For Immediate Release
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Agency for International Development recently released its new Strategy on Democracy, Human Rights and Governance. The strategy’s overarching goal is to support the establishment and strengthening of inclusive and accountable democracies to advance freedom, dignity and development around the globe.
“Over the past 20 years, we have made significant and lasting contributions to democratic progress around the globe,” said USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah. He added: “Yet at the same time, we have seen the global trend toward democratic governance slide backwards in some regions. Today we are working to address these challenges through the use of innovation and partnership.”
The strategy reaffirms and reinvigorates USAID’s two decades of leadership in the field of democracy, human rights and governance. Since the early 1990s USAID has promoted political freedom as an integral part of development, supporting both the democratic participation of citizens and the democratic accountability of governments. The new strategy highlights the centrality of participation and accountability to the achievement of human rights and democratic governance.
As the largest bilateral donor for global democracy, human rights and governance programs, USAID has a long history of supporting human rights throughout its development work. However, for the first time, USAID is elevating human rights as a key objective in its development approach and emphasizing the core rights pertaining to the security of the person as well as the expansion of rights to women, persons with disabilities, LGBT persons, indigenous persons, and ethnic and religious minorities.
The strategy recognizes that democracy, human rights and governance serve as a foundation for all aspects of development, from the prevention of conflict to the advancement of social and economic progress. Indeed, to achieve President Barack Obama’s goal of eliminating extreme poverty in the next two decades, USAID is working to address the underlying causes of such poverty: the denial of rights, weak and corrupt institutions, political and economic exclusion, and the absence of participation and accountability in governance. Therefore USAID will work with its field-based missions and partner organizations to integrate participation, accountability and rights across all its development sectors—including health, food security, climate change and economic growth.
USAID’s new strategy is being introduced at a complex moment in global affairs: the Arab Awakening and Burma’s historic transition proceed alongside a continuing democratic recession. According to Freedom House, freedom in the world has declined for seven straight years. As part of this negative trend, civil society organizations in many countries are facing increasingly hostile governments that have imposed laws and regulations constraining the fundamental freedoms of speech, association and assembly.
In its new Strategy on Democracy, Human Rights and Governance, USAID commits to supporting civil society in restrictive countries. Through this strategy, and initiatives such as the Grand Challenge for Development Making All Voices Count, USAID is leveraging technology in its democracy, human rights and governance work, tapping mobile phones, web technologies and social networks to enable citizens to be heard and governments to respond.
USAID is one part of a multifaceted U.S. Government effort to protect human rights and promote democratic governance. Therefore USAID will implement its new strategy by coordinating closely with other U.S. agencies, recognizing that support for democracy, human rights and governance is vital to the achievement of U.S. national security.
Last updated: February 21, 2014