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Democracy and Governance

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Democracy & Governance


Democracy and Governance

While democratic governments exist in some countries in the ANE region, most notably Japan, the region is also home to some of the world's most closed and repressive regimes. Asia and the Near East have had varying experience with elections and open political processes. East Asia has experienced modest political liberalization, while in South Asia democracy prevails in spite of lower per-capita income levels. In the Middle East and North Africa, autocratic governments predominate.

USAID democracy assistance programs are implemented through field missions that provide support to both US and indigenous public and non-governmental organizations through a variety of contracting mechanisms: grants, cooperative agreements, and contracts. In designing these programs, every effort is made to ensure that local partner organizations and the host country government are consulted. Their active participation is vital to promoting a sustainable democratic polity. USAID has DG programs in ten of the thirteen ANE presence countries. The overall funding level for ANE DG programs in FY 97 was about $60 million.

The current financial and political crisis sweeping much of East Asia will have an impact on democracy programming in the ASEAN region and possibly beyond. Without diminishing the severity of this problem, it does provide new openings for democracy programs. Of special relevance are those programs that work at the intersection of democracy and economic growth -- for example, making financial institutions more accountable to the public and other anti-corruption activities.

Freedom House Ratings, 1997

FreePartly FreeNot Free
Sri Lanka
West Bank/Gaza

USAID uses the Freedom House index of political rights and civil liberties to provide an assessment of whether a country is free, partly free, or not free. The accompanying chart shows where USAID's ANE countries are on the scale. Two ANE countries are of note: Morocco, which moved from free to partly free in 1997, primarily because most political authority continues to rest with the King, and Yemen, which remains not free but is trending upwards toward partly free, mainly because the country has established an independent elections commission with USAID's assistance.

Overall Freedom

This graph shows that ANE countries with USAID missions have lagged behind the rest of the world in their democratic development, especially since 1993. It also shows that where there is a USAID presence Asian countries have fared somewhat better than Middle Eastern countries.


The accompanying graphic shows the distinction between two types of funding USAID receives: Economic Support Funds (ESF) and Development Assistance funds (DA).

ANE DG funding levels

The Department of State makes decisions about the allocation of ESF money to USAID, while DA money is directly programmed by USAID. The graph shows that DA funding has declined since fiscal year 1996.

The following table shows how the ANE Bureau fares in terms of DG funding levels in comparison with other bureaus in USAID. ANE receives considerably less DG money than any other bureau, which limits its ability to program effectively.

DG Funding Allocations -- All Spigots (in $US millions)

RegionFiscal Year 1998Fiscal Year 1999

DG Strategic Objective and Priorities

USAID's work in democracy and governance supports The transition to and consolidation of democratic regimes throughout the world. To promote this broad goal within the ANE region, USAID works to:

Encourage the liberalization of authoritarian states

Support peaceful democratic processes in countries emerging from authoritarian rule or civil conflict

Strengthen political participation at the local and national levels by women and disadvantaged groups

Protect the basic human rights of women and children

To accomplish these objectives, the ANE bureau works in four broad program areas: civil society, rule of law, elections and political parties, and governance.

Civil Society

All Asia and Near East countries with democracy programs work with civil society organizations, with the exception of Lebanon. These organizations advocate on behalf of the poor and other disadvantaged groups. In Bangladesh, for instance, the number of village-based advocacy associations in target areas has expanded far beyond the 113 targeted to 2,185 associations. Our work in civil society also includes organizations that monitor government performance as well as the media and its coverage of local events. These organizations exist independently of government and adhere to a set of social principles that guide their work.

Rule of Law

USAID's work in the ANE region supports independent judiciaries, alternative mechanisms for resolving disputes, and the provision of legal aid. Through the Cambodian Defender's project, the average time prisoners were held in pretrial detention declined from 5.7 months to 3. 8 months. In Egypt, USAID provides judges with advanced training in civil law. In Sri Lanka, the Agency supports the Ministry of Justice's Mediation Boards program, which has proven to be an excellent means of reducing case backlog

Elections and Party Development

USAID, through a variety of mechanisms, has focussed attention on elections and political party development, as these are the primary means citizens have of expressing their interests to government. A wide range of services is provided, from developing party outreach capabilities in Mongolia to possible future work on elections administration in Indonesia. In concert with the international community, USAID provided funding for American election monitors to observe Cambodia's recent elections.


USAID works to create more effective and representative parliaments, as in Egypt and the West Bank, public administration reform in Lebanon, and the development of local government capabilities in the Philippines. More concretely, in the Philippines, USAID provided technical assistance in the drafting of the new local government law that devolves power and resources to local government.

USAID Bureau for Asia and the Near East

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