Bipartisan Statement on Funding Democracy and Accountable Governance
Why Promoting Democracy is Smart and Right
A freer and more democratic world helps create a virtuous circle of improved security, stronger economic growth, and durable alliances—all of which better serve the long-term interests of the United States. Accountable, effective, and democratic governments make better and more reliable trading partners and provide the cornerstones of international stability. Given their modest scale and numerous benefits, America’s official investments in promoting democracy and governance abroad deserve to be sustained even as we deal with very real budget challenges in this current era of fiscal austerity.
Because of their benefits to and strong reflection of America’s longest-standing values, international democracy and governance programs have historically enjoyed bipartisan support. In the past decade, however, this support has undergone strain in the wake of the war in Iraq. Given the recent democratic openings in the Middle East, Africa, and Southeast Asia, however, we are again reminded of the value of people-driven programs to assist civil society and accountable governance. Assistance from the United States and others in the international community is an important tool in helping countries to achieve their own aspirations for more representative governance.
As Nobel Prize-winning economist Amartya Sen and others have noted, economic and political freedoms are mutually reinforcing, and broader democratic promotion can have a powerful effect in making overall development efforts more effective. A number of important studies further substantiate the central importance of political freedom and good governance in promoting long-term economic prosperity while advancing U.S. priorities.
A variety of countries are seeking to transition to democracy and are actively seeking America’s help to establish free media; attack corruption; manage public resources effectively; establish property rights; protect the rights of individuals, religious groups, and minorities; ensure the right to petition their elected officials; organize political campaigns; ensure free and fair elections; and establish think tanks. Other newer democracies are trying to deliver on the promise of democracy by governing justly and in ways that promote meaningful economic opportunities and growth. If they fail, the cause of democracy will be set back, and we will live in a darker world. Women, minority, and religious groups are seeking our help to ensure that their voices are heard. Finally, there are a number of countries that continue to repress their own citizens in ways that are almost unthinkable in the 21st century. We need to work with labor unions, church groups, civil society organizations, the private sector, dissident groups, and diasporas to ensure that positive change happens and that societies can create governments that are responsive, accountable, and respectful of human rights.
As we move forward under a second Obama administration, there is an opportunity to reincorporate democracy and governance into the development dialogue in a more central way, and we look forward to helping to do so. Promoting free and accountable governance is both morally and substantively imperative. We, the undersigned, fully support a responsible approach to America’s budget challenges that preserves our important and longstanding leadership in nurturing democracy around the globe. With continuing fiscal austerity all programs are at risk, but democracy and governance assistance should be protected in this process. These expenditures are not only good for the recipients, but they also support the American national interest as well.