How We Work

Helping democrats in closed societies

Early investment by NED in the democratic struggles in the 1980s in Central Europe and the Soviet Union –  and many countries in Latin America, Asia, and Africa – contributed to significant democratic breakthroughs. NED continues to focus many of its resources on the remaining communist and authoritarian countries such as China, North Korea, Cuba, Serbia, Sudan, and Burma. NED maintains a long-term, flexible approach that takes advantage of any realistic opportunity to advance democratic ideals, defend human rights, and encourage the development of civil society. Depending on the circumstances of each country, NED works both with democrats in the country and in exile.

Read: Case Study: “NED programs focus on long-term effort to open up Cuba.”

Consolidating democracy

In new and developing democracies, NED focuses its support on two objectives: strengthening the institutions and procedures of electoral democracy to ensure free and fair elections; and encouraging the gradual consolidation of liberal democracy by measures that strengthen the rule of law, protect individual liberties, and foster social pluralism. To move beyond successful elections toward mature and resilient democracies, NED takes a long-term approach, supporting groups who will work to establish a functioning market economy, independent trade unions, and a free press as well as institutions that promote political accountability, economic transparency, responsible corporate governance, and civilian control over the military.

Read: Case Study: “From Repression to Consolidation: Long-term investment pays off.”

Applying a multisectoral approach

NED’s unique multisectoral approach is characterized by its four core institutes: the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs, the International Republican Institute, the Solidarity Center, and the Center for International Private Enterprise, which represent the two major American political parties, the labor movement, and the business community, respectively. Each institute draws on the talents and energies of its respective fields in the United States to offer unparalleled expertise on business, labor, and political party development and electoral reform to democrats around the world. The relationship between NED and the institutes also provides institutional balance, built-in bipartisanship, and reassurance to the Congress and others that the Endowment will be even-handed in its judgments and receptive to diverse approaches to democratic development. In addition to the institutes, NED provides direct support to groups abroad who are working for human rights, independent media, the rule of law, and a wide range of civil society initiatives.

Read: Case Study: “Variety of actors, programs supports change in Indonesia.”

Cooperating with other democracy foundations

NED is working to increase international cooperation among existing democracy foundations and to encourage all established democracies to create similar institutions. In 1993 NED convened the first of several “democracy summits” among democracy foundations in the United States, Germany, Great Britain, and Canada. In addition to general information-sharing among foundations, these “summits” provide opportunities to coordinate strategy and assistance for some of the most difficult places to promote democracy, including Burma, Belarus, and Serbia. Over the past few years new foundations have been founded in France, Sweden, the Netherlands, Austria, Australia, and Spain. Ireland, Taiwan, Portugal, Italy, and Japan may soon follow suit. NED’s effort to expand this network is based on the belief that democracy promotion is in the common interest of all democracies, and that globalization has made cooperation easier and more relevant than ever.

Read: Case Study: “International cooperation focuses on democracy promotion in Serbia.”

Cultivating partner organizations in new democracies

A promising development in recent years has been the emergence of organizations in new democracies that seek to share their own democratic expertise with democrats in countries that are still working for democratic breakthroughs. Many of these groups were originally funded by NED as they worked for democratic transition in their own country; having met with success, they can now act as experienced guides for new activists facing similar struggles. Polish NGOs have led this trend, working to advance democratic civic education throughout Central Europe and in many parts of the former Soviet Union. NED has encouraged such “East-to-East” work with grants to the Polish groups as well as NGOs in Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Bulgaria that are working to strengthen counterpart groups in the Balkans and Belarus.

Read: Case Study: “Successful NED grantees share their experiences, replicate programs.”

Advancing research on democracy

In 1990 NED founded the Journal of Democracy. Now a decade old, the Journal is widely recognized as the pre-eminent international forum for publishing new research on democracy, debating critical issues, reviewing current literature, and reporting on important events and recent developments that affect the progress of democracy in the world. The success of the Journal provided a solid foundation for the establishment of the International Forum for Democratic Studies in 1994, a leading center for analysis of the theory and practice of democratic development worldwide. Other activities of the Forum include conferences, seminars, books on all aspects of democratization, a Visiting Fellows Program, a library and online database called the Democracy Resource Center, and a collaborative network of democracy research centers based in new democracies. The Forum is an integral part of the Endowment and demonstrates NED’s belief that research and practical activity are mutually beneficial.

Read: Case Study: “NED visiting fellow researches democracy and Confucianism.”

Building a worldwide movement for democracy

In 1998 NED launched an ambitious new initiative ” The World Movement for Democracy, a dynamic network of democrats, both individuals and organizations, who aspire to work in a coordinated way to address proactively the toughest challenges to the advancement of democracy and human rights in the world today (see page 9). The global initiative complements the interrelated aspects of the Endowment’s work: grant support, international cooperation, and democracy research. The World Movement helps to fulfill one of the objectives of NED’s most recent strategic plan, namely “to create a community of democrats, drawn from the most developed democracies and the most repressive autocracies as well as everything in between, and united by the belief that the common interest is served by the gradual expansion of systems based on freedom, self-government, and the rule of law.”

Read: Case Study: “Initiative unites democracy advocates from around the globe.”