Investing in Freedom: Democracy Support in the U.S. Budget | Freedom House

Investing in Freedom: Democracy Support in the U.S. Budget

In a new report, Investing in Freedom: Democracy Support in the U.S. Budget, Freedom House examines the President’s FY 2014 request for democracy and human rights activities and urges Congress to fully fund the international affairs budget to support the achievement of strategic U.S. foreign policy goals.

by Sarah Trister
Manager of Congressional Affairs

Download a PDF version of the report


The U.S. Congress should fully fund the administration’s $47.8 billion request for base international affairs for Fiscal Year (FY) 2014.[1] This request represents a 6% reduction from FY 12 funding levels and a 14% reduction from the FY 13 request, reflecting the difficult budget environment that lawmakers currently face.[2] The foreign affairs budget, which represents less than 1% of the annual U.S. budget, provides an invaluable set of tools for advancing U.S. foreign policy interests. The relatively modest investments that fall under the international affairs budget bear great returns, as the American government helps develop stable, democratic partners that cooperate on trade, security, immigration, and economic issues. Amid weariness among the American people with military engagement overseas, diplomacy is an inherently less costly means of advancing interests.  

In repressive countries, the smallest amount of U.S. assistance can bring hope and provide a lifeline to those who face imprisonment, torture, or even death for speaking out in support of freedom, while helping to engender the next generation of potential leaders. Recent developments in the Middle East, Russia, Burma and elsewhere show the importance of robust, strategic, and flexible funding for the United States to respond effectively to quickly changing situations on the ground and continue to play a leadership role in the international community.

The budget plans produced by the House and Senate for FY 14 differ greatly from one another and from the President’s request. The House Republican budget resolution would fund international affairs at $38.7 billion for FY 14, 20% less than the President’s request, and a staggering 29% less than the FY 12 actual numbers.[3] Cuts of that magnitude would have a devastating effect on the ability of the State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to carry out their diplomatic work and assistance programs. While it is important at present for every federal agency to eliminate redundancies, streamline operations, and reevaluate priorities, such sweeping cuts to an already miniscule budget would do great and needless harm.  The Senate budget resolution proposes $45.6 billion in base international affairs funding.

Funding for Democracy and Human Rights represents 9% of the total request for foreign assistance for FY 14, less than 1/10th of 1% of the total U.S. budget. The administration’s proposal will support important initiatives that protect and promote democracy, rule of law, and human rights, including:

  • Flexible funding to support democratic change in the Middle East through a Middle East and North Africa Incentive Fund.
  • Increased funding for priority regions, including Asia and Africa.
  • Robust funding for priority countries and territories including Afghanistan, Mexico, South Sudan, the West Bank and Gaza, and Burma.

Increases in some areas are balanced by decreases in others, including:

  • The elimination of the Assistance for Europe, Eurasia, and Central Asia Account (AEECA) and decreases in the Europe and Eurasia region overall.
  • Large decreases in democracy funding for Iraq and Pakistan.
  • Regional and country-level decreases in the Western Hemisphere and in South and Central Asia.

While the administration understandably has had to make difficult tradeoffs to reach budget goals, there are some areas where decreased funding would be harmful to achieving U.S. strategic policy goals and Congress can provide additional support:

  • Congress should fund the State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor (DRL) and USAID's Bureau of Democracy, Conflict, and Humanitarian Assistance (DCHA) at the FY 12 levels. These two bureaus provide leadership within their agencies on democracy and human rights policy and require adequate resources to continue doing so.
  • Congress should allow the administration to meet the United States’ assessed obligations to the United Nations for FY14.  Moreover, Congress should reinstate funding for the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), which supports many cultural, social, and educational programs in line with the U.S.’s own values.
  • The administration must work with Congress to identify innovative ways to support civil society in countries with difficult operating environments, including Russia, Bolivia, Egypt, and Ethiopia.

