Freedom House Calls for More Resources to Counter Global Freedom Recession

Washington
Despite a record-setting $3.3 billion request for democracy assistance by the Obama administration in the FY 11 budget, increased threats and challenges to fundamental freedoms around the world require additional resources to adequately support democracy and human rights, according to a Freedom House special report released today.
 
The administration’s request is a 25% increase over last year; however, the majority of the increase is dedicated to Afghanistan, which represents over 40% of all funds requested for democracy and human rights. Additionally, this year reflects a continuation of the long-standing practice of the U.S. government to request large sums for countries in crisis.  
 
“Although Afghanistan and Pakistan are undoubtedly a priority, past experience demonstrates that large infusions of assistance will not be utilized effectively,” said Jennifer Windsor, Executive Director of Freedom House. “In the budget negotiation process, countries that are in the “vulnerable middle” but not on the front-pages get squeezed.”   
 
The FY11 request does include significant increases for a number of critical countries including Indonesia, Mali, Mexico, Serbia, Tanzania and Ukraine
 
Democracy and human rights funding represents only one-tenth of one percent of the total budget request for 2011. When Afghanistan and Pakistan are discounted, the request actually reflects a $27.7 million decrease globally compared to the FY 10 request. There is also a 14% decrease in spending levels for civil society
 
“Although strengthening state capacity is important, many governments around the world lack accountability and are responsible for hindering reform.   The U.S. must support those who are committed to change, namely civil society and other independent voices,” said Sarah Trister, author of the report. Windsor reinforced this point, “We are facing a global freedom recession. The pressures on civil society activists and restrictions on freedom of expression warrant a bold response by all democracies.   The U.S. should lead the way. They can start by rejecting demands by any government to ban U.S. aid or other international support to local activists and advocates for democracy and human rights.”
 
Under the Obama Administration, the U.S. government acquiesced to demands from Egypt and Bolivia to eliminate all funding for independent civil society.   The FY11 request zeroes out all democracy and human rights assistance to Bolivia, and continues the policy of restricting U.S. assistance to groups to those that receive the approval of the Egyptian government.
 
To view the full report, click here.
 
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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.

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