[First published April 25, 2006] The U.S. Department of State has published “Supporting Human Rights and Democracy: The U.S. Record 2003-2004” in compliance with the 2003 Foreign Relations Authorization Act that requires the Department to report on actions taken by the U.S. Government to encourage respect for human rights. If you are a freedomist, as I am, it is a fascinating read. It reveals much activity on human rights and democratization of which I was unaware, and which I am profoundly happy to see being done.
Of course, all such publications by a government agency have to be approached with caution. Bureaucracies will be bureaucracies, you know. The question is then where to look for an honest and probing review of the report. I look to Freedom House, which has been active in promoting democracy, and has a team of country experts that do their country freedom ratings. So, here is their review, in the format of a press release:
Annual Democracy Report an Improvement This Year
Freedom House noted with interest the just-released report, Supporting Human Rights and Democracy: The U.S. Record 2005 – 2006, issued by the Department of State’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor. The report is an improvement over previous iterations, but it still lacks a sense of clear U.S. strategy towards the expansion of freedom around the world, Freedom House said today.
The report describes U.S. government activities encouraging democratic growth around the world, and includes accounts of country-specific diplomatic statements and actions, trade policies, and embassy-level interventions, as well as formal “democracy promotion” program activities. However, the 272-page report provides no indication of how the $1.4 billion in democracy and governance work in fiscal year 2005 was actually allocated, nor does it provide any other indication of the Administration’s strategic prioritization among countries, challenges and opportunities.
“The report is an improvement over previous iterations. It documents an impressive collection of programs and policies promoting democracy and human rights around the world,” said Jennifer Windsor, executive director of Freedom House. “When one examines country allocation figures available from other parts of the U.S. government, however, it becomes apparent that the real winners are countries in crisis like Iraq and Afghanistan. U.S. programs still frequently fail to follow through with funding to those countries that are out of crisis but not yet fully democratic.”
Democracy funding for programs in Africa in particular remains meager. As Freedom House highlighted during its March 29th conference, the continent still has more countries rated “not free” than “free,” yet the region received only 14 percent of total U.S. funding for worldwide democracy programs last year.
Ms. Windsor pointed out other troubling trends. “We have already seen disturbing cuts to democracy programs in 2006. Funding for human rights programs in Central Asia have been cut, Latin American programs have had funding reduced, and even democracy programs in Iraq are facing serious cutbacks,” she said.
Freedom House did note that U.S. programs and policies in some countries have been well-funded and unequivocal in their objectives. The Administration’s push for competitive elections in 2005 in Egypt, for example, and its suspension of free trade talks with officials because of the imprisonment of an Egyptian democracy activist, have been commendable first steps towards a clear U.S. policy to promote democracy in that country.
In other countries, however, dialogue on the importance of democracy has not been matched by sufficient actions. Pakistan, for example, has not been criticized by the Administration for its conspicuously undemocratic behavior, and U.S. relations with Russia have not been significantly affected by the democratic deterioration that has occurred in that country.
Links of Note
“US Report Distorts Human Rights Status in China” It you want a good laugh, read this response by China to the above report on its abysmal human rights record.
“Never Forget Flash Animation.” This is an excellent flash animation of 9/11, available for your website or blog.
“Are Facts Obsolete?” By Thomas Sowell:
What is more frightening than any particular policy or ideology is the widespread habit of disregarding facts. Former House Majority Leader Dick Armey put it this way: “Demagoguery beats data.”
RJR: I find this so true in the commentaries/editorials/speeches on democracy, democratization, and the democratic peace.
Arts for Democracy started, when I realized the Left, a group which I used to identify with, seemed to have lost the perspective of its views when observing the conflict between the West and Islam. Rather than joining either group in a never-ending blame game, I use art and text as tools to communicate my beliefs.
“School Of Democracy” Did not know one existed, did you? And in France!
“Democracy Digest” A periodic digest of issues and progress of democracy around the world, and to which you can subscribe.
Fighting terrorism and promoting freedom through research, communications, education and investigative journalism.
RJR. For your bookmarks.