Robust funding for international affairs in FY 14 will give America’s diplomats the tools they need to advance U.S. interests abroad and maintain the United States’ role as a global leader. Such funding alone is not enough, however. The administration must match a strong budget with clear policy decisions and a consistently forceful message, communicated both publicly and privately, that democracy and human rights are of the utmost importance to the United States.

This report summarizes the most notable requests, changes, and new developments within the administration’s democracy and human rights budget for FY14. It also offers policy recommendations and suggestions for budget adjustments to better align funding allocations with U.S. interests.

Funding for Democracy and Human Rights

The President’s request for democracy and human rights funding in FY 14, found under the heading  Governing Justly and Democratically (GJD), totals $2.87 billion, roughly the same as allocated for FY 12 and requested for FY 13.[4]  Governing Justly and Democratically is consistently one of the smallest objective areas within the foreign assistance budget, but much can be achieved with modest amounts in this category.

Since the days of the Marshall Plan, the United States has used assistance, diplomacy, and policy to encourage the development of democratic allies and promote the protection of human rights in countries around the world. Activists face severe repression in many countries; programs to support them are often difficult or dangerous, and may be outright opposed by foreign governments. The United States continues these programs because there is a strong demand by people of various nationalities, religions, genders, and ethnicities to receive U.S. support for their efforts to exercise their fundamental human rights, live free of persecution, and participate in democratic processes.

However funding alone, though necessary, is not enough. Assistance must be matched by smart policy and diplomacy. 

The Obama administration has struggled to synchronize its public statements in support of human rights and democracy with strong policy decisions in difficult cases. There is a growing trend around the world of authoritarian-minded governments cracking down on civil society and pushing back against American efforts to support democracy and human rights. Recently, USAID was thrown out of both Russia and Bolivia, with few, if any, repercussions or public protests by the American government. The United States continues to provide millions of dollars in military aid to countries such as Bahrain, Egypt, and Ethiopia, even as these governments commit serious human rights abuses and criminalize civil society activity.  The June conviction of 43 NGO workers in Egypt, including 17 Americans, elicited only a muted response from the U.S. government, which had quietly waived conditionality requirements on aid to Egypt just weeks before the verdict was issued.

The citizen movements of the Arab Spring offered President Obama a chance to embrace democracy and human rights as a legacy for his presidency. He has publicly indicated support for democratic change, as in a statement on July 3, 2013: “As I have said since the Egyptian Revolution the United States supports a set of core principles, including opposition to violence, protection of universal human rights, and reform that meets the legitimate aspirations of the people.” However, the reality of his policies has left many disappointed, as abuses have mounted in Syria, Egypt, and Bahrain with little change in U.S. policy. Yet there remain real opportunities for progress, should Congress and the administration prove willing to make a commitment to policies and budgets that support democracy and human rights even in the face of competing interests. Advances towards democracy in Tunisia, Libya, and Burma are significant and have the potential to lead to profound change. The U.S. should do all it can to fortify these encouraging developments and help consolidate democratic progress in these countries and elsewhere. At the same time, the U.S. can’t shy away from supporting democratic values in more challenging political environments such as Egypt, Russia, China, Bahrain, and Ethiopia.

GJD program areas include rule of law and human rights, good governance, political competition and consensus building, and civil society. At a time when repressive governments around the world have carried out an increasingly targeted crackdown against NGOs, activities that support civil society organizations have decreased from 21% of the GJD budget in 2012 to 19% of the FY14 request. It is vital that the United States and the international community support freedom of association and provide assistance for civil society activities through funding, support for multilateral institutions, and through public statements consistent with these ideals.

Frequently, requests for GJD funding in a given country go up significantly before its elections. Though support for elections is critical, it must be part of a consistent structure that strengthens democratic institutions and protects human rights, helping to ensure that countries continue to make progress and consolidate democratic gains beyond the initial step of an election.

