2020 Annual Report

From the President

Carl Gershman

I have written a President’s Message for the Annual Report every year since NED began its operations in 1984, and this one is my last.  It has been an extraordinary 37 years during which the world has changed dramatically and repeatedly, as has the NED.  First there was the third wave of democratization, which peaked during NED’s early years, and the revolutions of 1989 that ended the Cold War.  It was a very hopeful time when many people thought that continued democratic progress was inexorable and that an institution like NED was no longer needed. Then came 9/11 and the return of history, followed by the resurgence of authoritarianism and the global crisis of liberal democracy.  Suddenly democracy was under attack, and a political consensus formed in support of NED’s mission to aid people around the world who are fighting for democracy.

Though NED had a difficult beginning when it was a new and controversial idea, it is now an established and respected institution, filling a critical need with broad bipartisan support from the US Congress.   The benefits of stability, a larger budget, and rapid growth have brought their own challenges, as has the crisis of global democracy.   NED has had to resist bureaucratization and stay flexible and able to respond quickly to rapidly changing events.  It also has had to remain mission-focused, connected to frontline activists, and positioned at the cutting-edge of democracy struggles in a very dangerous world.

With its four core institute partners that draw upon the expertise of American political parties, business, and labor, NED is now a critical hub and support system for people everywhere who are fighting for fundamental rights and for systems of government that are lawful and accountable to the people.   The NED family, as it is often called, is also at the forefront of a global association of democracy support organizations and multilateral agencies that it can leverage to complement and amplify its work.  Through NED’s research, publishing, and fellowship activities, it has become an unparalleled center for democracy information, analysis, and learning.  And at a time when people working for democracy are under attack as never before in recent memory, NED has prioritized the mobilization of political support for activists, journalists, and others who are fighting corruption and defending human and minority rights.

The challenge today is nothing less than to reverse the decline of democratic values and institutions.  This will involve helping pivotal democratic transitions to succeed in countries like Sudan, Armenia; sustaining democracy activists who are resisting despotic governments; countering authoritarian sharp power in the information space; building greater cooperation and shared learning among groups working to aid democracy; strengthening liberal values against the rising tide of illiberalism and extremism; and helping democrats compete with authoritarians in the arena of technology.  The NED cannot do this alone, but it can be a catalyst, a coalition builder, and a source of urgently needed practical support and moral solidarity.

NED is a US institution with the mission of supporting democracy around the world. But there is a sense in which it is today also an institution for American democracy – not programmatically, but symbolically and in the values it upholds.  At a time of great political polarization in the United States, NED represents a common space based on shared democratic values.  Its unique structure that includes institutes associated with Democratic and Republican parties, the labor movement and the business community demonstrates that democracy can be a unifying principle in American life.  And its global democracy mission, which is embedded in national legislation, is a reminder of how deeply rooted the democratic idea is in American identity.

It has been an extraordinary privilege to have been able to lead and build such an organization for nearly four decades.  I am confident that NED will continue to thrive for the simple reason that people everywhere want to have their voices heard and their dignity respected, and America needs to have a national institution that helps them realize these aspirations.  Democracy is a very difficult system to maintain because it requires finding the proper balance between rivalry and consensus, between the competition for power and the need for compromise, and between partisan differences and the common good.  But it is the only system that can secure human freedom, and there is no higher calling than contributing to its development and defense.  That’s the NED’s mission, and it’s more important now than ever before.

Carl Gershman

President’s Letter photograph: NED president Carl Gershman, former Journal of Democracy coeditor Marc Plattner, and coeditor Larry Diamond celebrate the Journal’s 30th Anniversary in 2020.

Annual Report Cover photograph: Regional Centre for Development and Training of Civil Society (RCDCS) president Dr. Mutaal Girshab and a student pose in front of photographs from the Sudanese revolution in Khartoum, Sudan. RCDCS was honored with a 2020 NED Democracy Award. 

Year in Review

2020 was an annus horribilis, when continued political backsliding and the COVID pandemic combined to constrict freedom and the rule of law everywhere.  Authoritarian regimes tightened their controls, and democratic and semi-democratic governments alike introduced new restrictions on news media, civil society, and ethnic and religious minorities.

Amidst these negative trends and events, NED had an unprecedented year of growth and change.  Responding to growing challenges to democracy worldwide, the US Congress increased funding for NED by two-thirds.  Executing such growth during the pandemic—with staff working remotely and with no ability to travel—seemed like an impossible goal. But the entire NED staff demonstrated immense dedication and resilience and met the challenges of managing program growth and institutional change that was unprecedented in NED’s 37-year history.

While the pandemic exacerbated existing trends of democratic backsliding, constricting freedom and the rule of law everywhere, NED made a record 1,995 grants, supporting programs in 100 countries around the world.

NED also recognized the incredible work of our grantees.  Not deterred by our inability to hold in-person events, NED made a virtual presentation of the annual Democracy Award honoring the outstanding work of three grantees from Sudan for their work to strengthen civil society. Watch highlights of the virtual event and learn more about the work of our honorees:

NED’s Democracy Support Activities also adapted resourcefully to the pandemic: The International Forum for Democratic Studies—NED’s research arm—seamlessly transitioned to the online space for all of its in-person meetings and workshops, some originally planned for overseas.  Designed to take advantage of global online participation, new activities and events were added, featuring leading experts from the Sydney-based Australian Strategic Policy Institute, the UK’s Oxford Internet Institute, Bulgaria-based experts from the Center for the Study of Democracy, among many others. Learn more about the International Forum.

TheJournal of Democracy online transition made its operations more efficient, as staff remotely produced the quarterly issues and quickly adapted content to analyze the historic challenges of this time. The Journal staff published stellar issues on the uprising in Belarus, the collapse of freedom in Hong Kong, and the challenge Covid-19 posed for democracy itself. As a result, the Journal saw its engagement with readers increase significantly. Learn more about the Journal of Democracy.

The Forum’s annual Lipset Lecture on Democracy in the World, which featured Minxin Pei’s superb lecture on “Totalitarianism’s Long Dark Shadow Over China,” was organized virtually for the first time. The new format enabled the discussion to reach large audiences in Asia and other regions. The Forum will take advantage of learnings and best practices from this experience during the organization of future Lipset Lectures when they resume in person. Learn more and watch the 2020 Lipset Lecture.

The Reagan-Fascell Democracy Fellows Program was also successfully conducted online—offering remote fellows a robust curriculum of virtual fellowship activities, including seminars with leading scholars and practitioners, roundtable discussions, capacity-building workshops, and presentations by each of the fellows. All participants conducted research via digital access to the electronic collection of NED’s Democracy Resource Center. Responding to the exploitation of the pandemic by authoritarian governments to target dissidents, the program also convened representatives from civil society, academia, and the human rights assistance community to consider new ways to develop virtual fellowships and remote placements to support democrats-at-risk.  Learn more about NED’s Reagan-Fascell Fellows.

The Center for International Media Assistance (CIMA) convened meetings of its partners in the media-support community—including the leading US-based media development organizations and the major bilateral donors, private foundations, and social-media giants—to strategize on how to cope with the pandemic, which has had a devastating impact on media organizations and on the safety of journalists. CIMA also supported the collection of data on the most critical cases of media under threat and worked with NED program teams to improve the quality and effectiveness of NED’s support to media, which doubled during 2020.  Learn more about CIMA.

The World Movement for Democracy, a global network of democracy activists with a Secretariat based at NED, turned the Covid-19 crisis into an opportunity by convening virtual discussions throughout the year, packaging new informational resources as multimedia products, and using them to amplify voices of young democracy activists and to exchange knowledge and experience.  The network broadened its reach by engaging in its events prominent individuals with large followings on social media, such as the virtual forum on the “Battle of Narratives”—which convened Anne Applebaum, Garry Kasparov, Bobi Wine, and social-media-savvy youth activists on the International Day of Democracy. Not least, the World Movement for Democracy has transformed its upcoming 10th Global Assembly into a virtual one, which designs locally-driven, bottom-up discussions at the regional and global levels to make the Assembly more dynamic and connected to the work on the ground. Learn more about the World Movement for Democracy.

NED’s Penn Kemble Democracy Forum connected dozens of rising foreign policy professionals with the work of NED, and provided an opportunity for bipartisan conversation with a broad range of policy experts and activists on the role of democracy and human rights. As with NED’s other programs in 2020, the Penn Kemble Democracy Forum’s events were all held virtually. Learn more about the Penn Kemble Democrcy Forum.

The National Endowment of Democracy thanks its grantees and supporters all over the world for their persistence and support in 2020, and invites you to read on to learn more about our work during this challenging but eventful year.

Year in Review photo: Minxin Pei delivers the International Forum for Democratic Studies annual Lipset Lecture on Democracy in the World, organized virtually in 2020 for the first time. 

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2020 NED Democracy Award - Presented to the Regional Centre for Development and Training (RCDCS), Nuba Women for Education and Development Association (NuWEDA), and the Darfur Bar Association (DBA).

2020 NED Democracy Award - Presented to the Regional Centre for Development and Training (RCDCS), Nuba Women for Education and Development Association (NuWEDA), and the Darfur Bar Association (DBA).



Board of Directors


  • Chairman

    Andrew Card

  • Secretary

    Marylin Carlson Nelson

  • Vice Chairman

    David Skaggs

  • Treasurer

    Jayne Kurzman

  • President

    Carl Gershman


  • Anne Applebaum
  • Karen Bass
  • William J. Burns
  • Scott Carpenter
  • Marlene Colucci
  • Eileen Donahoe
  • Michele Dunne
  • Daniel Fried
  • Francis Fukuyama
  • Barry Jackson
  • Tim Kaine
  • Mel Martinez
  • Victoria Nuland
  • Marc Platter
  • Dayton Ogden
  • Fred Redmond
  • Peter Roskam
  • Ben Sasse
  • Nadia Schadlow
  • Elizabeth Schuler
  • Elise Stefanik
  • Linda Thomas-Greenfield
  • Richard Verma
  • Melanne Verveer
  • George Weigel
  • Ken Wollack
  • Elliott Abrams (on leave)


  • Dante Fascell (1917-1998)
  • John Richardson (1921-2014)
  • William Brock
  • Winston Lord
  • John Brademas (1927-2016)
  • Vin Weber
  • Richard Gephardt
  • Martin Frost
  • Judith Shelton


A Year in Review

Africa Regional Overview

Despite the disruption created by Covid-19 and political setbacks across the continent, NED increased its support to democratic activists in Africa during 2020. The pandemic led the government of Ethiopia to postpone national electionsprecipitating a rise in ethnic conflict and a full-blown war in Tigray Province, throwing an historic opportunity for democratic transition off track. Yet NED continued to augment its program in Ethiopia, bolstering the tenuous democratic space afforded by Abiy Ahmed’s ascension to power in 2018, including assistance to human rights and media institutions.

NED made Sudan’s democratic breakthrough a priority for 2020. Civil society activists who helped lay the foundations for Sudan’s peaceful revolution received NED’s annual Democracy Award, which was bestowed virtually due to the pandemic, but still galvanized international recognition of the transition.  NED’s grantmaking also rose to meet the challenge with increased support to Sudanese groups providing leadership training and promoting legal reform and transitional justice.

Elections across Africa were a mixed bag in 2020. Guinea, Cote d’Ivoire, Tanzania, and Togo held elections that defied term limits or brutalized the political opposition to return incumbents to power, while Ghana and Burkina Faso held more credible processes that also returned the incumbents. Niger held a first round of elections in which the incumbent, President Mahamadou Issoufou, willingly stepped down in accordance with the constitution, the first democratic transfer in Niger’s history. Malawi was the happiest surprise of the year, where the court ordered a re-run of flawed elections, leading to the defeat of the incumbent and hopes for democratic reform. NED’s partners were engaged in every one of these strugglesmobilizing the participation of women and youth, monitoring the elections, preserving democratic space, and advocating for human rights. 

Police abuses in Nigeria sparked the massive #EndSARS movement that calls for reforms, and although it has since been suppressed, the momentum for greater accountability and respect for human rights continued. NED’s partners pushed back against government repression, pressed for greater inclusivity, and took to social media to popularize democratic values. 

Hopes for democratic reform in Zimbabwe were disappointed in the wake of the 2019 elections, but NED’s partners regrouped, calling out the massive corruption in the country even as its economy disintegrated. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, political developments opened the potential of renewed democratic reform as President Felix Tshisekedi attempted to break the hold of his kleptocratic predecessor, Joseph Kabila. The fight against kleptocracy emerged as a major theme of NED’s work in Africa, and the concerted efforts of groups such as the Platform to Protect Whistleblowers in Africa (PPLAAF) scored significant victories, starting to rein in some of the worst offenders.      


Visit our website to learn more about NED’s work in Africa.

2020 NED Grants in Africa

Former Trillian employee Msilo Mothepu testifies at the Commission of Inquiry on December 10, 2020, in Johannesburg, South Africa. (Photo by Papi Morake/Gallo Images via Getty Images)

In Focus: Defending Whistleblowers

Among NED’s partners, the Platform to Protect Whistleblowers in Africa (Plateforme de Protection des Lanceurs d’Alerte en Afrique PPLAAF) shows resilience while publishing independent investigative journalism, demanding greater government transparency and accountability, and developing civic education materials to mobilize citizens across the continent.

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The Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition Chairperson Cde Rashid Mahiya and spokesperson Marvellous Kumalo gather in Marondera at Mbuya Nehanda Hall to monitor the Public Hearings for Constitutional Amendment No. 2.

In Focus: Supporting Civil Society in Southern Africa

As the government continues to take advantage of the Covid-19 pandemic to further tighten its grip on power and limit dissidents, the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition (CIZC) is using NED assistance to strengthen local and regional civil society campaigns in response to the political and economic crisis in Zimbabwe. 

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A Year in Review

Asia Regional Overview

The global democratic recession arrived late in Asia, but hit hard when it did. Although many analysts believed that the region held many of the perquisites to foster and sustain democracyincluding an increasingly educated population, a growing middle class, urbanization, and relative peacethese conditions did not prove adequate to weather the global storm of economic dislocation, endemic corruption, illiberalism and terrorism, and the spread of misinformation. From Thailand to the Philippines to Bangladesh to Sri Lanka, elections have resulted in illiberal governments and a further backsliding of democracy. 

In 2020, NED worked with political parties, media organizations, business associations, civil society organizations, and unions to bolster democratic partners while attempting to re-establish democratic norms and values across Asia. NED continued to prioritize four countries that represent the biggest democratic challenges, or where a democratic breakthrough could have significant implications for the entire region: Chinaincluding Tibet, Hong Kong, and East Turkistan; North Korea in east Asia; Burma in southeast Asia; and Pakistan in south Asia.

In China, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) continued its brutal repression against the Uyghurs and Tibetans and its curtailing of rights in Hong Kong. North Korea remained the most closed country in the world. In Burma, civil society focused on the 2020 nationwide elections as Rohingya refugees sat in camps in Bangladesh, ethnic conflict continued, and anti-Muslim rhetoric spread throughout the country. In Pakistandespite a peaceful transfer of powerthe military continued to maintain its paramount role in politics as it marginalized many democratic institutions throughout the country. 

NED grants also supported efforts to build democratic resilience and to create a more open environment for civil society and independent media throughout the region. In 2020, NED’s Asia program also partnered with efforts in other regions to expand networks and information among China experts and activists to address the negative impact of the CCP’s influence on democratic institutions and values around the world.


Visit our website to learn more about NED’s work in Asia.

To learn more and to see a detailed list of our grantees in Asia, please visit the NED website.

2020 NED Grants in Asia

WASHINGTON, DC – AUGUST 14: Supporters and members of the East Turkistan National Awakening Movement rally outside the White House to urge the United States to end trade deals with China and take action to stop the oppression of the Uyghur and other Turkic peoples August 14, 2020 in Washington, DC. The ETNAM and East Turkistan Government in Exile (ETGE) groups submitted evidence to the international criminal court, calling for an investigation into senior Chinese officials, including Xi Jinping, for genocide and crimes against humanity. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

In Focus: Advocating for Uyghur Rights

To further human rights and human dignity for all people in China, NED has awarded $8,758,300 to Uyghur groups since 2004, serving as the only institutional funder for Uyghur advocacy and human rights organizations. Despite the constant efforts of the CCP to undermine the advocacy of Uyghur groups around the world, NED grantees are working tirelessly to fight this repression

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Activists affiliated to various Dalit organization protest against killing of Dalit low-caste youth in Rukum district during lockdown in Kathmandu, Nepal on Tuesday, June 23, 2020. Six men were killed from Dalit cast in May 2020 when they tried to escort one of their girlfriends from a higher cast back home. (Photo by Rojan Shrestha/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

In Focus: Supporting Minority Rights in Nepal

As widespread societal exclusion and a lack of government accountability persist, the Dalit-led, independent think-tank Samata Foundation conducts research and policy advocacy in the area of caste-based discrimination in Nepal with NED support.

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Central and Eastern Europe:

A Year in Review

Central and Eastern Europe Regional Overview

Thirty years after the collapse of the communist bloc, Europe’s transitions remain under threat. Now most countries of central, eastern and southeastern Europe are experiencing a democratic decline that began a decade ago. Rising polarization, pervasive corruption, and weakened rule of law point to the deterioration of democratic processes and political institutions.

Public dissatisfaction with the fairness, pace, and outcomes of the post-1989 changes and the high level of corruption contributed to the centralization of power by populists and nationalists, which undermined democratic values and freedoms, using legal means. Russia and other authoritarian states exploit this situation and aim to increase political polarization and discontent through disinformation, corrosive capital, and other forms of malign influence. Governments and oligarchs now control most mass media, and in many cases, they have used the pandemic to increase pressure on civil society as economies suffer. Although people across Europe were demonstrating against abuses of power and rampant corruption, the pandemic forced people to stay home for most of 2020, making it harder to keep governments accountable. 

In the midst of this global crisis,  Belarus provided hope for change, as citizens braved the risks of both the pandemic and the regime’s brutal repression to flood the streets in unprecedented numbers following blatantly rigged presidential elections. Another hopeful development was the victory of pro-Western and pro-reformist President in Moldova, who has an ambitious anti-corruption agenda.

In all the countries in Europe where NED provides assistancefrom Belarus to Bosnia and Herzegovina, and from Ukraine to Serbiaindependent media and civil society play indispensable roles in providing objective information, fighting disinformation, and holding public officials and institutions accountable. NED therefore increased funding for civil society and independent media organizations that promote political accountability and good governance, including in the most vulnerable areas. NED continued to emphasize political and historical reconciliation programs that counter polarization and extremism, especially among youth in post-conflict countries. NED also expanded support for initiatives that analyze, spotlight, and counter foreign malign influence, particularly disinformation and corrosive capital.


Visit our website to learn more about NED’s work in Europe.

2020 NED Grants in Central and Eastern Europe

Reporters Foundation supports and trains journalists across Central Europe. (Photo courtesy of Reporters Foundation)

In Focus: Reporters Foundation

Poland-based Reporters Foundation and its cross-border network of investigative journalists help to defend the shrinking space of independent media in the region and to support the integrity of investigative journalism.

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NED grantee Ukrainian Volunteer Service organized a series of regional trainings to equip active citizens with skills to develop volunteer movements in their communities.

In Focus: Ukrainian Volunteer Service

The Ukrainian Volunteer Service (UVS) addresses the gap between the strong interest in democratic engagement and the lack of opportunities for activism. 

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A Year in Review

Eurasia Regional Overview

Despite the challenges of repression, Covid-19, and local wars, civil society is emerging as a stronger political actor throughout the Eurasia region. In addition to helping citizens cope with the pandemic, civil society is focusing on important transitions in Georgia and Armenia, political mobilizations in Russia and Kyrgyzstan, and new awakenings in Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. 

In Russia, civil society has not only survived the crackdown, but emerged stronger, more unified, and more connected to the general populationin part, due to increased use of social media and grassroots organizing techniques. Throughout the region, new youth-driven and technology-enabled political movements are starting to affect their countries’ political agendas and to band together in a growing commitment to mutual solidarity. Democratic activists across Eurasia are increasingly working together to address common challenges and advance democratic values as the first post-Soviet generation comes of age. More than ever, they see their efforts against authoritarianism as a shared struggle.

NED expanded its Eurasia regional programs in 2020 to facilitate collaboration and capacity building among civil society organizations on key issuessuch as conducting and amplifying the reach of investigative journalism and using digital technology for human rights and civic activism. Russia remained the top priority: NED supported programs that channel grassroots civic energy into sustained, organized movements, as well as projects that protect activists from the repression they often face because of their work. Given the importance of independent information, NED focused on initiatives that promote a free and open Internet and the innovative use of technology for investigative journalism. NED also emphasized efforts to expose kleptocratic practices of the ruling class and to analyze the connections between corruption and human rights abuses.

Although Armenia and Georgia present opportunities for democratic transition, Covid-19, the war over Nagorno-Karabakh, and bitter political struggles in Georgia have overtaken the political agenda for much of 2020. Despite these adverse conditions, NED grantees achieved anti-corruption reform in Armenia and historic constitutional reform in Georgia, establishing a more fair and equitable electoral system.  NED programs empowered citizens to participate in the political process and encouraged a culture of policy debate. Across Central Asia, NED prioritized support for independent media, free and fair elections, civil society oversight of government institutions, and the continued development of political pluralism. 


Visit our website to learn more about NED’s work in Eurasia.

2020 NED Grants in Eurasia

In Focus: Coda Story

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TBILISI, Oct. 31, 2020 — A man registers to vote at a polling station in Tbilisi, Georgia, Oct. 31, 2020. Georgians are heading to the polls on Saturday amid the coronavirus pandemic to elect the country’s 150-member top legislative body for the next four years. (Photo by Kulumbegashvili Tamuna/Xinhua via Getty) (Xinhua/Kulumbegashvili Tamuna via Getty Images)

In Focus: Civic IDEA

Although Georgia has been a focal point of Chinese sharp power because of its geographic importance, NED grantee the Civic Initiative for Democratic and Euro-Atlantic Choice, or Civic IDEA, has taken their vision of a transparent, free and fair Georgia to the global level. 

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Latin America and Caribbean:

A Year in Review

Latin America & Caribbean Regional Overview

In 2020, the Latin America and Caribbean (LAC) region experienced the combined effects of the Covid-19 pandemic with ongoing economic deceleration and democratic fatigue. Governments across LAC have managed the health crisis with varying degrees of effectiveness and transparency, while the health crisis exacerbated pre-existing issues­­–such as weak governance and widespread inequalities. Massive demonstrations swept across the hemisphere in 2019 as citizens expressed dissatisfaction with elected populist leaders and lagging reforms, but the pandemic restrictions forced people home. 

Region-wide disenchantment with democracy affected consolidated, functional, and fragile democracies alike, and LAC still harbors three notoriously authoritarian regimes: Cuba, Nicaragua, and Venezuela. Furthermore, fragile democracies, such as those of Central America’s Northern Triangle, continue to struggle with the combined challenges of drug trafficking, organized crime, deeply-embedded corruption, and emigration. Human rights defenders, journalists, and environmental activists face ongoing threats from hostile governments and criminal actors. While providing connectivity to urban and rural populations, the growing digital space has joined the global trend of spreading disinformation and amplifying polarization. The region has also witnessed increased influence of outside players, such as Russia and China, that seek political and economic advantage. 

In 2020, NED’s LAC program provided critical support to advance democracy in the countries under the most authoritarian regimes–Cuba, Nicaragua, and Venezuela. Two transitional countries, Ecuador and Bolivia, offered important opportunities to revert previous authoritarian legislation on freedom of expression and judicial independence, and to encourage citizen participation in electoral processes. In the Northern Triangle, NED expanded anti-corruption, digital media, and human rights programs. NED reaffirmed commitments to the largest countries of the region: Brazil and Mexico, currently facing the menaces of right- and left- wing populist governments, respectively. 

Through regional programs, NED addressed global challenges, such as the growing contamination of the digital information space, Russia and China’s influence, and the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on corruption practices. NED also supported human rights defenders and the rights of vulnerable minorities, while strengthening key democratic requisites such as free and fair elections and effective democratic governance.


Visit our website to learn more about NED’s work in Latin America and Caribbean.

2020 NED Grants in Latin America and Caribbean

Delibera organized meetings with the Citizens Council of Fortaleza on environmental issues. The council created a project proposal titled “Winning the Challenge of Garbage – A Living Fortaleza with More Health for All”. The group was divided based on the topics covered: collection; public cleaning and recycling; municipal legislation; budget, taxes/fees and environmental education.

In Focus: Deliberating Democracy in Brazil

In Brazil, organizations are committed to forging a path forward via deliberative democracy processes. One such organization is Delibera, founded in 2017 by a group of four women, with the mission of establishing itself as the progenitor of deliberative democracy in Brazil through NED support. 

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In Focus: AyiboPost Provides Accessible Information to Haiti

Haitian digital media outlet Ayibopost makes difficult to understand topics available to the broader population of Haiti.

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Middle East and North Africa:

A Year in Review

Middle East and Northern Africa Regional Overview

The political, economic and security situation in the Middle East and North Africa remained dire in 2019, and prospects for democratic progress and reform were challenged by ongoing conflict, violent extremism, and authoritarianism. The need for security and stability overshadowed discussions and efforts for political reform or liberalization in almost every country. Ineffective governance and the failure of states to deliver for their citizens contributed to conditions that fueled conflict and extremism while shaking public confidence in government institutions and policies.

In 2019, NED’s largest country programs in the region were Afghanistan and Iraq. Although both made progress on protecting civil liberties and developing democratic political institutions over the past decade, they continued to face challenges of ethnic and sectarian divisions, weak accountability and governance, ongoing violence, and growing lack of confidence in government institutions. Iraq and Afghanistan held elections in 2019 amid popular mistrust in the electoral process. To restore public confidence in democratic institutions and processes and alleviate inter-communal tensions, NED programs strengthened accountability and governance (including through independent media), and promoted pluralism to bridge differences between communities and include marginalized groups such as youth, women and minorities in policy and decision-making.  

Eight years after the uprisings, Tunisia remained the only Arab Spring country continuing to take steps towards democratization, although deteriorating economic conditions threaten to undermine support for the transition. The new Municipalities Law and local elections in 2018 paved the way for a decentralized approach to governance and economic development. NED partners were well-positioned in 2019 to facilitate and promote the development of inclusive policies and the implementation of participatory governance practices. Given Tunisia’s economic challenges, NED also explored efforts to support the economic reform agenda.

Egypt and Turkey continued to shift toward authoritarianism, yet continued to have resilient civil societies that adapted to a more restrictive environment. Both countries represent important regional powers that exert influence throughout the region, underscoring why it remains critical for NED to continue its support despite challenging operating environments. To that end, NED supported efforts to push back against increasing authoritarianism and protect civic space including freedom of association and independent media throughout 2019.

Iran and the Gulf States also remained hostile to assistance and highly repressive toward civil society. These countries are also key regional powers and influencers that often undermine democratic reform in the region. Though inhospitable for direct assistance, groups operating in exile, including a new generation of activists, demonstrated strong networks and links to democracy advocates within these countries. NED continued to support these human rights defenders and organizations producing or making accessible independent information that provides an alternative to or checks the facts of official state narratives.

As for countries engulfed in conflict, including Syria, Libya and Yemen, NED directed support to identify, strengthen, and position independent civic groups for future roles. This included developing independent media capacities, strengthening local government institutions in the absence of functioning national level government, and promoting pluralism among divided and polarized communities.

Finally, regional programs will strengthen emerging networks and build local and sectoral capacities in conflict zones; provide technical expertise on democratic reforms, including for Tunisia’s transition; promote pluralism and build bridges among communities threatened by divisions; support human rights defenders; and address weaknesses in governance and public institutions.

Photo: NED grantee Organization for Policy Research and Development Studies(DROPS) organizes a discussion about the latest issue of their women-led foreign policy journal, the first in Afghanistan. (Photo courtesy of DROPS)

2019 NED Grants in Middle East and North Africa

Afghan women protesters march in Jalalabad to show their support for peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban. (Photograph by Noorullah Shirzada, AFP via Getty Images.)

In Focus: Protecting Women’s Rights in Afghanistan

The National Endowment for Democracy supports 35 organizations in Afghanistan that work tirelessly to promote sustainable peace and a democracy representing all of Afghanistan, inclusive of women, youth, minorities, and other marginalized communities.

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Participants are shown at a 2019 event held by the Arab Network for Democratic Elections.

In Focus: Tunisia

NED was proud to support extraordinary Tunisia-based organizations who worked tirelessly for freedom and fairness in the country’s historic 2019 legislative and presidential elections. Read on to learn about the work of two standouts, the  Chahed Observatory for Monitoring Elections and Supporting Democratic Reform and the Arab Network for Democratic Elections.

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A Year in Review

Global Overview

The global trend of democratic erosion and decline in freedom that has persisted for more than a decade continued to define the political landscape in 2020. Democracy advocates operating in closing spaces had to confront the deterioration of rights, as well as restrictions aimed at curbing independent voices. In countries undergoing transitions and political openings, civil society activists, political actors, and public officials had to take up the crucial task of boosting public confidence in the democratic system—by ensuring that reforms were being pursued and deepened, governance processes were inclusive, and government institutions were transparent and accountable to citizens. Challenges related to democratic governance and human rights were further exacerbated and complicated by the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, and will continue to require strong support to and coordination among advocates throughout the world.

Spanning multiple regions and complementing the country-level work of democrats, the NED Global program strengthened the impact of democracy advocates’ work as they joined together to tackle common challenges related to human rights, democratic governance, political processes, independent media, freedom of association, and market-oriented reform.

During 2020, NED’s Global program prioritized projects that worked to strengthen democracy in the following areas: bolstering collaboration on keys areas of advocacy and critical arenas of contestation regarding democratic standards; providing platforms for networking across different regions and countries to facilitate the sharing of technical expertise and lessons learned among activists; fostering the development and implementation of norms to strengthen democracy; and leveraging the rich and diverse experiences of partners by capturing best practices for the development of new tools and strategies to enhance the work of advocates.  

Photo: NED grantee International Sites of Conscience connect past struggles for human rights with contemporary challenges to democracy through historical sites and museums. An International Site of Conscience in Kigali, Rwanda, the Hopelantern Space engages community members through programs that promote learning, social change and social cohesion using a variety of platforms.

Visit our website to learn more about NED’s work in the Global program.


National Endowment for Democracy President Carl Gershman joins Anna Lührmann, Natan Sharansky, and Shalini Randeria for a panel discussion, "Democracy in the post-Covid World? Key Values for our Common Future", during Forum 2000's 24th Conference, held virtually in October of 2020.

In Focus: Forum 2000 Foundation Strengthens Democratic Unity 

The Forum 2000 Foundation—a NED grantee established in 1996—pursues the legacy of Václav Havel by supporting the values of democracy and respect for human rights, assisting the development of civil society, and encouraging religious, cultural, and ethnic tolerance.

