The United States, through USAID programming and advocacy, has long partnered with civil society and governments to strengthen democracies and respect for human rights and dignity around the world. In recent years, we have witnessed democratic decline and the rise of authoritarianism across the world, but the current moment presents an opportunity to reverse these trends. Now is the time for us—not just America but the world’s democracies, allies in the private sector, civil society, multilateral institutions, religious and diaspora communities, and all citizens—to unite.

To extend a revolution of dignity around the world, we must reinvent the playbook to strengthen global democracy. As part of the Summit for Democracy’s Presidential Initiative for Democratic Renewal, USAID launched a set of policy and foreign assistance efforts to expand and modernize how the U.S. bolsters democracy, defends human rights, and fights corruption abroad.

Partnerships for Democratic Development

Through a new effort launched in support of the Presidential Initiative for Democratic Renewal, USAID’s Partnerships for Democratic Development will deepen support to countries experiencing democratic openings. This support will extend beyond traditional democracy assistance, and seek to meet the local population’s most pressing material needs to help demonstrate that democracy can deliver tangible benefits. To do this, USAID will engage the government, private sector, civil society, and other citizens, listening to local voices to identify the most pressing local needs. USAID will partner with reformist governments to integrate democratic practices into development efforts–whether by aggressively rooting out corruption, ensuring inclusive local participation in major initiatives, or taking full account of the human rights of all populations affected by our efforts.

In return, partner governments will commit to deepen democratic reforms. We will proceed in a spirit of genuine partnership with both governments and citizens in these countries. We will also use our entire toolkit to help–not only programming, but our convening power, global partnerships and alliances, influence in multilateral fora, and ability to collaborate with other parts of the U.S. government.

Reporters Mutual

USAID is providing expertise and seed funding to launch Reporters Mutual, a global fund to shield investigative journalists from defamation lawsuits. The fund, which will be operational in 2023, will provide insurance to cover the cost of defending journalists and media organizations from vexatious lawsuits meant to silence their reporting.

Reporters Mutual also responds to evidence that investigative journalists are disproportionately vulnerable to lawsuits around the world, which makes them uninsurable in the commercial marketplace. This insurance fund is one of many USAID efforts supporting independent media and countering corruption around the world.

Advancing Digital Democracy (ADD) initiative

Although digital technologies have fostered tremendous benefits, technological innovation has often outpaced our ability to constrain potential harms, authoritarians have weaponized technology and data, and digital platforms and systems have become battlegrounds in the struggle for democracy. USAID’s Advancing Digital Democracy (ADD) will foster open, secure, and inclusive digital ecosystems that advance–rather than undermine–democratic values and human rights. ADD’s three pillars will:

  • Help governments fulfill their international human rights commitments and advance democratic values through legal and regulatory frameworks that constrain the use of technology for repression and foster the development and use of rights-respecting technology and data.
  • Increase investments in and demand for rights-respecting tech innovation by supporting software engineers, tech companies, and researchers to embed respect for human rights and democratic values into tech development, design and deployment; and
  • Support civil society, technologists, independent oversight bodies, and the general public to hold governments and companies accountable for protecting and respecting human rights and fostering democratic values across the digital ecosystem.

USAID will also partner with local governments, civil society, academia, and the private sector to help multi-stakeholder working groups build and strengthen linkages and dialogue across the digital ecosystem, and help stakeholders engage on difficult issues before they escalate.

Coalition for Securing Election Integrity

USAID and other development agencies have supported elections for decades, but authoritarians have grown increasingly clever in manipulation tactics. That is why since the first Summit for Democracy, we gathered the world’s leading organizations that support electoral integrity—both governmental and nongovernmental—to form a Coalition for Securing Election Integrity, which will promote a consistent set of norms for what constitutes a transparent, competitive, inclusive, and peaceful elections around the globe in 2022. USAID will draw from our new Defending Democratic Elections Fund to help our local partners promote elections that meet these standards–not just on election day, but throughout the cycle.

Dekleptification Guide

USAID has developed a Dekleptification Guide—a handbook to help partner countries that aim to dismantle kleptocratic structures in transition periods when political will for reform is very high. This guide, drawn from previous democratic openings in Romania, Dominican Republic, South Africa, and elsewhere, captures innovations and lessons learned by front-line reformers on how to root out corruption and implement strong transparency and accountability measures in historic windows of opportunity, making such reforms harder to reverse.

Presidential Initiative for Democratic Renewal Samantha Power