Afghanistan, the top recipient of GJD funding in the request, receives a full 50% of the total funds. The next four recipients, Mexico, Pakistan, South Sudan, and the West Bank and Gaza, receive a further 16% among them. Every other country in the world is left to compete for what remains. While the case for GJD funding in these five countries is strong, Congress should examine closely whether such large investments can be absorbed effectively and ensure that money spent in these countries is having the desired results.

The State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor (DRL) and USAID’s Bureau of Democracy, Conflict, and Humanitarian Assistance (DCHA) lead the administration’s democracy and human rights agenda. These bureaus should be funded at their FY 12 levels to ensure that democracy and human rights issues have strong advocates within the State Department and USAID. DCHA furthermore houses the Complex Crisis and Conflict Mitigation funds, which allow the administration to respond flexibly when conflicts escalate to prevent widespread human rights abuses.

Policy Issues

The appropriations process offers lawmakers a chance to provide guidance on American foreign policy issues and to set requirements governing the disbursement of foreign aid. Congress should consider the following policy issues in the FY 2014 bills:

Egypt funding: Any continued funding for Egypt should be made conditional on an inclusive and transparent constitution-writing process; the organization of parliamentary and presidential elections; a specific timetable for the transfer of power from the military to an elected government; and on the protection of human rights, including amnesty for the 43 NGO workers convicted in a politically-motivated case in June, including seven from Freedom House. The Obama administration was reluctant to push these issues with either the military regime that ruled after the revolution of 2011 or with President Mohammad Morsi following his election, a policy which contributed to the current crisis.  It is time to reevaluate the Egyptian-American relationship with the aim of ensuring that U.S. assistance is contributing to a truly democratic transition.

Support for Civil Society: As outlined in a July 2013 Freedom House report, Resisting the Global Crackdown on Civil Society, the last few years have seen a growing trend of authoritarian leaders repressing civil society. What happens in one country influences others; repressive governments are taking cues from one another in their quest to harass, censor, and otherwise stifle civil society activists. Countries such as Russia, Egypt, Azerbaijan, and Ethiopia have all used legislation and politicized justice systems to similar ends. Earlier this year Bolivian president Evo Morales followed Russia’s 2012 example in kicking out USAID. The United States should make clear that democracy and human rights activities, including unequivocal support for civil society, are a non-negotiable aspect of U.S. foreign assistance. Adherence to the Brownback Amendment, which stipulates that U.S. democracy assistance should not be subject to approval from or controlled by a foreign government, is vitally important to combat the crackdown against civil society. In countries with authoritarian tendencies, the U.S. should not rely excessively on government to government assistance, but invest in a strong civil society that can push back against repressive measures.

Internet Freedom: Repressive regimes have become savvy not only in blocking internet activities and controlling online content, but also in using internet and mobile communications to track, target, harass, and prosecute activists. The FY 2014 request includes $25 million for activities related to internet freedom through the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor ($18 million) and the Near East Regional Democracy program ($7 million) at the State Department.  Much of this investment is focused on supporting the development and spread of anti-censorship tools to activists. Additionally, activists and NGOs would benefit from initiatives that provide digital security training; that combat the use of harassment, torture, and imprisonment to silence bloggers, journalists, and civil society based on online activities; that challenge restrictive national legislation and promote good standards for laws that advance fundamental freedoms online; and that support research monitoring and reporting on internet freedom around the world.

Foreign Military Financing: The United States provides more than $6 billion in foreign military financing every year. Equipment sales, trainings, and other forms of military-to-military cooperation are essential tools for the United States to build strong military partnerships around the world. However, care must be exercised lest such programs have unintended consequences. Assistance to authoritarian regimes tells local populations that the United States does not value human rights, or at least considers them secondary to military partnerships.  In a few cases, equipment sold by the United States has been used against local populations, notably in Bahrain and Egypt in recent years.

