The below is attributable to Acting Spokesperson Pooja Jhunjhunwala:
On Thursday, May 13, 2021, USAID Administrator Samantha Power held two sessions aimed at promoting the work of activists and journalists confronting human rights abuses, fighting democratic backsliding, and exposing corruption as governments use the COVID-19 pandemic as an excuse to suppress dissent and tighten their grip on power.
In the morning, Administrator Power hosted a private conversation with activists Jackline Nasiwa, from South Sudan; Maja Stojanovic, Executive Director of Civic Initiatives, from Serbia; Ken Abante, Co-Head of WeSolve, from the Philippines; David Riveros, Executive Director of reAcción, from Paraguay; Asala Mdawkhi, Project Coordinator with Damj, the Tunisian Association for Justice and Equality; and Gift Trapence, Chairperson of the Human Rights Defenders Coalition, from Malawi. The Administrator commended the courageous actions the activists have taken to mitigate their governments’ actions to restrict human rights and fundamental freedoms under the cover of the COVID-19 pandemic. They discussed actions showing success in protecting rights and promoting transparency despite the governance challenges the pandemic poses. The Administrator reaffirmed U.S. commitment to advancing democracy and human rights in the face of new and existing threats.
In the afternoon, Administrator Power met privately with four journalists from the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project who shared their stories and experiences in uncovering and reporting on corruption around the world. The Administrator noted that corruption both undermines sustainable development and fuels insecurity and authoritarianism, and acknowledged the very real challenges and barriers faced by investigative journalists. The Administrator commended the vital work of investigative journalists who risk everything to expose corruption and inform the public and echoed the commitment of the Biden-Harris Administration to supporting truth-tellers in their fight against corruption.
In both sessions, the Administrator stressed the vital role of civil society and media actors in demanding transparency and ensuring accountability. In a world confronting both a deepening global democratic recession and increasingly globalized corruption, Administrator Power reaffirmed USAID’s support for strong and prosperous democracies, recognizing the vital role that citizen activists and journalists play in safeguarding democracy in their respective countries.