Published on October 1, 1993
In the Senate debate over a proposal to kill the Endowment, a senator who, in charity, shall remain nameless here (though not in the Congressional Record for July 28) vouchsafed that NED was just “a relic of the cold war.”
NED was born during the Cold War, and played an extraordinarily useful role in the collapse of European Communism. Go to War saw, Gdansk, or Krakow, to Prague, Bratislava, or Budapest, to Moscow or St. Petersburg, and you will find private- and public-sector leaders of the new central and eastern European democracies who are profoundly grateful to the Endowment for the crucial support it gave when they needed it most. The events we now know as the Revolution of 1989 (in the countries of the old Warsaw Pact) and the New Russian Revolution of 1991 might have happened with out NED: at some point, down the line. But they might well not have happened when they did, and in the way they did, without the assistance NED provided throughout the late 1980s and early 1990s. This assistance was vital in rebuilding civil society (and, eventually, building democracy) out of the rubble of Stalin’s internal and external empires.
But the task of democratic consolidation is hardly over in those societies. “Democracy” is not achieved simply by deposing a dictator and holding an election; and the transition to democracy from totalitarianism can unleash social forces that are, to put it mildly, unsettling. Moreover, the democratic revolution has not yet taken root, much less achieved success, in large parts of the world: China and Southeast Asia; Africa; the Arab world of the Middle East and the Maghreb. There is considerable work yet to be done on behalf of freedom. As of this writing, the Endowment’s bipartisan board has approved almost 200 grants for fiscal 1993; this extensive program builds on the foundations NED laid in its first nine years.
Among the many democrats throughout the world who look to the National Endowment for Democracy for the kind of support it uniquely provides are groups like the following, which, with due respect to Senator “X,” don’t consider themselves “relics of the Cold War”:
- In Burkina Faso, the Movement for the Rights of Man and Peoples is receiving Endowment support to strengthen its regional chapters and to expand its human-rights-education activities through call-in radio programs. The Endowment previously supported the Movement’s election monitors, who played an important role in the country’s first genuinely democratic polling in 1992.
- Endowment support helps make possible the publication of the London-based Sudan Democratic Gazette, perhaps the leading voice of democratic pluralism in Africa’s largest and most demographically diverse state.
- NDI (National Democratic Institute), with NED funding, organized a three-day regional seminar in 1992 on the practicalities of the electoral process for more than sixty governmental, political-party, and civic leaders from Burundi, Comoros Islands, Kenya, Madagascar, Mauritius, Rwanda, the Seychelles, Tanzania, and Uganda.
- With help from the Endowment’s CIPE (Center for International Private Enterprise), the leading independent business association in Botswana has been able to replicate its model programs throughout southern Africa.
- Six NED grants will support media business training, election studies, democratic education, ethnic reconciliation, and women’s civic organizations in the Republic of South Africa in fiscal 1993.
- IRI (International Republican Institute) is working with the Burmese National League for Democracy/Liberated Area to build support for a democratic transition in one of Southeast Asia’s most repressive military dictatorships.
- Eight NED grants are supporting various business-based, labor-based, journalistic, and academic efforts to forge ahead on the road to democracy in the People’s Republic of China.
- The Endowment supports the Institute for Democracy in Vietnam, which runs a multifaceted program of support for pro-democracy and human-rights organizations inside Vietnam, as well as independent radio broadcasts to that country.
- In Thailand, FTUI (Free Trade Union Institute) is using an NED grant to support that nascent democracy’s trade unionists in voter registration and other forms of grassroots democratic activism.
- In September 1992, an NED-funded conference in Cairo brought together dozens of democrats of various political persuasions for a three-day exchange of views, the first of its kind held in the Arab world without direct govern mental involvement. The meeting included what a subsequent report described as a “particularly frank discussion” on the compatibility of Islam with democracy and human rights.
- NED funds supported election-monitoring among the Kurds in northern Iraq, and helped IRI sponsor a series of pre-election work shops in Kuwait in preparation for that country’s historic 1992 elections. NDI, meanwhile, has received an NED grant to help develop a non-partisan free-election movement in Yemen.
East Central Europe
- In cooperation with the Budapest-based Democracy After Communism Foundation, NDI helped mount a major conference in December 1991 in which public- and private-sector leaders from fourteen countries discussed ways of stemming the tide of ethnic and religious intolerance in the region.
- An NED grant to the Mershon Center of Ohio State University has allowed that institution to work with Polish educators to prepare new citizenship-education materials for use in Polish schools. The program will reach some one million students every year.
- The National Forum Foundation has used NED grants to support an extensive internship program in which young leaders from central and eastern Europe, the Baltic states, and the former Soviet Union learn a democratic system from the inside out, through placements in U.S. government, media, or business institutions. Many “graduates” of this program now occupy positions of considerable influence in their countries.
Successor States to the Former Soviet Union
- IRI has conducted local democracy and political-party training seminars for hundreds of political activists from Novgorod to Khabarovsk. In addition to conveying the techniques of democratic electioneering, the IRI program has helped foster a spirit of competitive cooperation among the participants—an essential political-cultural building block of democracy.
- CIPE has worked with hundreds of Russian entrepreneurs and the Moscow Public Committee for Russian Reforms to build a cooperative network of free-market leaders; CIPE’s journal. Economic Reform Today, made the project’s results available in translation to a Russian-reading audience of several thousand new business leaders and government officials. Concurrently, NED support for Moscow’s Interlegal research center has helped develop a post-Communist non-profit sector in Russia. With NED support, FTUI has established a Moscow field office, from which it will work with trade unionists in programs of democratic and economic education and organizing throughout Russia.
- CIPE has been active in Ukraine, supporting the development of a small-business sector through a variety of educational programs. CIPE has also supported the Lviv Institute of Management in its efforts to reshape the legal structure for business activity in independent Ukraine. Concurrently, FTUI is opening a Kiev i field office to support democratic trade-union development in Ukraine, while IRI is helping to design a two-month intensive civic-education program and sponsoring a series of political party training workshops throughout the country. NED support for the Ukrainian Legal Foundation is helping to mount a four-day international symposium on the third draft of the Ukrainian constitution and a series of public hearings on the proposed constitution in the main cities of Ukraine.
Latin America and the Caribbean
- NED grants have helped support
- , a highly successful women’s civic education organization in Argentina that has now spread to several other Latin American countries.
- leaders have also been asked by the governments of Russia and South Africa about a possible role for the Argentine organization in stimulating similar movements in those countries.
- The Panamanian National Civic Crusade Foundation is receiving NED support for its nonpartisan coalition of business, labor, professional, civic, women’s, youth, and rural organizations, in order to promote broad-based citizen participation in Panama’s 1994 parliamentary elections.
- Seven 1993 NED grants are supporting human-rights activists, democratic political dissidents, and various programs of democratic education in Cuba.
George Weigel is Distinguished Senior Fellow of the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, D.C. and holds EPPC’s William E. Simon Chair in Catholic Studies.