The Leahy Law is an invaluable tool in preventing U.S. assistance to military or police units that commit human rights abuses, but it is invoked sparingly and only in egregious cases of specific violence. The U.S. has strong military relationships with some of the world’s worst human rights abusers, including Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Ethiopia, and several of the Central Asian nations. Congress should strengthen its oversight of military assistance to ensure that regimes engaging in torture or who use violence against their own citizens do not benefit from American training, equipment, or weapons systems.  Provisions barring the sale of “crowd control” items to governments engaged in crackdowns against their own people were very welcome in previous appropriations bills and should be included once again.

United Nations: As a permanent member of the UN Security Council and an active member of the Human Rights Council, the United States is a leader within the United Nations and must stay fully engaged on the most pressing global issues, including on human rights.  The UN is a better, more deliberative and representative body when it has the United States’ full participation. The decision by the Obama administration to seek membership on the Human Rights Council in 2009 was a welcome one, and U.S. influence has led the Council to give greater attention to serious human rights cases and to focus less on Israel, though it still has significant room for improvement.

Congress should pass legislation that would allow the United States to resume funding for UNESCO, which is prohibited as a result of Palestine’s admittance as a member of the organization. UNESCO is a non-political UN body whose activities are often in line with the U.S.’s own interests, such as supporting press freedom. A continued lack of U.S. funding will harm the body’s effectiveness.

Efforts to withhold funding from the United States’ assessed contributions to the United Nations damage America’s image abroad. This can harm our ability to achieve strategic foreign policy goals, such as sanctions against regimes seeking nuclear weapons, censure of violent and repressive leaders like Bashir al-Assad of Syria and Kim Jong-Un of North Korea, and successful peacekeeping missions in post-conflict environments. Congress should fully fund the administration’s $1.2 billion request for the United Nations and affiliated agencies.

Regional Breakdowns

This section will focus on top-line regional GJD numbers and a few key countries in each region.  For a more detailed breakdown of each regional and country request, please see the appendix at the end of this document.

South and Central Asia

The South and Central Asia region includes the single largest recipient of GJD dollars, Afghanistan.  The administration has requested $1.35 billion in GJD for South and Central Asia, a 23% increase over FY 12.


As the U.S. military presence declines in Afghanistan, more responsibility continues to shift to the diplomatic and development arms of the U.S. government for post-war reconstruction efforts.  The request for GJD for Afghanistan is $1.2 billion and represents a 32% increase over FY12 numbers.  According to the Congressional Budget Justification (CBJ), this amount will be used to strengthen the government of Afghanistan by offering judicial training, improving responsiveness and reliability of local and national government structures, and supporting a transparent and accountable elections process.  Funds are also requested to enhance the capacity of Afghan civil society to bolster protection of freedom of association, free press, and free speech. There are many questions about the ability of the Afghan government to properly disburse and oversee donor aid.  The vast majority of the increase requested in GJD is slated to assist different branches of the Afghan government, both national and local. Close scrutiny will be necessary to ensure that funding in this area is being spent effectively and going to the people and organizations that need it.


The request of $118 million for Pakistan represents a 30% decrease for GJD efforts in Pakistan.  Over the past few years, Pakistan has become one of the world’s most dangerous countries for journalists, civic activists, and defenders of religious freedom. Pakistan’s tense relationship with the United States, coupled with a military drawdown in the region, has led to a decrease in aid. However, assistance is still needed to combat entrenched discrimination, which often leads to violence against religious minorities, women, and democracy activists.

Central Asia

Central Asia is home to some of the world’s most repressive governments, with Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan consistently ranked by Freedom House among the worst in the world. The requests for Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan (where political reform is advancing), Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan are modest given their high-profile relationships with the U.S. and the increasingly repressive nature of many of their regimes. In Kazakhstan especially, where the request is down 26% from FY 12, the government has engaged in the harassment of civil society and crackdown against human rights activists. Conversely, advancing reform in Kyrgyzstan offers a particular opportunity for productive U.S. support.

