Today, Administrator Power delivered a speech at an event held at the National Press Club and co-hosted by Freedom House. A full transcript and video of her address, titled “A Global Revolution of Dignity,” are available here.
A Key Moment for Democracy
Power presented a sweeping argument that despite years-long trends of democratic backsliding and rising autocracies, we are at a critical moment for the United States and fellow supporters of democracy around the world to unite in the pursuit of a freer, more prosperous world. She pointed to examples like Putin’s brutal war on Ukraine and the People’s Republic of China’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic to underscore that today, history is revealing that autocracies are weaker, less capable and less able to deliver for their people than democracies.
“Now, in this moment again, a key moment, a moment of profound weakness for the world’s illiberal forces, America and all who share our values—the world’s democracies, allies in the private sector, civil society, multilateral institutions, religious and diaspora communities, everyday citizens—all of us must build on the unity that we have demonstrated in Ukraine to try to extend a broader revolution of dignity to people seeking to be free.”
“We call on all who share our values here, in the United States and all over the world, to join us. To extend a revolution of dignity throughout the world. In order to do so, we must cement progress in democratic bright spots that are out there right now, help people fight digital authoritarianism, empower changemakers and help them build coalitions in places where the prospect for freedom has dimmed, and shine a light on the oligarchs and autocrats who hide their ill-gotten gains in dark corners.”
Reinventing the Playbook to Strengthen Global Democracy and Support Democratic Bright Spots
Power spoke about the need to continue to foster the infrastructure of democracy—a free press, civil society, political parties, and universities. This is the foundation of democracy assistance as we know it. But she also made clear that as illiberal forces use new tools and technologies to spread their influence, we need to supplement these traditional approaches to democracy assistance. We need to reinvent our playbook. She spoke about the need to prioritize support for democratic bright spots that will assist leaders in providing immediate tangible benefits that people will feel in their everyday lives.
“If the United States is to lend a helping hand to those on the frontlines of freedom around the world at what could be an inflection point remembered years from now, we also must reimagine our approach to supporting democracy.”
“We must prioritize actions that can quickly offer support to bright spots, be it financial investment, technical assistance, or favorable policy reforms we ourselves can undertake across the US government, or across international or multilateral institutions.”
“If we are to expand the circle of people living under democratic rule, then we and our democratic partners have to do all we can to secure what are often exceedingly fragile, and sometimes fleeting transitions to freedom. Traditionally, we’ve responded to these bright spots with democracy assistance. But what a democratic bright spot may most desperately need is debt relief, shipments of wheat or vaccines, support for a more robust social safety net, particularly amid economic reforms, or even just an infusion of bureaucratic expertise so that citizens have access to basic services— these are moves that would quickly deliver tangible benefits to everyday people.”
“To turn a bright spot into that enduring beacon that we all wish to see, we must elevate the challenges and opportunities of these countries to the highest levels of other democratic governments. We have to together focus on delivering progress, not just executing development programs. We must use the policy levers at our disposal and bring together the private sector, foundations, and philanthropic actors to increase investment that can generate new and visible opportunities for citizens.”
Building on Our Commitments
Power built on commitments made in December of last year, at President Biden’s first-ever Summit for Democracy, where the United States called on the free world to transform what it means to fight for our values on the global stage. Since then, the US Government and USAID have worked to deliver on that transformation through the Summit for Democracy’s Presidential Initiative for Democratic Renewal.
The initiatives highlighted in Power’s remarks focus on cementing progress in democratic bright spots, empowering changemakers and helping them build effective coalitions, and delivering concrete dividends to improve peoples’ lives.
- Partnerships for Democratic Development: 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.
- 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 liability coverage to cover the cost of defending journalists, civil society activists, and their organizations from defamation, libel, and other vexatious lawsuits meant to silence their reporting.
- Advancing Digital Democracy (ADD) initiative: USAID’s Advancing Digital Democracy will foster open, secure, and inclusive digital ecosystems that advance–rather than undermine–democratic values and human rights. ADD’s will:
- 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.
- Coalition for Securing Election Integrity: USAID and the world’s leading organizations that support electoral integrity—both governmental and nongovernmental—have convened 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 the new Defending Democratic Elections Fund to help 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 countries transition towards democracy. This guide provides technical advice to reformers on how to root out corruption and effectively implement transparency and accountability measures in historic windows of opportunity, making such reforms harder to reverse.