Annual Democracy Report an Improvement This Year
Freedom House noted with interest the just-released report, Supporting Human Rights and Democracy: The U.S. Record 2005 - 2006, issued by the Department of State's Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor. The report is an improvement over previous iterations, but it still lacks a sense of clear U.S. strategy towards the expansion of freedom around the world, Freedom House said today.
The report describes U.S. government activities encouraging democratic growth around the world, and includes accounts of country-specific diplomatic statements and actions, trade policies, and embassy-level interventions, as well as formal "democracy promotion" program activities. However, the 272-page report provides no indication of how the $1.4 billion in democracy and governance work in fiscal year 2005 was actually allocated, nor does it provide any other indication of the Administration's strategic prioritization among countries, challenges and opportunities.
"The report is an improvement over previous iterations. It documents an impressive collection of programs and policies promoting democracy and human rights around the world," said Jennifer Windsor, executive director of Freedom House. "When one examines country allocation figures available from other parts of the U.S. government, however, it becomes apparent that the real winners are countries in crisis like Iraq and Afghanistan. U.S. programs still frequently fail to follow through with funding to those countries that are out of crisis but not yet fully democratic."
Democracy funding for programs in Africa in particular remains meager. As Freedom House highlighted during its March 29th conference, the continent still has more countries rated "not free" than "free," yet the region received only 14 percent of total U.S. funding for worldwide democracy programs last year.
Ms. Windsor pointed out other troubling trends. "We have already seen disturbing cuts to democracy programs in 2006. Funding for human rights programs in Central Asia have been cut, Latin American programs have had funding reduced, and even democracy programs in Iraq are facing serious cutbacks," she said.
Freedom House did note that U.S. programs and policies in some countries have been well-funded and unequivocal in their objectives. The Administration's push for competitive elections in 2005 in Egypt, for example, and its suspension of free trade talks with officials because of the imprisonment of an Egyptian democracy activist, have been commendable first steps towards a clear U.S. policy to promote democracy in that country.
In other countries, however, dialogue on the importance of democracy has not been matched by sufficient actions. Pakistan, for example, has not been criticized by the Administration for its conspicuously undemocratic behavior, and U.S. relations with Russia have not been significantly affected by the democratic deterioration that has occurred in that country.
Freedom House, an independent non-governmental organization that supports the expansion of freedom in the world, has monitored the political rights and civil liberties of countries around the world since 1972.
Freedom House is an independent watchdog organization that supports democratic change, monitors the status of freedom around the world, and advocates for democracy and human rights.