Supporting Democracy Abroad | Freedom House

This project analyzes support by 11 democratic powers for democracy and human rights during the period June 2012-May 2014.



Supporting Democracy Abroad looks at the European Union and at four countries belonging to the European Union.


Supporting Democracy Abroad assesses how well 10 leading democratic countries and the European Union promote democracy and human rights in their foreign policies. These countries are regional or global powers on five continents, ranging from long-established democracies to states that became democratic in the last 25 years.

Although democracy and human rights are traditionally not the primary focus of a country’s foreign policy, they in fact serve economic and political interests in the long term and extend the influence of democratic nations in the world. However, authoritarian states are collaborating economically, militarily, and politically to push back against democracy. If democracies are to effectively counter authoritarian states, the leading democracies must reassess existing policies and adopt a bolder and more consistent strategy. The present study is intended to stimulate such a process.

Key Findings

  • The democracies in Latin America, Africa, and Asia are less likely to exert pressure on rights violators in their regions and less inclined to condemn abrogations of democratic standards by major powers than are the United States and those in Europe. The disparity is largely attributable to the emphasis placed by the former group on the principle of noninterference and respect for sovereignty.
  • Nearly all of the countries assessed provide strong support for elections abroad, but they largely fail to promote democracy and human rights through their trade policies and in their responses to coups.
  • In relations with China, immediate economic and strategic interests almost always override support for democracy and human rights.
  • Although support for democracy and human rights through regional or international bodies can aid legitimacy, these organizations are rarely effective without the leadership of a major country. Indeed, democratic powers sometimes use multilateral organizations as a screen to avoid more direct or decisive action against repression.