Case Study: Initiative unites democracy advocates from around the globe

Initiative unites democracy advocates from around the globe

An initiative to build and strengthen collaboration among democrats from every region of the world has gained considerable momentum since its first, historic meeting in February 1999, when 400 participants from more than 80 countries launched the World Movement for Democracy in New Delhi, India. The gathering was convened by NED and two Indian institutions, the Confederation of Indian Industry and the Centre for Policy Research.

Participants at the First Assembly in New Delhi represented the wide range of institutions working to promote democracy, including NGOs, civic education groups, business associations, anti-corruption institutes, trade unions, political parties, democracy think tanks, and democracy-support foundations, as well as parliamentarians and government officials with a special interest in democracy. The First Assembly established the World Movement as a unique global forum for mutual support, exchange, and cooperation, and highlighted the potential for using new information technologies, especially the Internet, to meet the challenges posed by authoritarian regimes and to support democratic development.

Following the Assembly, a Steering Committee of distinguished practitioners and scholars from more than 15 countries was created to oversee and guide the World Movement’s development. The committee met in Lisbon, Portugal, in October 1999 to develop the agenda and objectives for the World Movement and the São Paulo Assembly. The committee designated the Endowment as the Movement’s current secretariat.

The World Movement for Democracy offers a new way to give practical help to democrats who are struggling to liberalize authoritarian systems and to consolidate emerging democracies. It has the potential to do so in a variety of ways:

  • as an ally of democrats in dangerous situations who need political solidarity and moral support;
  • as a lobby for the cause of democracy in international bodies and in countries where democracy is under siege;
  • as a facilitator that can help link democrats from different countries and regions to exchange information more efficiently, work together, and help one another;
  • as an innovator that can encourage the development of new ideas and effective approaches for overcoming obstacles to democracy;
  • as a big tent that can provide a meeting place for democrats who are active in different professional and functional areas such as human rights, law, political party development, workers’ rights, economic reform, research, and education;
  • as a resource center that can make basic materials on democracy available to groups around the world;
  • as a monitor that can convey the views of democratic activists on the efficacy of different forms of democracy support; and
  • as a catalyst to stimulate new initiatives and help shape the priorities of the broader community of institutions concerned with the promotion of democracy.

Financial support for the First Assembly in New Delhi was provided by private and public sources, including The Starr Foundation, The Ford Foundation, CIVITAS, Freedom House, Godrej & Boyce Mfg. Co. Ltd., the Holdeen India Fund, the Industrial Development Bank of India, RPG Enterprises, Tata Steel, and the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor.