Remarks by Carl Gershman, President
The National Endowment for Democracy
Chairman Smith, Congresswoman McKinney, and members of the Subcommittee:
Thank you for offering me this opportunity to appear before you today to discuss the work of the National Endowment for Democracy and to defend the Administration’s request for FY2000. What this subcommittee has meant to those (small d) democrats with whom we work is impossible to measure, not just because you authorize the funding that enables us to support them, but also because you continue to serve as one of the leading voices in our country on behalf of all those fighting for freedom and human dignity, the cause to which we are mutually committed.
The Administration’s request is $32 million, representing an increase of $1 million over the current year’s appropriation. With these funds, we support organizations in over 90 countries in every region of the world. Many of these programs are carried out by our four affiliated institutes: the American Center for International Labor Solidarity (ACILS), the Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE), the International Republican Institute (IRI), and the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs (NDI). The Endowment works with scores of other groups, mostly indigenous, that are working to advance human rights, provide civic education, develop independent media, disseminate democratic values, and promote governmental transparency and accountability.
We regard the Administration’s request as a vote of confidence in our work and are grateful for its continued support. That support has always come with the recognition that our country truly has a strong interest in the advancement of democracy, since those countries that respect the rights of their own citizens are far more likely to behave more peaceably toward their neighbors and the world community as a whole.
Since the Endowment was established 15 years ago, many new democracies have come into existence. It is well worth noting that last month marked the 10th Anniversary of the historic accord in Poland that set in motion the process of democratization in that country and that had such a major impact throughout the former Soviet Bloc. Today, many of the brave individuals who helped bring democracy to Poland, the Czech Republic, and to Hungary are helping to assist fellow democrats further to the east in programs funded by the Endowment.
It was in that same spirit of democratic cooperation that representatives of over 80 countries met just last week in a historic gathering in New Delhi. Convened by the Endowment with two Indian partner organizations, the conference has set in motion a new World Movement for Democracy, a coalition of leading figures from politics, associational life, business, trade unions, the mass media, academia, and policy organizations around the world who are united by shared democratic values and a commitment to mutual support and solidarity.
I shall return to this important development later in my statement, but let it be noted that the enthusiasm we experienced in New Delhi for the dozens of practical initiatives that will follow to promote democratic cooperation is eloquent affirmation of the continued relevance of our work. As the director of the new democracy promotion institute in Australia pointed out, unlike the (economic) aid field, where there is frequently harmful competition among donor organizations, the democratic assistance field has shown no such competition since the needs are so vast and the resources so limited.
For while we celebrate the gains that have occurred since the Endowment was established, and work to stimulate the creation of counterpart democratic assistance organizations in both new and more established democracies, we should stop to consider the vast number of countries where democracy has not taken root, where the elements of civil society remain weak, where human rights are not respected, and where governing institutions remain unaccountable to the people. In fact, if we have learned anything at all from recent events in Eastern Asia, in Central Africa, in the Balkans and elsewhere, without democratic institutions there can be no economic stability, no peaceful resolution of conflict, and no means of keeping unaccountable leaders from transporting problems far from their borders.
Let me hasten to add that despite these vast problems, we at the Endowment continue to be impressed by the quality, seriousness, and self-sacrifice of democratic activists in EVERY one of these situations. The fact that democracy is not a narrow, exclusively Western concept but rather, in the words of Nobel laureate Amartya Sen, “a universally relevant system,” is reaffirmed every day by the commitment of those men and women with whom we work.
Two Heroes of Democracy
Mr. Chairman, before sharing with you some of our recent and ongoing program highlights, I would like to pause to pay tribute to two key figures in our world who died within one week of each other last November. Dante Fascell was once the Chairman of this very subcommittee before becoming Chairman of the full Committee on Foreign Affairs. As noted repeatedly at his memorial service last month, Dante’s love for his country and its values led him to want to share them with the rest of the world. The Endowment was for him the embodiment of that worthy goal, and now stands as a major part of his legacy.
At the memorial service, we were gratified to hear Chairman Gilman announce that the Committee would put on its agenda the establishment of a Dante Fascell Fellowship Program, to be housed at the Endowment’s research institute, the International Forum for Democratic Studies. When fully funded, the program would enable activists, scholars, journalists and practitioners from around the world to make significant contributions to the strengthening of democracy in their respective countries and regions, thus helping to fulfill the vision of our principal “founding father.” We look forward to working with the subcommittee and the full committee on this significant initiative.
Halfway around the world, Galina Staravoitova’s brutal assassination in St. Petersburg at the age of 52 put a tragic end to one of the world’s most dedicated fighters for human rights and democracy. The Endowment had a long association with Galina, who was originally a grantee but became a trusted advisor, helping us develop priorities for our program in Russia. There is a congressional initiative led by Senator Biden to conduct a study of how best to establish a Russian democracy institute that would honor Galina’s memory in a very appropriate and practical way. As tragic as her death and the circumstances surrounding it for Russia’s democratic movement which she was so much a part of, the outpouring of grief and outrage by her fellow citizens offers some hope that many more are prepared to rally to the cause.
The following illustrative examples of recent and ongoing programs will give you some idea of the scope and content of our work. Keep in mind that they represent a very small percentage of the more than 300 grants which we award annually.
The Africa grants program continues its involvement with the continent’s two most difficult and important challenges: Nigeria and Congo. NED committed more than $1 million to Nigeria last year, including 20 grants to human rights groups and independent press projects, and for women’s political empowerment, conflict resolution, and democratic action training. Major programs were also conducted by the American Center for International Labor Solidarity (ACILS) and the Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE).
The year began with many NED grantees in prison, in exile, or working underground. Two NED grantees participated in a new program of NED’s International Forum for Democratic Studies to train human rights librarians on how to use the internet for their work; one of them was detained upon his return. But with the death of dictator Sani Abacha on June 8, 1998, NED grantees quickly mobilized to take advantage of the new opportunities that soon emerged, having prepared the way after years of struggling to keep the flame of freedom, human rights, and democracy burning. Most political prisoners were freed, including NED grantees Beko Ransome-Kuti and Malam Shehu Sani of the Campaign for Democracy, Olisa Agbakoba of the United Action for Democracy, and trade unionists Frank Korkori and Milton Dabibi.
Grantees swiftly organized to monitor the series of elections that were called, including the first round in December. Others pressed for changes in press laws, the annulment of pernicious security decrees, organization of a sovereign national conference, and reform of the security forces. Both the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs (NDI) and the International Republican Institute (IRI) conducted election observation missions for the presidential election last weekend, and all of us eagerly await their reports.
In Congo, which slid from a process of steadily shrinking political space into civil war and a full-scale abrogation of human and civil rights, two NED grantees, Paul Nsapu and Sabin Banza, were detained for several months, while others have been harassed and some forced into exile. Yet in 10 cities across Congo, Endowment grantees bravely continue monitoring human rights violations, calling for tolerance and peaceful political negotiations, promoting women’s political participation, supporting independent media, and educating the Congolese public on its rights and responsibilities.
In Kisangani, for example, NED grantee Groupe Justice et Liberation released the first comprehensive report on human rights violations in areas directly affected by the war. Two NED grantees, Voice of the Voiceless and the Friends of Nelson Mandela, collaborated to produce a weekly newsletter, Human Rights Weekly, which provides unbiased, current information on human rights developments. In Washington, the Endowment convened a series of informal meetings to build support for Congolese civil society; NED has become a key American rallying point for the Congolese democratic movement. Didier Kamundu Batundi, director of APREDICI, a NED subgrantee in Goma, won the 1998 Reebok Human Rights award, but has now been forced to work in exile.
NED grantees continued to play prominent roles in the human rights and democracy struggles in Liberia and Sudan, where NED has mounted significant programs. Grantees in the Republic of Congo released a major human rights report in the aftermath of that country’s civil war, and in Mogadishu, Somalia, the Dr. Ismail Juma’le Human Rights Center organized a commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. NED grantee Gremeh Boucar of Radio Anfani of Niger won the Committee to Protect Journalists’ 1998 award.
Mr. Chairman, I know the importance you and other members of the subcommittee attach to the work of Radio Free Asia (RFA), and I’d like to begin my description of some of our programs in the region by pointing out that more than half of NED’s Asian grantees have been tapped by RFA to host their own shows, give weekly commentaries, or to respond to requests from reporters for interviews. They are very grateful to the subcommittee which supports RFA, the Congress as a whole, and of course to the service itself for the opportunity to reach greater audiences. It is particularly significant to these activists that listeners turn short-wave radio into a two-way channel of communication by sending lettters and e-mail to our grantees with offers of cooperation.
The diversity and vigor of the Chinese and Burmese democracy movements made these, as in past years, the largest recipients of Endowment assistance in Asia, including support for an extensive range of groups promoting human rights, civic education, political dialogue and democratic change. NED was able to highlight the struggle for democracy in China in a February ceremony honoring Wei Jingsheng and Wang Dan as co-recipients of the 1998 NED Democracy Award. Wei had just been released and exiled to the United States after 19 years in prison and Wang was still serving an 11-year sentence for his peaceful pro-democracy activities. At the ceremony, we heard the moving words of his mother communicated from China relating how much the award meant to the family. Later in the year, in the spotlight of intense international pressure, Wang was also exiled to the United States.
NED grants continued to enable Chinese pro-democracy organizations to cut through official censorship and repression of independent voices. Endowment-supported programs sponsored a number of publications addressing issues currently proscribed or severely limited inside China, including several popular electronic mail and Web-based news services and opinion journals. Let me take this opportunity to highlight the work of the Chinese VIP Reference News, an internet-based news service that manages to reach more than 10% of the entire on-line population of China!
Grantees also conducted research, circulated detailed studies proposing democratic solutions to intractable public policy problems, carried out human rights documentation and advocacy, and collaborated on programs designed to foster Chinese-Tibetan dialogue on long-term issues regarding the future of Tibet. NED provides funding for a Tibet-language newspaper, The Tibet Times, that is distributed throughout the Tibetan exile community, and a news service, The Tibet Voice, which disseminates information about the struggle for a democratic Tibet inside both China and Tibet.
ACILS continued to support the efforts of labor activists to educate workers about their rights and document labor law violations. Endowment-supported programs enabled the circulation of a vast amount of timely and thought-provoking literature in Chinese, Tibetan, and English promoting the development of a democratic culture.
NED’s institutes also continued to implement programs made possible by official Chinese reform policies. In the areas of local elections and economic liberalization, both IRI and CIPE continued their programs designed to extend and institutionalize promising areas of experimental reform. IRI continued its programs to strengthen legal protections for civil rights, to foster legislative independence, and to strengthen mechanisms conducive to transparent local-level elections. CIPE continued to support an extremely successful symposium series on public affairs in Beijing and other independent research on economic reform and governance reform issues.
In Hong Kong, an NDI monitoring program leading up to the May 1998 elections helped support local efforts to increase voter understanding of the new and arcane electoral system installed by the Beijing-appointed provisional legislative council. The persistence of determined political and civic leaders, including 1997 NED Democracy Award recipient Martin Lee, was rewarded with extremely high voter turnout and an unexpectedly strong showing for staunch proponents of full democracy in Hong Kong. The Endowment continued to support the city’s leading legal and constitutional watchdog group, the Hong Kong Human Rights Monitor, and ACILS maintained its support for Hong Kong labor union programs to protect civil and worker rights.
NED’s Burma program continued to provide extensive support to the dynamic Burmese pro-democracy movement both inside the country and among ethnic minorities and exiled pro-democracy groups in Thailand, India, and other countries. NED and its core institutes support an array of independent media and information sources, human rights documentation, institution-building, and women’s projects. The popular New Era Journal, a monthly Burmese-language newspaper with a circulation of more than 15,000 copies per issue, is distributed by hand through remote regions of the country. The Democratic Voice of Burma produces and transmits a daily shortwave radio program from Norway. The Federation of Trade Unions-Burma, in conjunction with ACILS, continues to educate workers and other citizens inside Burma about labor rights and to document violations of internationally-recognized labor rights.
NED has continued to fund programs that strengthen civil society and aid the consolidation of democracy in Thailand, Mongolia, the Republic of Korea, Nepal, and Sri Lanka. Support for human rights and legal aid programs were also continued for Vietnam and Pakistan, respectively. Responding to the challenge of the continued state-imposed isolation of North Korea, NED also developed its first programs designed to call attention to massive human rights abuses and foster an opening to the people of that isolated dictatorship.
All four NED institutes remain actively involved in Indonesia, having begun programs three or more years ago to support those forces in civil society pushing for reform and a democratic opening. The institutes’ ongoing involvement with counterpart institutions there, from independent think tanks to dissident labor leaders to the groundbreaking Independent Committee for Election Monitoring (KIPP), enabled them to respond rapidly to the dramatic political changes taking place.
In Cambodia, Endowment-funded programs enabled IRI and NDI to monitor the highly contested lead-up to the July 1998 elections, in the wake of a coup less than 12 months before the scheduled polling date. One of the few positive legacies of this problematic election for Cambodia’s political future is the coherence and commitment of the domestic non-governmental election monitoring initiative, a pluralistic coalition effort nurtured over a three-year period by an NDI program. Continued NED assistance was directed toward the long-term task of strengthening civil society in the form of support for human rights education, capacity building among the country’s still-fledgling human rights education groups, and a highly popular program in desktop publishing and journalism education.
III. CENTRAL & EASTERN EUROPE
One recent dramatic development in the region was the September election in Slovakia, where a democratic coalition won a decisive election victory over the authoritarian government of Vladimir Meciar. The Endowment and its institutes played a leading role in assisting the democratic opposition. NED provided support to Civic Campaign ’98 (OK ’98), a nonpartisan, independent initiative of more than 40 NGOs that is credited with boosting voter turnout to record levels. Two NED grantees, the Foundation for Civil Society (NOS) and the Association in Support of Local Democracy, played a leading role in OK ’98. Other NED grantees, including the Permanent Commitee of the Civic Institute (SKOI), the Jan Hus Educational Foundation, and the Milan Simecka Foundation also conducted election-related programs that worked closely with OK ’98.
NDI helped to create and support two important monitoring organizations that assisted OK ’98. MEMO ’98 monitored the pre-election coverage of Slovakia’s media and helped to level the playing field by exposing the pro-Meciar bias of Slovak State Television. OKA ’98 led a nationwide poll-watching program that helped to insure free and fair elections. IRI complemented this effort with an international election observation mission. CIPE’s two programs, with MESA 10 and the Center for Economic Development, exposed the corruption and economic mismanagement of the Meciar government.
There is a large task ahead to help get Slovakia’s democratic and free-market transition back on track, and we are providing assistance for this purpose.
As I mentioned previously, the Endowment continues to play a leading role in supporting innovative crossborder and regional programs, many using the experience, skills and materials of long-time Central European activists to assist democrats further east. Last year NED grantees in the Czech Republic assisted NGOs in Belarus and Central Asia; a Slovak grantee organized workshops for local media activists from the Balkans, and a grantee based in Hungary conducted conflict resolution training in the Caucasus. The majority of these “East to East” programs continue to be carried out by Polish grantees. The Institute for Democracy in Eastern Europe/Warsaw (IDEE/Warsaw) is one of only a very few foreign organizations working in Crimea. With NED funding it has organized 90 internships for Crimean Tatars and Ukrainians in Poland and assisted over 30 Tatar and Ukrainian NGOs in Crimea.
In the Baltic States, two NED grantees, the Democracy Advancement Center and the Latvian Center for Human Rights and Ethnic Studies (LCHRES), carried out civic education and advocacy programs designed to promote tolerance and the integration of Latvia’s Russian minority. For its work, the LCHRES was awarded the prestigious U.S.-E.U. Civil Society and Democracy Award. In 1998, NED also began its first democracy-building program in Kaliningrad.
NED has sought to address the complex and problematic nature of the democratic transition in Southeastern Europe with programs promoting the resolution of inter-ethnic conflict, greater political pluralism and economic reform, the development of independent media, and the strengthening of independent organizations necessary to consolidate civil society in the region.
The republics of the former Yugoslavia, particularly the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (currently configured as Serbia, Montenegro, and Kosovo), remains a high priority.
NED programs have helped ensure the survival of a number of independent media and helped break the stranglehold of government-dominated media in Serbia by strengthening influential sources of objective information. Endowment assistance has enabled newspapers, radio and TV stations to purchase desperately-needed supplies and equipment, including newsprint and broadcast transmitters. Past grantees have included the newspapers Nasa Borba, Vreme, and Danas, an independent TV station in eastern Serbia, TV Negotin, the prominent news agency BETA, and the important Belgrade station, Radio B-92.
Due to the crackdown on democratic forces in Serbia, Montenegro is becoming more and more a haven for the Serbian independent sector. For example, several prominent independent media in Serbia have recently re-registered and begun publishing in Podgorica. The Association for Independent Electronic Media (ANEM) received Endowment funds to expand its high-quality news programming, which is broadcast throughout Serbia/Montenegro through ANEM’s wide network of affiliate radio stations. NED assistance has also helped Montenegro’s only independent daily newspaper continue providing timely and objective information on political, cultural, and economic developments in the republic and throughout former Yugoslavia.
NED programs in Serbia also encourage the political participation of Serbia’s youth. With Endowment support, the Center for Democracy Foundation, a prominent Belgrade-based NGO, conducts a School for Democracy for secondary school and university students, facilitating the exchange of ideas and promoting cooperation among young activists committed to Serbia’s political and economic reform process. With NED funding, CIPE has enabled the European Movement of Serbia (EMS) and the G-17 group of independent economists to promote economic reform legislation and conduct research programs to identify barriers to private sector development at the local and federal levels.
In Kosovo, Endowment support facilitated the monitoring work of the province’s most important human rights organization, the Council for Defense of Human Rights and Freedoms. NED funding has also enabled Kosovar pro-democratic forces to establish the province’s first independent think-tank focusing on policy development and the promotion of civil society.
In Bosnia, the Endowment’s support for independent media provides unbiased information to the country’s beleaguered population. The Croatian-based STINA news agency received renewed NED funding last year to improve its information gathering capacity in the Croat-controlled area of Bosnia known as “Herceg-Bosna;” STINA expanded the only independent network of correspondents which exists in the statelet. The Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Republika Srpska, a prominent human rights organization based in Bijeljina, received Endowment funding to monitor the human rights situation in the Serb Republic, disseminate otherwise unattainable information on human rights abuses to local residents and the international community, and educate residents of the Serb Republic on their basic human rights.
NED continues to support the democratic transition in Romania. Endowment programs seek to counter negative trends such as political instability and the persistent influence of extremist parties on the far right and far left by developing the leadership and organizational skills of Romania’s non-governmental sector, and strengthening the institutions which facilitate cooperation and information exchange within the third sector.
In Bulgaria, which has exhibited a stable democratic government, a modestly growing economy, good relations with its neighbors, and domestic inter-ethnic peace, NED assisted the Balkan Forum Civil Association in strengthening the capacity of citizens to participate in public affairs and effect changes at the local level. In addition, the Democracy Foundation received an Endowment grant to organize a series of Youth Forums that encouraged young people to participate in the political process and taught them about economic and political reform. To enhance the transparency of legislative processes and increase effective communication between citizens and their elected representatives, NDI continued to develop a constituency liaison program for parliamentarians in the Bulgarian National Assembly.
IV. LATIN AMERICA & THE CARIBBEAN
NED’s programs for the region are clustered in three areas: expanding political participation, promoting human rights and access to justice, and furthering the adoption of reforms intended to encourage government transparency and efficiency. Mexico, Cuba and Colombia remain countries of high priority.
In Mexico, NED supports efforts by groups such as Equidad de Genero, ANCIFEM, Presencia Ciudadana, the Mexican Confederation of Employers, and the Citizen’s Movement for Democracy to provide channels for citizen participation in Mexico’s legislative process, including monitoring and promoting legislation affecting youth, business and women.
In Cuba, the Endowment’s strategy has been to support and promote the diverse, incipient forms of civil society by providing independent sources of information to various groups and increasing awareness of their efforts outside of Cuba. For example, NED has supported publication of Encuentro de la Cultura Cubana, a quarterly humanities journal edited by esteemed Cuban writer Jesus Diaz, which receives written contributions from academic and cultural intellectuals on the island and is widely circulated inside and outside of Cuba. The Endowment also funds CubaNet, which supports independent journalists on the island and independent media associations by publishing and distributing their articles via the Internet. CubaNet also helps Cuban groups such as the recently-founded independent farmers’ cooperatives and independent workers’ unions connect with like-minded foreign and Cuban groups.
The Endowment has funded a variety of programs to promote and support the peace process in Colombia, including efforts by the Colombian Commission of Jurists to promote international humanitarian law as a basis for initiating the peace negotiations and activities of the Corporación Viva la Ciudandanía to disseminate and refine proposals developed during the July 1998 Permanent Civil Society Assembly for Peace. In the face of continued political violence and human rights violations, the Endowment has continued to support efforts by Colombian organizations to promote legal access and a democratic culture based on tolerance and the fundamental respect for human rights.
In Peru, Endowment funds supported a Peruvian NGO, Organización de Mujeres Indígenas de la Amazonía Peruana, and its efforts to foster the political participation of indigenous women as candidates and voters in the municipal elections of October 1998. The International Republican Institute (IRI), one of NED’s core institutes, worked with Fundación Participación Juvenil and Fundación Pensamiento y Acción to mobilize young voters for the 1998 congressional and presidential elections in Venezuela. In Mexico, NED has funded Equidad y Genero, a women’s organization, and Presencia Ciudadana, a youth movement, to develop and promote legislative proposals concerning the participation of women and youth.
NED has also expanded its support for legal reform and access-to-justice programs. Justice of peace and conflict mediator training programs have been funded in Colombia, Peru and Venezuela. The Endowment also supports, through the Asociación Civil Primer Justicia, a Venezuelan television program that explains recent judicial reforms and how to gain access to the legal system.
