“In the face of the sustained and alarming challenges to democracy and universal human rights around the world, more than ever, democracy needs champions.”
President Joe Biden, December 9, 2021
Today, President Biden opened the first-ever Summit for Democracy, a forum for leaders from around the world to discuss the challenges and opportunities facing democracies in the 21st century. As a core U.S. Government commitment toward achieving the Summit’s objectives, today President Biden announced the establishment of the Presidential Initiative for Democratic Renewal, a landmark set of policy and foreign assistance initiatives that build upon the U.S. Government’s significant, ongoing work to bolster democracy and defend human rights globally.
The United States has long worked to strengthen democracy and advance respect for human rights. Not only is this the right thing to do, it is in the United States’ national security interest, because strong, rights-respecting democracies are more peaceful, prosperous, and stable. Democracies also make stronger partners for the United States, as we work together to address the world’s most pressing international challenges, from combating the climate crisis to preventing the next pandemic.
The Presidential Initiative for Democratic Renewal represents a significant, targeted expansion of U.S. Government efforts to defend, sustain, and grow democratic resilience with likeminded governmental and non-governmental partners. In the coming year, the United States is planning to provide up to $424.4 million toward the Presidential Initiative, working with Congress and subject to the availability of appropriations. These efforts will center on five areas of work crucial to the functioning of transparent, accountable governance:
- Supporting Free and Independent Media
- Fighting Corruption
- Bolstering Democratic Reformers
- Advancing Technology for Democracy
- Defending Free and Fair Elections and Political Processes
I. Supporting Free and Independent Media
- Bolstering Independent Media. Under the Presidential Initiative, USAID will provide up to $30 million to the International Fund for Public Interest Media, a new multi-donor fund designed to enhance the independence, development, and sustainability of independent media, especially in resource-poor and fragile settings. Additionally, USAID will provide up to $5 million to launch a Media Viability Accelerator, which will improve the financial viability of independent media outlets in both under-developed and more-developed media markets.
- Protecting Journalists Physically, Digitally, and Legally. To guard the essential work of journalism from spurious legal claims aiming to silence legitimate work, USAID will provide up to $9 million to support a global Defamation Defense Fund for Journalists, which will offer liability coverage to investigative reporters and their organizations. In parallel, the State Department will provide up to $3.5 million to establish a Journalism Protection Platform, which will provide at-risk journalists with digital and physical security training, psychosocial care, legal aid, and other forms of assistance. And the U.S. Government will increase its engagement with the Media Freedom Coalition, an intergovernmental partnership working to advocate for media freedom and the safety of journalists worldwide.
II. Fighting Corruption
- Supporting Anti-corruption Change Agents. To support and connect anti-corruption actors across civil society, media, academia, and labor organizations, USAID will provide up to $5 million to launch the Empowering Anti-Corruption Change Agents Program, which will promote protective measures for whistleblowers, civil society activists, journalists, and others at risk due to their anti-corruption work. The State Department, joined by other donors, will build on its support for the Global Anti-Corruption Consortium (GACC) by providing up to $6 million to enhance the GACC’s work to connect media and civil society organizations with one another, expose ill-gotten gains, and support legal or policy changes in support of anti-corruption objectives.
- Curbing Corruption through Strategic and Regulatory Action. Earlier this week, the U.S. Government unveiled its first-ever United States Strategy on Countering Corruption, which provides a blueprint for cracking down on corruption at home and abroad. In support of this strategy, the Treasury Department will enact regulations to increase transparency in the U.S. real estate market by establishing reporting requirements for those closest to real estate transactions. In parallel, the State Department, working with the Departments of Treasury and Justice, will provide up to $15.1 million to launch the Democracies Against Safe Havens Initiative, which will work to build the capacity of partner governments to deny corrupt actors the ability to hide ill-gotten gains through anti-money laundering measures, to encourage like-minded partners to adopt anti-corruption sanctions and visa restriction regimes, and to detect and disrupt complex corruption schemes.
- Innovating and Partnering to Combat Corruption. To identify novel approaches to address transnational corruption and its enablers, USAID will provide up to $15.7 million to launch the Combating Transnational Corruption Grand Challenge, a partnership platform to crowd-source innovative solutions from businesses, technologists, philanthropies, and other actors.
- Strengthening Anti-Corruption Ecosystems. To enhance partner countries’ ability to build resilience against kleptocracy and illicit finance, including by supporting beneficial ownership disclosure, strengthening government contracting and procurement regulations, and improving anti-corruption investigation and disruption efforts, USAID will provide up to $11.5 million to launch a Global Accountability Program. Additionally, to advance the fight against corruption at transitionary moments such as during political openings, USAID will provide up to $17.6 million for an Anti-Corruption Response Fund, and the State Department will provide up to $6.5 million to establish a Global Initiative to Galvanize the Private Sector as Partners in Combatting Corruption, to energize and institutionalize existing public sector anti-corruption engagement with the business community.
III. Bolstering Democratic Reformers
- Empowering Historically Marginalized Groups and Ensuring All Have a Say in Democracy. To advance the civic and political leadership of women, USAID and the State Department will provide up to $33.5 million to launch the Advancing Women’s and Girls’ Civic and Political Leadership Initiative, which will help facilitate the full and safe exercise of women’s rights and representation. The State Department will also provide up to $5 million to launch the Global LGBTQI+ Inclusive Democracy and Empowerment (GLIDE) Fund, a new program under the Global Equality Fund that will facilitate the participation and leadership of LGBTQI+ community members in democratic institutions.
