Democracy, Human Rights and Governance

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Democratic governance and human rights are critical components of sustainable development and lasting peace. Countries with ineffective government institutions, rampant corruption, and weak rule of law have a 30-to-45 percent higher risk of civil war and a higher risk of extreme criminal violence than other developing countries.

Since the launch of our Democracy, Human rights, and Governance (DRG) strategy, USAID has been committed to integrating democracy programming throughout our core development work, focusing on strengthening and promoting human rights, access to justice, accountable and transparent governance, and an independent and politically active civil society across all our work. We approach these four goals of our DRG strategy by protecting and promoting human rights, ensuring the possibility for free and fair elections, combating disinformation, strengthening digital safety, both for new and traditional media, and incorporating rule of law and justice in our human rights programming.

Fundamental rights of citizens are the bedrock for managing and mitigating conflict, spurring economic growth, and protecting human dignity. Countries with democratic freedoms are more just, peaceful, and stable, and citizens can fulfill their potential. Through its democracy, human rights, and governance programs, the United States remains committed to protecting and advancing our most cherished values.

We focus on:

  • Democratic Governance - Building open, responsive, and accountable institutions and processes that serve the needs and preferences of the public.
  • Participation and Inclusion - Ensuring that all have the opportunity to participate and have a voice in how they will be governed.
  • Free and Fair Elections, Transparency, and Accountability - Promoting free, transparent, and fair political competition so that citizens’ preferences are represented.
  • Civil Society and Independent Media - Defending and promoting citizens’ civic and political rights.
  • Justice and Security - strengthening justice and security institutions, justice and security reforms, holding institutions and people accountable to the rule of law, and providing access to justice mechanisms.
  • Human Rights and Nondiscrimination - Supporting efforts to prevent human rights abuses, protect human rights defenders, and respond to human rights abuses.
  • Countering Resurgent Authoritarian Influence - Strengthening democratic and institutional resilience to tackle malign authoritarian influence, disinformation and digital authoritarianism.

To advance these goals, we launched the Center for Democracy, Human Rights and Governance (DRG Center) in 2012. The Center provides technical advice and support to USAID missions implementing programs in democracy, human rights and governance; generates and disseminates knowledge to build the evidence base for global advancement in the area; and elevates the role of DRG in key USAID, U.S. Government, and multilateral strategies. In 2013, the DRG Center launched its Strategy on Democracy, Human rights and Governance which elevated and integrated democracy human rights and governance into our broader programming

Our key accomplishments:

  • Since the Elections and Political Processes Fund was established in 2006, we have provided critical support to 86 countries or regions. This includes recent support for the following: democratic transitions in Bolivia, Ethiopia, and Sudan, including elections in Malawi; electoral adaptations to COVID-related challenges in Liberia, North Macedonia, and Serbia; strengthening the electoral information environment in Belarus, Democratic Republic of Congo, Kyrgyz Republic, and Nepal; promoting civic and political engagement by women, youth, and other traditionally marginalized groups in Mongolia and Nigeria; and supporting citizen election observation in Benin, Côte d’Ivoire, Dominican Republic, Ghana, and Guyana.
  • Since 2011, the Human Rights Grants Program has addressed urgent, unforeseen challenges or windows of opportunity related to human rights in 58 different countries. This includes support for human rights monitoring and documentation in South Sudan, assistance to transitional justice and accountability efforts in Ukraine, expanding access to justice in the Philippines, and helping government and non-government partners in Azerbaijan improve efforts to support survivors of trafficking-in-person.
  • The current five-year Global Labor Program (2016-2021) promotes labor rights and access to justice for workers. The program supports country programs in Cambodia, Bangladesh, Ukraine, Georgia, Morocco, Lesotho, South Africa, Colombia, Mexico, and regional programs in South Asia, Southeast Asia, the Middle East and North Africa, Southern Africa, and Latin America that cover activities in 31 countries. All program activities are designed to be inclusive of vulnerable populations, including women. Accordingly, activities often include grassroots training that address gender-based violence at work. Across country and regional programs, the Global Labor Program has adapted its interventions in recognition that the COVID-19 pandemic represents the greatest challenge this generation to vulnerable workers.

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Last updated: June 09, 2021

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