A variety of NED-supported programs promote government transparency and efficiency. Fundación Espiril, a Colombian NGO, has received Endowment support to promote the implementation of resolutions from the 1991 constitution that would allow citizen monitoring of municipal budgets and public services. In Venezuela, Centro al Servicio de la Acción Popular organized similar monitoring activities through a series of candidate forums with local politicians during the 1998 campaigns. IRI has supported a Nicaraguan NGO, Hagamos Democracia, and its efforts to improve constituency relations with Nicaragua’s national legislators. CIPE has supported legislative advocacy programs in Mexico, Haiti, Venezuela and Paraguay, to promote analysis and discussion of legislation concerning economic reform in those countries.
The Endowment supports several anti-corruption initiatives in the region. NDI complemented its regional anti-corruption activities with a project in Paraguay that included a radio media campaign and a program to teach local officials how to combat corruption. In Ecuador, CIPE supports a comprehensive analysis of state corruption, covering current legal statutes, procurement procedures and customs, and recommends specific reform measures; recommendations by CIPE and the National Association of Entrepreneurs were recently incorporated into Ecuador’s national constitution.
V. THE MIDDLE EAST & NORTHERN AFRICA
Facing obstacles from both repressive government actions and anti-democratic opposition forces, NED-funded activists have sought to popularize democratic values, strengthen civil society, and protect press freedoms. In Algeria, where continued political unrest and tightening government restrictions make it increasingly difficult for NGOs to operate, one organization has succeeded in involving thousands of young Algerians throughout the country in peaceful and educational activities. Rally for Youth Action (RAJ) has carried out dozens of activities, ranging from peace rallies to human rights awareness campaigns. RAJ provides alienated and marginalized Algerian youth a vehicle for self-expression and a sense of inclusion in a civil society, even during times of severe violence and terror.
In neighboring Morocco, the Endowment has supported groups promoting women’s political participation, the institutional capacity building of NGOs and publications on such topics as Islam, modernization, and democracy. One of these groups, NetRAC, is a newly-established network of several dozen civic organizations spread throughout the country. NetRAC seeks to strengthen the role and effectiveness of NGOs through information-sharing, the exchange of ideas and experiences, and stronger linkages. The publication Prologues, a literary review published in both Arabic and French, exposes Muslims to the plurality of ideas and concepts debated internationally, and prints articles on Islam, democracy and modernization.
In response to Egypt‘s draft law imposing greater government control over associations, three NED grantees mobilized dozens of democratic activists, parliamentary deputies, researchers, and the media in an effort to confront the government and demand that civil associations be included in any discussion of the law. Similarly, in Jordan, the passage of new restrictive legislation targeting the freedom of the press and media prompted two NED grantees to organize an educational and outreach campaign bringing together journalists, parliamentarians, lawyers, and other activists to draw attention to the issue. These campaigns became important landmarks in holding back both governments from imposing further restrictions.
Contributing to the struggle for accountability in Lebanon, the Lebanese Foundation for Permanent Civil Peace (LFPCP) received NED support for a project which seeks to make public services more accessible to citizens and strengthens accountability of public officials responsible for administering public services. Based on the Foundation’s recommendations, several public information offices were established in ministries and universities. NED support has also been provided to groups educating the Lebanese people about their rights and obligations as citizens and promoting an understanding of rights.
Palestinian democrats in the West Bank and Gaza have persisted in their efforts to disseminate democratic values. One such NED-supported effort is the Palestinian Center for Helping to Resolve Community Disputes, established with assistance from Search for Common Ground. The Center conducts workshops and training sessions in the Gaza community to raise awareness of conflict resolution as a means for resolving problems and reducing violence. The Endowment also provides support to Palestinian youth and women’s organizations working to consolidate civil society.
In Turkey, NED has supported initiatives which encourage respect for the rights of women and ethnic minorities, and promote better governance and democratization within political parties. A good example is the Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly, which encourages civic participation by raising the profile of NGOs throughout the country.
VI. NEW INDEPENDENT STATES OF THE FORMER SOVIET UNION
NED programs continue to support the emergence of civil society throughout the region, funding numerous human rights, rule of law, civic education, and NGO development projects in an effort to maintain a vibrant third sector. Last year the Endowment paid particular attention to the development of regional human rights groups, including NED-supported local groups in Nizhnii Tagil, Snezhinsk, Kazan, Irkutsk, Ekaterinburg and Saratov. The Endowment supported both a small grants program by the Human Rights Foundation for Civil Society for regional human rights groups, and efforts by the Union of Councils and the Moscow Helsinki Group to help establish regional human rights commissions in five provincial cities.