- Supporting Activists, Workers, and Reform-Minded Leaders. Responding to the increased threat against human rights defenders and activists globally, the State Department will provide up to $10 million for Lifeline: Embattled CSOs Assistance Fund, a multilateral initiative which supports civil society organizations under threat as a consequence of their democracy and human rights work. The State Department will also provide up to $1 million to establish the Bridging Understanding, Integrity, and Legitimacy for Democracy (BUILD) Initiative, which will lay the groundwork for providing career professionals in closed political spaces the skills and resources to navigate democratic openings when they occur. USAID will provide up to $15 million to launch the Powered by the People initiative, which will assist nonviolent social movements by increasing coordination through exchanges, seed grants, and engagement with younger pro-democracy actors. Additionally, the Departments of Labor and State, and USAID, will provide up to $122 million to establish a Multilateral Partnership for Organizing, Worker Empowerment, and Rights (M-POWER), which will help workers around the world claim their rights and improve wages and conditions by strengthening democratic and independent worker organizations and supporting labor law reform and enforcement.
IV. Advancing Technology for Democracy
- Advancing an Open, Interoperable, Reliable, and Secure Internet. The United States embraces a vision of an Internet that is open, interoperable, reliable, and secure, and reaffirms our commitment to protecting and respecting human rights online and across the digital ecosystem. The use of digital technologies should reinforce, not weaken, democracy and respect for human rights; offer opportunities for innovation in the digital ecosystem, including businesses large and small; and maintain connections between societies. To achieve this vision and maintain a high level of security, privacy protection, stability, and resilience of the technical infrastructure of the Internet, the U.S. Government will work with partners to protect and fortify the multi-stakeholder system of Internet governance. As part of this effort, the United States will work to strengthen the Freedom Online Coalition (FOC), a multi-stakeholder effort to support Internet freedom and promote human rights online. The U.S. Government will seek not only to expand FOC membership, but also to deepen the Coalition’s diplomatic efforts to address the challenges and opportunities of digital technologies.
- Expanding Digital Democracy Programming. To assist partner countries in realizing the benefits of digital technologies that support democratic values and respect human rights, rather than undermining them, USAID will provide up to $20.3 million to build on programming supporting open, secure, and inclusive digital ecosystems. This programming will help governments enshrine democratic principles in their countries’ use, development, and governance of technology, while empowering civil society, technologists, and the private sector to encourage the same.
- Advancing Democracy-Affirming Technologies. To incentivize innovation in technologies that asymmetrically advantage democratic values and governance, the National Science Foundation, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, and the Open Technology Fund, alongside international partners, will provide up to $3.75 million for a series of International Grand Challenges on Democracy-Affirming Technologies. This series of prize competitions will focus on topics such as harnessing artificial intelligence for an open Internet and advancing and deploying privacy-preserving technologies.
- Defending against Digital Authoritarianism. To reduce the potential for human rights abuses enabled by some dual-use technologies, the U.S. Government and likeminded partners will launch an Export Controls and Human Rights Initiative, in which participating governments will work together to determine how export control tools could better monitor and, as appropriate, restrict the proliferation of such technologies. In parallel, to counter authoritarian censorship of the Internet, the State Department will provide up to $4 million to establish and seed a Multilateral Surge and Sustain Fund for Anti-Censorship Technology, which will enable the connection of more users to the uncensored Internet, sustain those connections in times of greatest need, and invite likeminded partners to contribute jointly.
V. Defending Free and Fair Elections and Political Processes
- Strengthening Electoral Integrity. To advance electoral integrity globally, USAID will provide up to $2.5 million to launch a Coalition for Securing Electoral Integrity, which will bring together governmental and non-governmental partners within the international electoral integrity community to develop norms, guiding principles, and codes of conduct on prioritized electoral integrity issues, while promoting adherence to those basic standards.
- Piloting and Scaling Innovative Approaches to Defend Democratic Elections. As a complement to the Coalition for Securing Electoral Integrity, USAID will provide up to $17.5 million to establish a Defending Democratic Elections Fund to pilot, scale, and apply evidence-based responses to threats to electoral integrity and related political processes globally. This Fund will address issues such as cybersecurity; domestic and foreign electoral manipulation; electoral violence, including gender-based violence; illicit domestic and foreign political financing; election-related disinformation; and barriers to the political participation of marginalized populations.
Finally, as part of the Presidential Initiative for Democratic Renewal, the U.S. Government will launch two new cross-cutting rapid response programs aimed at supporting the Summit for Democracy’s objectives.
- Demonstrating that Democracy Delivers. To help countries experiencing a democratic transition demonstrate democracy’s tangible benefits, USAID will provide up to $55 million to launch Partnerships for Democracy. This new, global, and flexible funding mechanism will enable the U.S. Government to surge cross-sectoral assistance to reform-minded partner governments to assist them in delivering visible benefits to their populations in areas such as health care and education.
- Advancing the Democratic Renewal Agenda. To advance global democracy priorities that frequently intersect, such as strengthening rule of law, fighting corruption, bolstering civilian security, and promoting human rights, the State Department will provide up to $10 million to launch the Fund for Democratic Renewal (FDR). This flexible, rapid-response fund will enable State Department bureaus and offices under the Under Secretary for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights to respond collectively and collaboratively to support partners working on democracy’s front lines.