Europe and Eurasia

The GJD request for Europe and Eurasia for FY 14 is an 11% decrease from FY 12 levels.  This decline is in line with a planned decrease in the Assistance to Europe, Eurasia, and Central Asia account designated for former Soviet and satellite countries, many of which have made great economic and political strides since the end of the Cold War. That being said, both Azerbaijan and Ukraine have experienced backsliding in recent years, so cuts to democracy programming are cause for concern.  Azerbaijan is rated Not Free in Freedom in the World, due in part to systemic corruption, media censorship, and crackdowns against freedom of assembly. In Ukraine, President Viktor Yanukovych has consolidated power in the executive and presided over a politically motivated trial against former prime minister Yuliya Tymoshenko. Efforts should be made to support democratic governance, civil society, and independent media in both countries.

Russia: In 2012, Russian president Vladimir Putin ordered USAID to close down its activities in Russia. As a consequence, there is no request for GJD funding for FY 14. Funding for GJD activities in Russia has been around $35 million in recent years. Congress should allocate a comparable amount through regional funding mechanisms or DRL, to be used creatively by the administration in continuing support for the democracy and human rights movement in the country. Having no request for Russia simply sends the wrong signal.


The GJD request for Africa for FY14 is $326.8 million, a 12% increase over FY12 levels.  Much of this increase goes to Nigeria, Tanzania, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. South Sudan, now in its second year of independent funding, remains one of the world’s largest recipients of democracy assistance, with $95.5 million requested for FY14. The top five requests for GJD aid in Africa—for South Sudan, Liberia, Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Zimbabwe—account for 70% of the total. Minor cuts to the top five recipients would provide funds to assist transitioning countries such as Zambia, Malawi, and Mozambique where a small amount could go a very long way. Of the 49 countries in Africa, less than half receive directly requested bilateral funding. As such, adequate support for regional funding mechanisms becomes all the more important.

Ethiopia: A 2009 law restricting foreign funding for NGOs all but wiped out the country’s democracy and human rights NGO subsector.  The death of longtime prime minister Meles Zanawi in 2012 did not lead to an easing of restrictions against civil society or the media. While the request for $1.25 million is welcome, the NGO sector in Ethiopia has been so devastated over the past four years that more than what is essentially seed money will be needed for it to rebound.  The administration must explore creative ways in which the U.S. can support civil society and free speech in the country. This will be especially vital in the run-up to elections in 2015. New programs must be matched by public and private statements by senior-level administration officials pushing the Ethiopian government towards a more open environment for civil society and towards greater respect for human rights.

South Sudan: As the world’s newest country continues its political transition to democracy, the United States must continue to support its selected government institutions and help build a vibrant and free civil society. The request of $95.5 million is an extremely large amount for such a developing country to absorb and spend usefully.

Sudan: Though it no longer tops the news cycle, Sudan remains one of the world’s worst human rights violators. Border skirmishes with its newly independent neighbor to the South remain common, and disputes over control of the Nile River, the lifeblood of millions of people, have raised tensions with Egypt. Sudan remains an influential player in the region and the U.S should prioritize efforts to make any possible progress on its human rights situation. The 47% decrease in the request compared with 2012 levels is disappointing, and Congress should consider sources where additional funding might be found.

Southern Africa Regional: The request for USAID’s regional southern Africa programs represents a decrease of 44% compared with 2012 levels. Efforts under this heading support regional cooperation on human rights issues. Such efforts are important and timely in a region that has seen backsliding in both its democracies, such as South Africa and Zambia, and some of its worst abusers, such as Zimbabwe and Swaziland.

Near East

The request for Near East funding, which encompasses the Middle East and North Africa, is $298 million, a 37% decrease from FY 12 levels. Most of the decrease comes from a marked reduction in Iraq funding. However, even without Iraq, the request for GJD for the Near East for FY14 still shows a 12% decrease from FY12 levels. The current situations in Syria, Egypt, Bahrain, and elsewhere in the region remind us that transitions to democracy take time and often face serious setbacks along the way. Now more than ever it is imperative that the United States make democracy and human rights a focus of policy in the region. Additional funding is sorely needed to support reform in Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Morocco, Bahrain, Kuwait, and elsewhere, and vigorous U.S. policy engagement is critical to reinforce the programs on the ground.

