” he tells Daily NK:

NED’s Carl Gershman

We brought to Washington many of the leading activists we were supporting all over the world, and it put us on the map. This and other such gatherings not only built support for the NED but eventually evolved into what is today the World Movement for Democracy, which is a global network of democracy activists and practitioners. There are a lot of other examples like that. Never give up and always try to see problems as opportunities and turn them into advantages.

“Of course there have been many other memorable and important struggles and experiences over the decades,” notes Gershman, who is succeeded as NED President by Damon Wilson, currently serves as Executive Vice President of the Atlantic Council:

For me the most satisfying experience was supporting and getting to know some of the very heroic fighters for freedom and democracy – from luminaries like His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the Czech dissident, writer and president Vaclav Havel, to courageous heroes like Martin Lee in Hong Kong, the murdered Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya, and Elena Bonner who was the widow of the Nobel Laureate Dr. Andrei Sakharov. I never had the honor of meeting the Chinese Nobel Laureate Liu Xiaobo, but I feel like I knew him since I’ve quoted him so frequently and met his widow Liu Xia when she was allowed to leave China after her husband’s death in prison, one of the CCP’s many human-rights crimes.

“I feel incredibly privileged to have known these and hundreds and even thousands of other brave people who are fighting for freedom and the defense of human dignity,” he adds. RTWT

For 40 years, the NED has been a stalwart force for democracy promotion and assistance, the Center for Strategic and International Studies observes. In its time, the world has seen significant change. Four decades ago, a little over a third of the world’s population lived in a democracy. Today, that figure is well over half. The percentage of democratic governments around the world has doubled in that same period. Nevertheless, recent trends show the world moving in a worrying direction, with autocracies still outnumbering democracies and backsliding accelerating worldwide.

Exit Interview with Carl Gershman, Founding President of the National Endowment for Democracy. Thursday, July 22, 2021 4:00 pm – 5:00 pm

Carl Gershman discusses the last 40 years’ successes and struggles as well as the future of democracy with Daniel F. Runde, (below, 3rd from left), CSIS Senior Vice President; William A. Schreyer Chair and Director, Project on Prosperity and Development; and Elizabeth Hoffman, Director of Congressional and Government Affairs, and Fellow. REGISTER HERE.



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