Supporting Malaysian aspirations for a more democratic society.

2018 - 2022


The May 2018 Malaysian national election sparked a wave of optimism because it demonstrated a rebuke of the patterns of governance from the previous 60 years—and a rejection of broader regional trends towards authoritarianism. Though the transition of power had been peaceful, ongoing support was needed to ensure the will of the people persisted. The U.S. Government remains deeply committed to supporting the political reforms taking place in the country, and continues to work with Malaysian counterparts to strengthen the country’s leadership role in the region.


USAID/OTI partnered with the Government of Malaysia, civil society, and other interested stakeholders to support Malaysians’ aspirations for a more democratic society. The program’s objectives were to:

  • Empower reformers within the Malaysian government to advance institutional, democratic change; and

  • Increase public engagement on issues of transparency, accountability, and freedom of expression.


  • USAID/OTI invested RM3.6 million (roughly US$867,000) in Malaysian government and non-government organizations (NGOs) that work to combat corruption. The Malaysia Anti Corruption Commission, the press, and other civic groups used these resources to close loopholes benefiting corrupt corporate executives, report on corrupt practices to the public, strengthen protections for whistleblowers, and increase transparency on government budgeting and procurement.

  • USAID/OTI partnered with local NGO Undi18 to organize a virtual parliamentary sitting to propose recommendations that addressed the economic and health crisis in Malaysia. 222 youth representatives debated at the event, showcasing the feasibility of a virtual parliamentary democracy during a pandemic.

  • USAID/OTI increased the ability of local actors to effectively advocate for reform. By engaging the arts, youth, and media, the program increased the number of voices calling for reform and strengthened advocacy platforms, deepening these organizations’ outreach efforts. In partnership with a wide range of civil society organizations, the program organized workshops on advocacy strategy, facilitated roundtable discussions on freedom of expression in universities, and supported digital art campaigns highlighting the value of open political discourse.