Most evidently in Egypt, but also in Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, and elsewhere in the region, U.S. policy has not prioritized human rights and democracy in the face of supposedly competing interests. Programs promoting democracy and human rights on the ground are bolstered when members of the U.S. government, from Congress to Ambassadors, to the Secretary of State, to the President, consistently and publicly prioritize these issues.

Egypt:  The request for Egypt for FY 14 is $28 million, a 95% increase over FY 12 levels. At the time of publication, Egypt remains mired in a political crisis that has turned increasingly violent. It is clear is that the United States did not use the full force of its influence to encourage Mohammed Morsi to take steps that would lead to an inclusive, democratic government. The conviction of staff and closure of four American civil society organizations by the Morsi government was not met with any effective pushback from the United States, only expressions of concern. Now is the time for the administration to end its policy of hesitation and make unmistakably clear that the United States is serious about Egyptian democracy.

If the administration concludes there was a coup in Egypt, it is legally prohibited from providing the Egyptian government with any aid. With the military back in power, albeit fronted by a civilian government, all aid to Egypt, including foreign military financing, must be reevaluated. The administration’s list of priorities going forward should begin with efforts to support progress towards an inclusive democratic government, prevent restrictions on civil society, and secure an amnesty for the 43 NGO workers who were convicted in June, including seven from Freedom House.

Libya: The U.S. must continue to support Libya’s transition to democracy through bilateral and regional funding. In particular, more should be done to support Libyan civil society as it seeks to build a just and democratic government. The $470,000 request under the rule of law and human rights heading should be fully funded and other pots of regional funding should be tapped to fill any additional needs.

Tunisia: Tunisia’s progress since the fall of former strongman Ben Ali has been commendable, but the country continues to face serious challenges. Religious freedom, media freedom, and women’s rights issues are still being contested. The request of $3.1 million for GJD in Tunisia should support the efforts of Tunisians to enshrine these rights in their constitution and protect them through the political process.

Syria: There is no request for GJD activities for Syria for FY 14. Congress should identify money from regional sources to support those within Syria’s political opposition who desire a free and democratic post-Assad government.

Yemen: The $16.5 million request for Yemen for FY 14 should support ongoing good governance and human rights efforts in a country that has made modest gains since the resignation of long-time President
Ali Abdullah Saleh in February 2012.

MENA-IF Fund: The administration has requested $580 million for a new Middle East and North Africa Incentives Fund. Only a portion of it would fall under GJD, much of which is already included in MEPI funding. The fund is designed to provide flexible support that can be programmed as needed and could include additional future GJD funds if appropriated. Congress should ensure that the administration has the money and tools it needs to respond to quickly changing situations on the ground in the Middle East.

Middle East Partnership Initiative: MEPI has been a significant source of democracy and human rights assistance since its inception in 2002. Funds provided through MEPI are especially vital now, as they have the flexibility required to respond to the constantly changing environment in the region. Congress should fully fund the $65 million request for MEPI.

Near East Regional Democracy (NERD): The Near East Regional Democracy fund supports greater adherence to democratic principles through civic participation, a free internet, and human rights training for lawyers, trade associations, and civil society. The requests for this program have decreased over the past few years, from $40 million in 2010 to $30 million in the FY 14 request.  At a time of great transition in the region, and with the ascension of new leaders in certain countries, now is the time to capitalize on these potential openings. Congress should fund the NERD program at the FY 12 level of $35 million.

East Asia Pacific

With the administration’s rebalance, or pivot, towards the East Asia Pacific region has come increased requests for funding, including for democracy and human rights.  The FY 14 request for GJD of $104.69 million for the region is a 25% increase over FY 12 levels, compared with a 7% increase for regional funding overall.  Freedom House is pleased to see an increased investment in democracy and human rights in the region and encourages Congress to match the administration’s requests.