Another major area of NED activity in the Russian Federation is civic education. NED provides renewed support for the Development Through Education Foundation in Togliatti, which has conducted a series of seminars for local civic education teachers. The Youth Center for Human Rights and Legal Culture also received additional Endowment funding to develop alternative human rights curricula for secondary schools, and the Russian Association of Civic Educators was awarded a grant to conduct the third annual Civics Olympiad.
An assessment by an independent evaluator of six organizations in Russia that received support from NED to promote civic education during the period from 1994 to 1997 concluded,
“It is already clear that many of these projects have begun to contribute to the growth of democratic values and practices among Russian educators andstudents. More specifically, the NED-supported grantees have pioneered new approaches to teaching about citizens’ legal rights and human rights, have created new teaching methods for cultivating attitudes of tolerance and mutual respect, and have developed extensive materials to teach citizens and students about the institutions and practices of Russian democracy.”
We will be happy to share copies of the full evaluation with members of the subcommittee.
ACILS continued to focus on Russia’s wage arrears, the widespread non-payment of wages, which increased by 54.6 percent from January 1 to August 1, 1998. ACILS programs taught Russian trade unions and workers how to protect their rights, get to the negotiating table, and address the serious issues confronting workers today, including trade union education, public interest legal clinics, and a thematic program devoted to resolving the wage arrears crisis.
For the pivotal elections in Ukraine last March, NED programs supported several election initiatives: IRI sent a 15-member delegation to Ukraine to monitor the electoral, voting, and counting processes in 11 districts; the Kharkiv Center for Women’s Studies helped prepare women candidates for the elections; and the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America developed a series of commercials aimed at increasing voter participation among young people. NED funds also supported an innovative television program, Five on Five, which provided a forum for Ukrainian political parties to debate and advocate their views before a national audience.
In Belarus, despite the regime’s flagrant attacks against the democratic opposition and virtually all elements of civil society, the country’s third sector continued to grow, and the Endowment, one of the leading funders of democracy projects there, provided considerable support to regional NGOs and the independent press. NED funds critical cross-border support to Belarusian democrats from neighboring East European countries. Belarusian journalists, for example, have received practical training through internships at Polish newspapers, publishing houses and radio and television stations. CIPE has teamed with the Independent Institute for Socio-Economic and Political Studies, a media research organization, and the Factory of Information Technologies, the producer of an economic television program, to challenge the Belarusian government’s monopoly on information and media.
NED funding in the southern Caucasus region of Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan reflects the diverse concerns of this volatile region: the Azerbaijan Fund for Democracy Development has continued, through its educational and advocacy programs, to promote greater public awareness of democratic processes; the A.D. Sakharov Armenian Foundation for the Protection of Human Rights promotes human rights concerns by advocating, among other things, the legal rights of the country’s refugees; the INAM Center for Pluralism offers political education seminars to regional party activists in Azerbaijan; and the Association of Women with University Education fosters civic activism among Armenian women through its network of 22 regional centers.
Work with young people, particularly through civic education programs, has been a major focus in Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakstan. For example, the Ilim School fosters greater community and parental involvement in the Kazakstan educational system, while the Tashkent Public Education Center trains teachers who conduct civic education seminars in various parts of Uzbekistan. Environmental groups have been another focus of NED funding, particularly in countries with extremely repressive governments. By providing assistance to the Dashkovuz Ecological Club, NED has became one of the few Western organizations supporting programs in Turkmenistan.
Leveraging our Resources
Mr. Chairman, it is clear from this program summary just how vast are the needs of democrats around the world. The challenge for us is how to serve these growing needs with limited resources. One way in which we leverage our funding is by encouraging those with whom we work to supplement their NED grants with funding (including in-kind contributions) from other sources. This is often achieved by helping them cultivate contacts with the private sector and the growing number of counterpart democracy foundation organizations. I am pleased to report that in Fiscal Year 1998, our grantees raised over $.80 for every NED dollar, the highest amount since we began compiling these figures six years ago.
Another way is to engage the private sector, including individuals, foundations, and the business community in the work of promoting democracy. This was encouraged by Mr. Lantos when I appeared before this subcommittee several years ago. I am pleased to report that with a generous contribution from one of our Board members, we have been able to hire a professional and to begin a modest development program. Developing private sources, of course, takes much patience, but we believe that the importance of engaging the private sector will allow us not only to leverage our public funding but also to promote outreach to new and important constituencies.
For example, this past October, with a grant from the American Standard Companies, we were able to sponsor a pathbreaking conference in Bulgaria on government transparency and accountability, making use of the expertise provided by the Center for Liberal Strategies, an Endowment grantee. Not only did American Standard provide the funding, it also participated actively in the conference, demonstrating how a partnership between a government with reformist intentions, a think tank, and the corporate sector can help develop strategies to improve governing institutions.
