The Endowment continued to concentrate its funding in four critical countries in Asia in 2011: China, North Korea, Burma and Pakistan. In each of these countries, despite numerous challenges, the Endowment’s consistent long-term approach has allowed it to respond quickly to opportunities as they arise.
The Endowment also supported modest programs in a number of other countries in Asia, focusing on those that face serious challenges. Towards this end, NED increased work in Sri Lanka and the Philippines and maintained programs in Nepal, Thailand, Vietnam and Malaysia. The Endowment also remained engaged in Indonesia, Southeast Asia’s most populous country.
In the aftermath of Liu Xiaobo’s 2010 Nobel Peace Prize and the Arab Spring, China’s government continued its efforts to tightly control independent political expression. The Endowment responded by increasing its support for rights defenders and civil society organizations that are engaged in a broad range of initiatives to expand space for civic engagement. In addition, NED increased its support for independent media, including policy journals.
The Endowment continued to prioritize the rights of ethnic groups in China, including robust programs focusing on Xinjiang/East Turkistan and Tibet. The Endowment supported Uyghur diaspora organizations that serve as essential voices against Chinese propaganda and as sources of information and analysis about the situation inside Xinjiang. In Tibet, which saw an unprecedented wave of self-immolations in protest of repressive Chinese policies, NED continued to support programs focusing on human rights protection, the free flow of information, and civic and democratic education among the Tibetans. The Endowment also supported efforts by ethnic Mongolians to defend their rights under China’s legal framework for autonomy.
In North Korea, where the leadership transition in still underway, the Endowment concentrated on programs that seek to promote the free flow of information, including documenting human rights conditions in the country. There were also supported a number of new initiatives that capitalize on the emergence of informal markets across the country, form social networks of North Korean citizens with access to the internet in the Asia region, and develop democracy and human rights education curricula suitable to North Korea.
In Burma, President Thein Sein’s short tenure has been marked by a period of relative openness. The Endowment quickly adapted to take advantage of the limited political space that has opened. This has included support for nascent civil society organizations that emerged following Cyclone Nargis and in response to the regime’s planned mega infrastructure projects; independent media outlets dedicated to accurate reporting; and training opportunities within the country that could not have taken place under the previous government. In addition, NED continued its support for a variety of ethnic nationality-related projects.
In the Philippines, the 2010 election of a reform-oriented president opened the door for activists to begin repairing broken democratic institutions. NED continued to support civil society efforts that focus on institutionalizing reforms, sustaining citizen participation in governance, improving transparency and accountability, and building the capacity of independent media.
In Thailand, which has entered a phase of relative political stability, NED increased its support for initiatives designed to help Thais overcome their political differences and to strengthen nationwide networks of lawyers engaged in efforts to strengthen the rule of law.
In Malaysia, NED continued to support groups that promote adherence to democratic constitutional norms and to foster public understanding of basic rights. NED also continued to support independent media and rule of law organizations, trade union strengthening, and political party communication and constituent outreach.
The Endowment’s work in Indonesia focused on anti-corruption initiatives, improving local and corporate governance, and empowering trade unions to engage policymakers regarding national policies and the local implementation of labor laws. In Vietnam, the Endowment focused on support for human rights programs, capacity building, internet-based democracy education, and strengthening the voice of private sector in the policy-making process.
Pakistan is entering a critical phase that may determine whether its fragile democratic transition can deliver on its promise of greater political stability and economic prosperity or if the country will revert back to authoritarian military rule. To support democratic consolidation, NED worked with Pakistani partners on strengthening democratic governance in the wake of the political devolution; ensuring full public participation and the integrity of prior to elections scheduled in 2012 and 2013; and promoting peaceful alternatives to militancy and extremism through civic education and strengthening cultural movements and political institutions that reinforce values of democracy and human rights.
The Endowment’s partners in Nepal focused on raising awareness and increasing citizen understanding and participation in the democratic process and supporting efforts to ensure that Nepal's new constitution includes protections for the rights of minority communities. In Sri Lanka, the Endowment concentrated on efforts to promote citizen engagement in the political process, long-standing minority rights issues, and the rule of law. NED programs in Bangladesh continued to be modest, consisting of one or two core institute projects.
Regional and sub-regional programs drew upon the expertise and experience available throughout the region and supported cross-border solidarity that strengthens local efforts in areas such as maintaining the free flow of information; supporting independent, professional journalism; improving transparency and accountability; and bolstering domestic election monitoring.