Burma: Once ranked as one of Freedom House’s Worst of the Worst for its dismal human rights record, Burma has embarked on a path of political reform.  Significant obstacles remain, including ethnic tension that has bubbled over into violence against minority groups, the continued heavy hand of the military in the economy and government, and ongoing repression of civil society and free expression. The administration’s request of $19.5 million is needed to encourage further democratic reform, support those who have suffered during the days of the junta, and help the Burmese people prepare for free and fair elections in 2015.

Cambodia:  The administration’s request of $10.9 million for GJD programs for Cambodia further reflects the pivot towards Asia and represents a 47% increase over FY 12 levels.  Freedom House is pleased to see that the majority of the increase falls under the civil society heading, which will empower groups on the ground to advocate for democratic reforms and protections for human rights.

China: The recent change in political leadership has not led to any improvement in the human rights situation, which remains dire.  Unfortunately, the Obama administration has not elevated the importance of human rights in the U.S. – China relationship, despite high profile cases like that of activist Chen Guangcheng, who was granted asylum in the United States after escaping from house arrest last year. Congress should continue to appropriate around $3.8 million for GJD activities in China, and the administration should follow their lead, taking a more forceful stand on the grave human rights abuses committed by the Chinese government.

Western Hemisphere

The request for GJD for the Western Hemisphere is $387.9 million, a 15% decrease from FY 12 levels, which continues a trend of slight decreases for the region over the past several years. The majority of this decrease comes from Mexico, where Merida Initiative money is winding down as planned. Although most countries in the region are rated Free or Partly Free by Freedom House, the Western Hemisphere has experienced democratic declines in recent years. Popularly elected leaders in countries such as Venezuela, Ecuador, and Nicaragua have concentrated power in the executive, repressed opposition parties, censored media, and limited space for civil society. The Castro regime in Cuba continues its policies of repression, and Bolivia’s Evo Morales thumbed his nose at the United States with the expulsion of USAID earlier this year.

Cuba: Though travel for Cuban citizens was made easier this year following the relaxation of exit visa requirements, there was no corresponding improvement in political or civil liberties.  Rather, there have been increases in incarceration, harassment, and beatings of dissidents. USAID support for free expression, information sharing, community involvement, and civil society will assist in developing the next generation of leaders who support human rights. The administration’s request for $15 million is a $5 million decrease from FY 12 levels.

Bolivia: After years of back and forth between the U.S. and Bolivian governments about the types of programs USAID was permitted to fund in the country, Bolivian president Evo Morales expelled the aid organization in early 2013. The $3 million request for Bolivia was issued before the closure. The U.S. should identify innovative ways to support civil society organizations that work on improving human rights, free expression, and democratic processes in Bolivia through regional funding mechanisms.

Ecuador: The request for Ecuador for FY 14 is $3 million for GJD, a $500,000 decrease compared with FY 12 levels. The requested decrease would come out of money dedicated to civil society activities in Ecuador, whose president Rafael Correa has a history of using censorship, criminal charges, and legal maneuvering to limit media and civil society activity. Congress should fund civil society programs for Ecuador at the FY 12 level.

Mexico: Mexico continues to contend with violence, weak judicial institutions, lawlessness, and organized crime, all of which threaten good governance and human rights. The $122 million request is a decrease from FY 12 levels in line with planned decreases in Merida Initiative funding. Funds appropriated for Mexico GJD should focus on strengthening the rule of law, empowering civil society, and protecting free speech and the media.

Download Appendix PDF

1 All budget request numbers are derived from the Fiscal Year 2014 Congressional Budget Justifications for the State Department and Foreign Operations and associated regional annexes. All numbers in this report are enduring requests, and do not include overseas contingency operations. The requests can be found at and

2 Comparisons are between FY 2014 requested numbers and FY 2012 actual numbers unless otherwise noted. 


4 Freedom House receives U.S. government funding for democracy and human rights activities through competitive grants awarded by the State Department and USAID.