Joint statement April 13, 2021
Letter from the Heads of the Partner Institutions
To help address this urgent moment for democracy, Freedom House, the Center for Strategic and International Studies, and the McCain Institute created the Task Force on US Strategy to Support Democracy and Counter Authoritarianism.
An alarming global decline in respect for democratic freedoms, coupled with rising autocracy, is undermining our international partnerships and endangering US national security. Fifteen years of backsliding on democracy and human rights means hundreds of millions more living under oppression. As democracy’s wave recedes, authoritarianism surges. Autocratic regimes have studied the tools of open societies—free speech, financial flows, technological innovation, international cooperation—and weaponized them against democracies and their own people. Russia’s failure to build an open society, and China’s success in building a closed one, are at the center of today’s geopolitics.
Yet we know that democracy’s enduring promise vastly outweighs its perceived deficits. Even as the COVID-19 pandemic has abetted repression in many places, citizens from Hong Kong to Minsk, Khartoum to Caracas, are risking their lives to challenge authoritarians.
To help address this urgent moment and shape a plan of action for the coming years, Freedom House, the Center for Strategic and International Studies, and the McCain Institute created the Task Force on US Strategy to Support Democracy and Counter Authoritarianism. This bipartisan group of leaders, experts, and former policymakers spent months examining, debating, and developing recommendations for US strategy.
Recognizing these issues are not easy, we submit that, to secure our future, we must place the advance of democracy and the fight against authoritarianism at the heart of American foreign and national security policy. This report recommends the creation of a US National Democracy Strategy and puts forth a broad set of ideas to rebuild democratic alliances; strengthen institutions essential to democracy; address the challenges posed by technology; counter disinformation; address corruption and kleptocracy; and harness US economic policy to support democracy.
We welcome that the Biden administration has made revitalizing democracy a priority in its interim national security strategic guidance. Responding to democracy’s crisis must be a top bipartisan national security priority. We hope you find this report’s ideas useful and inspiring. We stand ready to work with our partners in the executive branch, Congress, the media, civil society, and industry to make this vision a reality.
Michael J. Abramowitz
Dr. John J. Hamre
President and CEO
Center for Strategic and International Studies
Ambassador Josette Sheeran
The McCain Institute
Reversing the Tide: Towards a New US Strategy to Support Democracy and Counter Authoritarianism