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WLP partner Women and Youth Development Institute of Indonesia (WYDII) trained 40 people from 5 districts to serve as election observers for regional elections that happened across Indonesia on December 9th, 2020. WYDII also trained the volunteers on observing health precautions during election monitoring since the country had seen a recent surge of COVID-19 infections.

In Focus: Women’s Learning Partnership for Rights, Development, and Peace

To empower female leaders, NED grantee Women’s Learning Partnership for Rights, Development, and Peace (WLP)a partnership of twenty autonomous organizations primarily in the Global Southtrains and supports women to advocate for a free and peaceful world. 

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The Endowment's Democracy Promotion Activities

The Endowment's Democracy Promotion Activities

Center for International Media Assistance

The world has reached a dangerous tipping point in the state of vibrant news media. Press freedom has fallen to its lowest point in over a decade, while the media system as a whole battles declines in revenue, audience trust, and the independence it relies upon. The Center for International Media Assistance (CIMA) provides thought leadership to strengthen media systems and bolster the essential role that they play in sustaining democracy. To achieve this, CIMA provides knowledge and a platform for discussion needed to improve the effectiveness of support for media development. The Center conducts policy-relevant research on the major issues affecting global media today–in markets, politics, and society–and convenes donors, implementers, academics, journalists, and other stakeholders in the media development community to help them act and collaborate strategically

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Democracy Resource Center

The Democracy Resource Center (DRC) collects, organizes, and disseminates information and analysis produced by and about the wide range of groups and organizations working to strengthen democracy abroad.

The DRC consists of a library that holds over 20,000 works in 60 languages collected from NED grantees and other sources that can be searched via an online catalog. The DRC also maintains several online resources, many of which are accessible on the NED website.

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International Forum for Democratic Studies

The International Forum for Democratic Studies at the National Endowment for Democracy is a leading center for research, discussion, thought, and analysis on the theory and practice of democracy around the world.

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Journal of Democracy

Since its first appearance in 1990, the Journal of Democracy has established itself as a leading voice in discussions of the problems and prospects of democracy around the world.

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Reagan-Fascell Democracy Fellows Program

Named in honor of former president Ronald Reagan and the late U.S. congressman Dante Fascell (D-FL), whose bipartisan vision led to the creation of NED, the Reagan-Fascell Democracy Fellows Program offers practitioners, scholars, and journalists from around the world the opportunity to spend five months in residence at NED’s International Forum for Democratic Studies in order to undertake independent research and outreach on democratic prospects worldwide.

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World Movement for Democracy

Initiated by NED in 1999, the World Movement for Democracy is a global network of democrats including activists, practitioners, scholars, policy makers, and funders who collaborate, convene, and cooperate to promote democracy.

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A Year in Review

Center for International Media Assistance

Rampant democratic backsliding, deteriorating revenue streams, and a global pandemic contributed to a perilous year for media outlets across the globe. Despite these challenges, CIMA’s work remained vital in exploring ways for independent media to safely navigate this existential threat.

In January, CIMA launched Supporting Media at a Time of Crisis: Donors Explore New Strategies, which addressed the challenges and potential roles for private, bilateral, and multilateral donors in confronting the global crisis independent media. Knowledge gained from this report proved crucial moving forward, as the COVID-19 pandemic stripped formerly reliable revenue streams from independent media .

With the pandemic ravaging media ecosystems, regional collaboration has become essential to the survival of independent media outlets around the world. Based on the lessons learned from the fourth in its series of regional consultations, CIMA released Building Regional Strategies for Media Development in the Middle East and North Africa, which offers an overview of current challenges and priority areas for collective action in the Middle East and North Africa region. In addition to this convening of regional actors, CIMA also convened discussions with the international donor community and the US media development community on the added challenges facing independent media during the COVID-19 pandemic. Participants discussed how the donor and media development communities should support vulnerable media outlets in the Global South.

Throughout the year, CIMA’s research and events continued to stress a local, demand-driven approach to media development. To that end, the team organized a public webinar in June on Local News in Times of Crisis, convening NED experts, grantees, and others to discuss the ways news outlets adapt in challenging environments, the growing threat of “news deserts,” and how to support critical work on the ground. Similar obstacles and innovations were reflected in a report launched that month, Local Radio Stations in Africa: Sustainability or Pragmatic Viability?, which explored the types of flexible donor strategies needed to sustain local media in sub-Saharan Africa.

The ongoing crisis demanded innovative solutions to media sustainability. CIMA responded to this call with the report, Are Punchlines the New Front Lines of Media Development?, a vibrant look at the potential of satire media in promoting independent voices and more sustainable business models. The report featured NED grantees from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kenya, Serbia, and Zimbabwe, among other case studies, and served as the basis for a virtual public event. The continued exploration of innovative development strategies led to the report, The Wisdom of the Crowd: Promoting Media Development through Deliberative Initiatives, which outlined a new set of citizen engagement practices with the potential to improve media assistance efforts and strengthen media environments around the globe.

To close out the year, CIMA collaborated with Project Syndicate to organize a panel discussion for UNESCO’s World Press Freedom Conference in December. Usually held in the spring, the virtual conference brought together foundational thinkers from various sectors to reflect on the role of journalism in these unprecedented times.

Photo: CIMA’s four part animated video series “Internet Governance and Journalism” covered topics such as “The Right to Be Forgotten” on Youtube.

CIMA 2019

Panelists speak at CIMA's 2019 event entitled "Surveillance for Sale: How China and Russia Export Repression Technology."

In Focus: Supporting Media in Crisis

CIMA convenes panel discussions, working groups, and roundtables featuring practitioners and academics to investigate issues in media development. Event summaries, recordings, and upcoming public discussions can be found at CIMA’s website. Click below to read about some of 2019’s events.

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An infographic from a 2019 CIMA publication on media freedom.

In Focus: Internet Governance

A leading voice in media development worldwide, CIMA conducts and commissions independent research on key topics in the field. Click here for all CIMA publications, or click the button below for a summary of 2019 publication highlights.

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A Year in Review


The International Forum for Democratic Studies at the National Endowment for Democracy is a leading center for research, discussion, innovation, and analysis on the theory and practice of democracy around the world. Established in 1994, the Forum strives to bridge the gap between academic research and the practice of democracy through several initiatives:

The Forum supports and enhances the work of the Endowment’s grants program and the World Movement for Democracy.