It was the challenge of how the Endowment can remain a dynamic center globally for the promotion of democracy within the context of limited resources that led our Board to adopt a new strategic plan two years ago. The plan that was adopted called for creative ways to make the best use of our resources: first, by developing regional and inter-regional networks to multiply the impact of individual grants; second, by encouraging the establishment of counterpart organizations to promote democracy; and third, by bringing together donor groups with one another and with potential grantees, democratic practitioners and scholars to coordinate work and to develop joint initiatives.
The conference last week in New Delhi is the culmination of our effort to incorporate all of these strategies into our work. As the founding document of the World Movement for Democracy states,
“The continued durability and dynamism of democracy globally requires a worldwide community of democrats–leading figures from politics, associational life, business, trade unions, the mass media, academia, and policy analysis organizations from all regions who are united by shared democratic values and a commitment to mutual support and solidarity.”
[Founding Statement as Adopted by the New Delhi Conference, February 17, 1999]
The most valuable aspect of the conference were the workshops which we hope will result in the creation of networks of NGO’s, democracy think tanks, anti-corruption groups, trade unionists, party organizers, business organizations, and democracy assistance foundations. These groups have already begun to develop their own joint initiatives that will all come under the umbrella of the world movement.
One very exciting aspect of this work will be its use of communications technology to enable these networks both to work together effectively and to relate their work more broadly to the world movement. Indeed, it is the technological advances of the past decade and their remarkable diffusion to all parts of the world that has made the coordination required for such a global undertaking possible.
At the Endowment, we have developed mostly with private funding a Democracy Resource Center (DemocracyNet) that we hope to expand to help meet the needs of this movement. The Center currently serves as an international clearinghouse for democracy, including information about the grants awarded by democracy assistance foundations. The website, www.ned.org, houses websites of numerous grassroots organizations with whom we have grant relationships, and as pointed out earlier, we have begun to train these organizations on how to set up their own websites.
In an extraordinary presentation at the conference in New Delhi, one of the principals of Radio B-92, the independent station based in Belgrade, described how it has made use of the latest technology to effectively end the Milosevic regime’s information monopoly:
“The Internet became vital to us when Radio B-92 was banned in December 1996. We had been reporting professionally on the peaceful mass demonstrations over local election fraud. This was why the authorities banned the station without even bothering to provide a legal justification. The ban lasted only 51 hours, primarily because we resorted to the Internet.
“Even more important was the fact that we continued to produce our programs, which were distributed worldwide on the Internet in RealAudio format. Our colleagues from the VOA, the BBC, Radio Free Europe and Deutsche Welle picked up our signal and rebroadcast our news programs. In those few days more people than ever before were listening to our programs. This rendered the ban meaningless and couterproductive. Many newspapers reported that the Internet saved the demonstrations in Serbia.”
Another conference participant, who serves as director of the Civic Development International Center and the director of the National Library of Georgia, shared his experiences in establishing a grass-roots Internet system in that country, which services its 2,000 non-governmental organizations. Technology clearly will have an increasing role to play in the furtherance of democracy, and the Endowment looks forward to helping democratic activists harness its great potential.
Mr. Chairman, before I close I would like to say a word about our system for maintaining financial accountability. As you know, this subject has been raised by Members of Congress over the years, and we have always maintained how much of a priority it is for us. I am proud to report that the audit report of the State Department’s Inspector General (IG) for the years 1994-6 has found NO questioned costs related to the management of the Endowment’s grants. We believe that this is particularly noteworthy, considering that NED issued nearly 650 grants over this three-year period. One of the IG’s two recommendations has already been implemented by the Endowment and the other is currently being implemented.
Significantly, the IG has requested copies of NED’s internal control procedures to be used as a model for other grant-making organizations to follow. In addition, the Association of Private Volunteer Organization Financial Managers requested that the Endowment present its procedures at a workshop attended by 60 financial managers.
While we are delighted that the hard work we have put into this function is being recognized by others, we know how important it is that the progress we have made be maintained, and intend to keep you informed about our grant management procedures.
In conclusion, the Endowment has a large agenda ahead of it, managing a growing grants program and helping to leverage the assistance we provide by linking those who receive it with those who are working in one way or another to promote and strengthen democracy. We will continue to look to the Congress, and especially the subcommittee, for your ideas as well as your support, and look forward to maintaining this productive relationship.