Case Study: International cooperation focuses on democracy promotion in Serbia

International cooperation focuses on democracy promotion in Serbia

Almost a year after Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic began clamping down on independent media in Serbia in October 1998, NED and representatives from other democracy foundations and governments from around the world came together to discuss and coordinate their work to promote democracy in Serbia. On October 5, 1999, the Endowment organized and hosted the first meeting of the Serbian Democracy Coordinating Group, a forum that brought together 20 NGOs and eight governments to discuss democracy assistance in Serbia. The sharing of information among participants allowed each to see its work in a broader context. Learning what others are working on gives each funder an opportunity to make its programs more relevant and effective.

Despite the broad array of participating organizations and governments, and many approaches to aiding the Serbian opposition, a sense of common purpose and a readiness to work together emerged from the five-hour discussion. While NED has been supporting independent media and other programs in Serbia, this international cooperation and deliberation helped all democracy foundations and donors involved in Serbia to strategize about how their support could best be provided, within a broader continuum, to this stricken area.

NED also took the lead in organizing the Burma Donors Forum, another group of NGOs and representatives of various countries who meet periodically to compare and discuss their support to Burma’s pro-democracy groups. A similar meeting on Belarus was held in December 1999.

This type of international cooperation is not new for NED. For most of the past decade, NED has worked to increase international cooperation among existing democracy foundations and to encourage all established democracies to create similar institutions. In 1993, at the recommendation of the U.S. Congress, the NED convened a meeting of the foundations in the United States, Germany, Great Britain, and Canada. Subsequent information-sharing meetings have been hosted by the Konrad Adenaeur Stiftung (Germany), the Westminster Foundation for Democracy (Great Britain), and the International Center for Human Rights and Democratic Development (Canada), and have been attended by representatives of new foundations in France, Sweden, the Netherlands, and Austria. New foundations have recently been created in Australia and Spain; and Ireland and Taiwan may soon follow suit. Other countries where this initiative is being considered include Portugal, Italy, and Japan.

This effort to expand the network of democracy foundations is based on the belief that the promotion of democracy is in the common interest of all democracies, and that the new conditions of globalization have made closer cooperation among them more possible and relevant than ever.