Successful NED grantees share their experiences, replicate programs
Recent NED-supported programs played an important role in helping to initiate two democratic transitions in Central Europe. In September 1998, a coalition of democratic parties in Slovakia won a dramatic victory over the authoritarian regime of Vladimir Meciar. NED provided support to groups of the Civic Campaign ’98 (OK ’98), a coalition of some 100 NGOs that carried out more than 50 voter education, mobilization, and monitoring programs. One of the coalition’s leading NGOs, Nadacia pre Obciansku Spolocnost (NOS), conducted Rock Volieb, a Slovak version of the U.S. “Rock the Vote” campaign. OK ’98 and Rock Volieb were credited with helping to achieve an 84 percent voter turnout, a significant increase over the country’s previous elections. Targeting Slovakia’s youth with rock concerts, bus tours, rallies, and debates, both initiatives were largely responsible for increasing the participation of young people from 25 percent in 1994 to 80 percent in 1998. The high turnout played a crucial role in the democrats’ victory; exit polls showed that young people voted overwhelmingly for the opposition.
In 1999, OK ’98 and NOS took their successful campaign to Croatia to help prepare for the parliamentary elections. NED funding allowed the Slovak team to share their skills, experience, and materials with several Croat NGO coalitions, including Glas ’99 (Voice ’99), GONG (Citizens Organized to Monitor Elections) and the youth network UNO ’99. In partnership with Glas ’99 and GONG, NOS staff helped Croat opposition develop get-out-the-vote programs and strategies. The results were equally successful, leading to the defeat of the ruling Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) by a wide margin, a free and fair election process, and a 78 percent voter turnout. NOS and other NGOs from OK ’98 are now looking to other upcoming elections in the region, such as in Serbia, to continue to share their ideas and expertise.
“East-East” programs offer regional role models, expertise
NED has been supporting such innovative cross-border and regional programs since the early 1990s. Some of the very first programs funded by the Endowment in Poland helped to develop activists with trade union organizing, independent publishing, and other valuable democracy-building skills. Poland’s post-1989 transition to a democratic and free-market system also helped NED grantees there to develop unique expertise in these areas. In 1992, NED responded to the dissolution of the Soviet Union by developing its “East-East” strategy, enabling Polish NGOs to assist their counterparts in the New Independent States by “transferring” their skills, experiences, and programs. To date, Polish NGOs have used NED support to work with partners in Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, the Baltic States, Central Asia, the Caucasus, and Mongolia.
In the mid-1990s, NED began to expand the “East-East” strategy to include NGOs from other East European countries. Today, Polish, Czech, Slovak, Lithuanian, and Bulgarian NGOs are using NED funding to share their expertise with democrats in countries that are still working for breakthroughs. These groups are now acting as experienced guides for new activists and NGOs, offering practical models, training, and materials.