The International Forum for Democratic Studies is directed by Shanthi Kalathil. Christopher Walker serves as the NED Vice President overseeing all aspects of the work of the Forum. The Forum’s programs benefit from the advice and involvement of a Research Council consisting of scholars and other specialists on democracy from around the world. Marc F. Plattner and Larry Diamond serve as co-chairs of the Research Council. Larry Diamond and Will Dobson coedit the Journal of Democracy.

Cover image: Reagan-Fascell Democracy Fellow Dolgion Aldar and Fellowships Program Director speak during Aldar’s event presentation “Thirty Years After Mongolia’s Democratic Revolution: Has Democracy Delivered for All?” on February 18, 2020.


Alina Mungiu-Pippidi delivers the Sixteenth Annual Seymour Martin Lipset Lecture.

Research and Conferences Program

Each year the Forum convenes an extensive number of events comprising international conferences, small seminars, and its annual Lipset Lecture, with an eye toward bringing together leading activists and experts across geographic locations and thematic disciplines related to democracy and human rights.

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The Power 3.0 blog was the inspiration for the Forum's rapidly growing podcast.

Colloquium Series and Podcast

The International Forum for Democratic Studies held a 2019 colloquium series featuring topics including democratic resilience, the rule of law, youth engagement and digital freedom. The series accompanied the Forum’s podcasts tied to its Power 3.0 blog, focusing on the ways in which modern authoritarianism takes advantage of the features once chiefly thought to empower democracies.

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Journal of Democracy

A Year in Review

Journal of Democracy

Overview content goes here

Since its first appearance in 1990, the Journal of Democracy has established itself as a leading voice in discussions of the problems and prospects of democracy around the world. The Journal explores in depth every aspect of the establishment, consolidation, and maintenance of democracy, including political institutions, parties and elections, civil society, ethnic conflict, economic reform, public opinion, the role of the media, federalism, and constitutionalism. It covers not only practical political matters but also questions of democratic theory and culture.

In addition to publishing articles on every inhabited region of the world, the Journal features reviews of important books on democracy, reports on recent elections, excerpts from speeches by leading democrats and democratic dissidents, and news about the activities of prodemocracy groups worldwide.

The Journal’s authors include eminent social scientists and historians, political luminaries and leaders of democratic movements, and renowned intellectuals. While maintaining the highest scholarly standards, it is written and edited for the general reader as well. A truly global publication, the Journal attracts both authors and readers from all over the world. For more information and access to select full-text articles, please visit our website at journalofdemocracy.org.

In January 2020, the Journal named William “Will” J. Dobson as its new coeditor, succeeding founding coeditor Marc F. Plattner. Most recently NPR’s Chief International Editor, Mr. Dobson has also held senior editorial posts at Foreign Affairs, Foreign Policy, and Slate. He is the author of The Dictator’s Learning Curve: Inside the Global Battle for Democracy (2012).


January 2020 Issue

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April 2020 Issue

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July 2020 Issue

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October 2020 Issue

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Editorial Board List is in this section in 2019 report

Reagan-Fascell Democracy Fellows Program

A Year in Review

Named in honor of former president Ronald Reagan and the late U.S. congressman Dante Fascell (D-FL), whose bipartisan vision led to the creation of NED, the Reagan-Fascell Democracy Fellows Program offers practitioners, scholars, and journalists from around the world the opportunity to spend five months in residence at NED’s International Forum for Democratic Studies in order to undertake independent research and outreach on democratic prospects worldwide.

Top row, L-R: Dolgion Adar, Jamil Haslami, Catherine Kanabahita. Bottom row, L-R: Marvi Sirmed, Viktoria Tyuleneva, Pedro Villarreal. Some members of the Reagan-Fascell 2019 class were not photographed to protect them from government retaliation.

Reagan-Fascell fellowships focus on the political, economic, legal, or cultural aspects of democratic development and culminate in a variety of project outcomes. In cooperation with NED’s Democracy Resource Center, the Center for International Media Assistance, the World Movement for Democracy, and the NED family of core institutes, the Forum offers fellows a collegial environment in which to conduct research and writing, exchange ideas and experiences, and develop professional relationships within a global network of democracy advocates. In response to the closing of civic space around the world, the Reagan-Fascell program offers select fellowships to “democrats at risk” and seeks to strengthen support networks for them, in collaboration with counterpart institutions.

Click to View 2020 Fellows’ Bios

Dolgion Aldar on Engaging Youth in Democracy | Event Teaser

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Dolgion Aldar on Engaging Youth in Democracy | Event Teaser

Dolgion Aldar on Engaging Youth in Democracy | Event Teaser

Featured Reagan-Fascell Fellowship Events

“Strengthening Human Rights Through Youth Engagement: Views from Mongolia, Uganda, Pakistan, Kazakhstan, and Colombia”

Dolgion Aldar, Reagan-Fascell Democracy Fellow; Catherine Kanabahita, Reagan-Fascell Democracy Fellow; Marvi Sirmed, Reagan-Fascell Democracy Fellow; Viktoriya Tyuleneva, Reagan-Fascell Democracy Fellow; Pedro V. Villarreal, Reagan-Fascell Democracy fellow (December 10)

“Creating a Resilient and Inclusive Democracy in India”

Reagan-Fascell Democracy Fellow Elsa D’Silva, with comments by Ambassador Melanne Verveer, Executive Director for the Georgetown Institute of Women, Peace, and Security (July 10)

Democracy Resource Center

A Year in Review


Library: The Allen Overland Collection

Named in honor of the DRC’s founding librarian and director, the library’s Allen Overland Collection & Archives houses more than 20,000 books, journals, grantee reports, DVDs, and other publications on democracy. The DRC provides a unique collection of materials produced by leading human rights organization, and features works by many of the prominent thinkers within the field of democracy and democracy assistance.

