ADMINISTRATOR POWER: What we’ve tried to do at USAID is kind of step back and say, “Okay, just because we’ve promoted democracy in certain ways for all these years—given that we have this moment that’s been a protracted one—let’s step back and say, what do we need to do differently? What do the new coalitions need to look like? What does the toolkit need to look like?” I’ll just give a couple examples of what I think needs to be part of this toolkit in that roadmap.
One of the weapons of the autocratic and the authoritarian and the oligarch is the lawsuit. It isn’t just arrests and violence of the kind that we’ve seen for generations. It’s “let’s put a civil society organization out of business. Let’s put a small newspaper out of business, or a social media person who holds someone accountable.” And so we’ve created something, launched something called Reporters Shield, which is a fund to insure—to provide insurance to—those reporters and those civil society organizations that just can’t afford to insure themselves. That’s the structural advantage that a state has, that an oligarch has, is insurmountable for so many of these actors. That’s one example of a new tool. It is—what is the weapon of choice? Okay, let’s think about what is the way to combat that.
Second, I think we’ve in the past—and finally, I should say—we have used democracy assistance to support election monitors, to support independent media, civil societies where we should. We’ve focused less in thinking about promoting democracy on surging support that pays economic dividends when there is a reform opening. So that is the approach we are trying to see.
When you see the President of Zambia who was arrested, I think something like 15 times, and was barely allowed to campaign against the prior administration last month, getting rid of criminal defamation of the President for the first time. When you see the President of Moldova fighting corruption and pushing for judicial reform. When you see President Lasso in Ecuador—who I believe is here—trying to integrate 500,000 Venezuelan migrants in the way that he has done, but with elements that, you know, again, want to set back democratic progress, what are the things we can do in the economic space to support those political reform openings? And so I’ll just give one example there.
I think public private partnerships, given our audience, have to be at the heart of this. When there are bright spots, please, businesses take note. Just spend that extra time getting to know whether there’s an investment opportunity in countries that are doing hard things, that are fighting for more transparency, fighting those anti-democratic forces.
We are announcing today, actually, more support for something called the Global Alliance for Trade Facilitation that was developed in conjunction with the World Economic Forum. And that’s basically private sector actors coming forward and saying business is really hard to do in this country for these reasons. USAID, other development actors, governments, can you make it easier? Can you get rid of the sludge? Can you get rid of the paperwork? We are going to surge support to Ecuador, Tanzania, countries like that, that, again, are doing those hard things to try to facilitate trade and not merely, again, the classic toolkit for democracy promotion.