Administration Takes Strong First Step with Democracy Budget Request | Page 71 | Freedom House

Administration Takes Strong First Step with Democracy Budget Request

Washington
The Obama administration's first democracy assistance funding request signals a strong start which should be matched with an equally robust diplomatic push to support democracy and human rights activists worldwide, said Freedom House in a special report released today.

Making its Mark: An Analysis of the Obama Administration FY2010 Budget Request for Democracy and Human Rights, the fourth in a series of U.S. budget analyses from Freedom House, urges Congress to adopt the Obama administration's funding requests with several adjustments. The report applauds a $234 million increase in funding requested over last year, which is needed to address the democratic declines that a number of countries have experienced over the last three years.

"Freedom House is encouraged by the request to increase funding for democracy and human rights by nine percent at this critical time," said Jennifer Windsor, Freedom House executive director.  "We hope that it signals a commitment to place democracy and human rights on equal footing with other foreign policy priorities, such as diplomacy, defense and development."

Even at the increased levels, the $2.81 billion in democracy and human rights funding represents less than nine percent of the total foreign assistance funding request. Making its Mark identifies the following priorities: 

•         Bureau for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor: Freedom House is disappointed that the administration cut $9 million from this State Department office which has performed some of the most innovative democracy and human rights programming in recent years. Congress should restore funding during the appropriations process.

•         National Endowment for Democracy: Freedom House supports the NED model and that of its core grantees. The decision to slash NED's budget by $15 million is shortsighted and should be reversed by Congress.

•         Bureau for Democracy, Conflict and Humanitarian Affairs: Freedom House applauds the requested funding increase for this USAID bureau and hopes that the Office of Democracy and Governance receives enough resources and staffing to ensure that democracy and human rights are an integral part of USAID-managed development programs.

Freedom House recommends the following adjustments in country-specific funding:

•         Europe and Eurasia: Freedom House is concerned by the $14 million cut in funding to Georgia and urges Congress to restore funding to last year's level. A $2 million increase for Russia should be backed with a vigorous diplomatic effort to raise human rights and democracy issues at all levels of Russian society. Funding increases for fragile democracies Serbia and Ukraine are welcomed.

•         Sub-Saharan Africa: Freedom House applauds the 30 percent increase in democracy assistance for the region, including funding for Nigeria, Somalia, Sudan, Liberia and the Democratic Republic of Congo. However, the lack of support for human rights for Equatorial Guinea and the Republic of Congo (Brazzaville), two of the region's worst performers, should be reconsidered. Funding for Zimbabwe and Kenya should be maintained at fiscal year 2009 levels.

•         Near East: Recent cuts in funding for independent Egyptian civil society activists are deeply disappointing. Funding should be restored to the FY2008 level. Increases for the Middle East Partnership Initiative and the Near East Regional Democracy Fund should be maintained, as should increases in Lebanon, Yemen and Morocco. More funding is needed in Libya, Tunisia and Algeria to address human rights abuses.

•         South and Central Asia: Freedom House supports the high levels of funding for democracy programming in Afghanistan and Pakistan, which represent more than a third of the total democracy assistance request. Congress should appropriate additional funds to support reconciliation efforts in Sri Lanka following its civil war and to aid civil society activists in Nepal and Kazakhstan.

•         East Asia and the Pacific: Policymakers should remain committed to supporting democratic actors in China, the world's largest non-democracy, and in Burma, one of the world's most repressive regimes. Freedom House is encouraged by increased funding in Indonesia, Vietnam and the Philippines.

•         Western Hemisphere: Congress should provide no less than $2 million for human rights activities in Venezuela in the lead up to next year's parliamentary elections. Freedom House supports the decision to double Nicaragua's funding and maintain Cuba's current level. The nearly 200 percent increase in regional funding for the Merida Initiative— which Freedom House hopes will help address ongoing human rights concerns in Central America and Mexico—is a welcome addition.  

The entire Freedom House budget request analysis can be obtained by contacting Laura Ingalls at [email protected] or +1-202-747-7035 or by accessing the following link: www.freedomhouse.org/uploads/FY2010BudgetAnalysis.pdf

Freedom House, an independent nongovernmental organization that supports the expansion of freedom in the world, has been monitoring political rights and civil liberties worldwide since 1972.


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