Online Resources

Internet resources created and maintained by the DRC include:

  • Online Catalog: The DRC’s online catalog, WorldCat Discovery, is a single search that connects users to all of the library’s books, articles, DVDs, and more. WorldCat lets anyone build and share lists, contribute reviews, find library items on a mobile phone, or use WorldCat appsin Facebook. Through WorldCat the Democracy Resource Center is connected to a network of 72,000 libraries from 170 different countries and territories. Visit the catalog: ned.worldcat.org.
  • International Democratic Development Database: This database contains information on more than 100 philanthropic organizations that provide grants, fellowships, and awards for groups working in the area of international democratic development.
  • Democracy Research Guide: The guide includes suggested books, journals, websites and organizations on democracy promotion and related topics. The Democracy Research Guide also includes a three-step research tutorial for developing a structured research project.
  • NDRI Digital Library: The NDRI Digital Library on Democracy (DLD) features 4,000 full-text publications produced by Network of Democracy Research Institute (NDRI) member institutions. This online library provides scholars, activists, and others interested in democracy promotion and related issues with access to an online repository of materials, many produced by new think tanks in developing and transitional countries.

Visit the Democracy Resource Center’s Website for More

World Movement for Democracy

A Year in Review


Initiated in 1999 by the National Endowment for Democracy, the World Movement for Democracy is a global network of democrats including activists, practitioners, scholars, policy makers, and funders who collaborate to promote democracy. The World Movement Secretariat at NED facilitates information sharing, networking, and solidarity building to bolster democratic movements and leverage support provided by democracy assistance organizations such as the NED. In doing so, the World Movement supports three thematic pillars: Defending democratic space, promoting inclusive governance, and strengthening democratic leadership.

Defending Democratic Space: Civil society activists and everyday citizens increasingly face restrictions on their freedoms in both physical and digital spaces. Through its defending democratic space initiatives, the World Movement helps civil society understand their rights to peacefully assemble and associate, facilitate collaboration among civil society activists to reform repressive laws and practice, and highlights stories of activists at risk because of their work.

The World Movement worked closely with its participants around the world to strengthen freedom of association and assembly rights at the international and national levels. In March 2019, 25 World Movement participants jointly submitted input to the UN Human Rights Committee to inform a General Comment on Article 21 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which protects the right to peaceful assembly. World Movement Secretariat staff continues to engage in the Committee’s process of drafting the General Comment. General Comments are official UN interpretations of international human rights law that are binding upon signatories of the ICCPR treaty.

The World Movement and its partners coordinated consultations for the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association on these freedoms in the digital age with civil society, academia, and representatives of the world’s most powerful technology companies in Silicon Valley in January 2019. The consultation informed a groundbreaking report by the Special Rapporteur that was presented to the UN Human Rights Council in June 2019, and has guided further examination of related issues.

In October 2019, the World Movement connected local civil society organizations with international legal expertise to help Malaysia’s new parliament improve its complex legal regime governing associations. Also in October 2019, the World Movement helped participants in Sierra Leone coordinate advocacy against a proposed law that would give the state significant authority over the way civil society organizations operate and how programs are implemented in violation of countries international commitments.

Promoting Inclusive Governance: The World Movement aims to strengthen inclusive democratic governance with an emphasis on empowering leaders who are committed to democratic principles. As part of this effort, the World Movement facilitates effective partnerships between civil society, government, and the private sector and explores constructive ways to enhance political participation to influence policy making and institutional reform.

The statement “A Call for Democratic Renewal” issued by the World Movement Steering Committee in 2015, called upon the international community to provide greater support to civil society activists who assume government positions during and following political transitions. In 2019, the World Movement begin focusing on this phenomenon concertedly by launching the Crossover Initiative. The Crossover Initiative kicked off by surveying over 100 World Movement participants who had or were considering crossing-over into government about their experiences and/or expectations. Results of the survey, resources collected, and dozens of personal stories about crossover experiences are available here.

Strengthening Democratic Leadership: The next generation of democratic leadership plays a crucial role in sustaining and advancing democracy. The World Movement seeks to enhance inter-generational engagement by mainstream youth issues in its activities while helping establish spaces for youth to network with and learn from each other.

Youth Networks: Throughout the year, the World Movement worked closely with African Movement for Democracy (AMD) members, in particular the Gender Centre for Empowering Development (GENCED), Youth Initiative for Advocacy, Growth and Advancement (YIAGA), and Democracy Tech Squad, to engage youth in political discussions in new and innovative ways. Among the activities conducted by AMD was the Breaking Barriers West Africa Campaign to enhancing young women’s political leadership by connecting politically aspiring young women in West Africa with veteran political actors to exchange experiences and ideas.  The campaign has empowered 2,300 young women, who are now interested in running for office. The AMD launched a civic-tech competition to engage five promising young civic-tech experts wishing to develop digital tools to support democracy.  In 2020, the competition winners will be assisted in creating mobile apps through the program. Finally, a working group of musicians and civil society leaders was established to facilitate cooperation to address challenges to democracy in the region. The working group produced a music album, Music as a Messenger of Democracy, on themes related to democracy to spark dialogue on these issues among the broader public. The project with the AMD is made possible by generous support from the Ford Foundation.

Photo: Senegalese rapper Moonaya was a featured artist in the World Movement for Democracy’s “Music as a Messenger of Democracy” campaign.

Join the Network: World Movement participants engage with peers facing challenges to human rights and democracy, build solidarity within regional and global networks, and collaborate on innovative approaches to preserving freedom. We welcome any organization or individual who can contribute to and benefit from this network. Learn more about the many ways you can get involved by visiting our website.

World Movement for Democracy

Celebration of the World Movement’s 20th anniversary in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on July 9, 2019.

20th Anniversary

To celebrate its 20th anniversary in 2019, the World Movement for Democracy held a public celebration and event series in Malaysia. Guests from all over the world attended panels and workshops exploring how transitioning countries can become resilient democracies.

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The mother of Ilkin Rustamzade discusses her son’s imprisonment and torture for speaking out against poor working conditions in Azerbaijan’s national army.

#SetThemFree Campaign

The World Movement’s Set Them Free campaign builds solidarity among individuals who are unjustly imprisoned for promoting democracy and human rights throughout the world. The campaign raises awareness, mobilizes others, and engages stakeholders to advocate for imprisoned activists.

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2019 Hurford Youth Fellow Irene Ikumo interviews Jatzel Roman, General Coordinator of the Latin America Youth Movement for Democracy, about youth political participation in the region.

Hurford Youth Fellowship

The Hurford Youth Fellowship program highlights the importance of inter-generational dialogue and facilitates the exchange of ideas and experiences between seasoned and emerging leaders.

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