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National Endowment for Democracy

National Endowment for Democracy
Logo non-governmental organization National Endowment for Democracy (NED)
FoundedNovember 18, 1983 (1983-11-18)
Type501(c)(3) non-profit
OriginsU.S. Congress resolution H.R. 2915
Area served
Key people
Carl Gershman (President)
The President of the National Endowment for Democracy, Carl Gershman (pictured, second from the left), presents an award to a Tunisian leader of the Arab Spring in November 2011.

The National Endowment for Democracy (NED) is a U.S. non-profit soft power organization that was founded in 1983 with the stated goal of promoting democracy abroad.[1] It is funded primarily through an annual allocation from the U.S. Congress in the form of a grant awarded through the United States Information Agency (USIA). It was created by The Democracy Program as a bipartisan, private, non-profit corporation, and in turn acts as a grant-making foundation.[1] In addition to its grants program, NED also supports and houses the Journal of Democracy, the World Movement for Democracy, the International Forum for Democratic Studies, the Reagan–Fascell Fellowship Program, the Network of Democracy Research Institutes, and the Center for International Media Assistance.



A bill was introduced in April 1967 by Congressman Dante Fascell (D-Fla.) to create an institute of International Affairs. And although the bill did not pass it led to discussions on Capitol Hill to establish an institution in which democracy efforts abroad would benefit the U.S. as well as countries struggling for freedom and self- government.

In a 1982 speech at the Palace of Westminster, President Ronald Reagan proposed an initiative, before the British Parliament, "to foster the infrastructure of democracy—the system of a free press, unions, political parties, universities." The U.S. government, through USAID (United States Agency for International Development), contracted The American Political Foundation to study democracy promotion, which became known as "The Democracy Program." The Program recommended the creation of a bipartisan, private, non-profit corporation to be known as the National Endowment for Democracy (NED). NED, though non-governmental, would be funded primarily through annual appropriations from the U.S. government and subject to congressional oversight.[2] The State Department and United States Information Agency (USIA) proposed the Endowment to encourage and facilitate exchanges between democratic institutions through private sectors; promote nongovernmental participation in democratic training programs; strengthening democratic electoral processes abroad in cooperation with indigenous democratic forces; fostering cooperation between American private sector groups and those abroad "dedicated to the cultural values, institutions, and organizations of democratic pluralism.", and encouraging democratic development consistent with the interests of both the U.S and the other groups receiving assistance.

Paul Steiger of ProPublica has written that "Those who spearheaded creation of NED have long acknowledged it was part of an effort to move from covert to overt efforts to foster democracy."[3] Steiger pointed to a 1983 speech by Reagan, who stated: "This program will not be hidden in the shadows. It will stand proudly in the spotlight, and that's where it belongs."[3] In a 1991 interview with David Ignatius, former acting president of NED Allen Weinstein, who was influential in the NED's establishment, said, "A lot of what we do today was done covertly 25 years ago by the CIA."[3]

In 1983, the House Foreign Affairs Committee proposed legislation to provide initial funding of $31.3 million for NED as part of the State Department Authorization Act (H.R. 2915), because NED was in its beginning stages of development the appropriation was set at $18 million. Included in the legislation was $13.8 million for the Free Trade Union Institute, an affiliate of the AFL-CIO, $2.5 million for an affiliate of the National Chamber Foundation, and $5 million each for two party institutes, which was later eliminated by a vote of 267–136. The conference report on H.R. 2915 was adopted by the House on November 17, 1983 and the Senate the following day. On November 18, 1983, articles of incorporation were filed in the District of Columbia to establish the National Endowment for Democracy as a nonprofit organization.[2]

Later history

Under the reauthorization of NED several factors were added to the organizations guidelines: the NED Act had to arrange the Board's prohibition on the use of funds for partisan political purposes, including funding for national party operations; mandate that NED consult with the State Department on any overseas programs it funds prior to the commencement of their activities; move the required date of reporting to Congress on all grants from December 31 to February 4, and lastly despite its non-governmental status, comply fully with the requirements of the Freedom of Information Act.


NED is a grant-making foundation, distributing funds to private non-governmental organizations for promoting democracy abroad. Half of NED's funding is allocated annually to four main U.S. organizations: the American Center for International Labor Solidarity (ACILS), the Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE), the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs (NDI), and the International Republican Institute (IRI), formerly known as the National Republican Institute for International Affairs. The other half of NED's funding is awarded annually to hundreds of non-governmental organizations based abroad which apply for support.[4]

Source of funding

The NED receives an annual appropriation from the U.S. budget (it is included in the chapter of the Department of State budget destined for the U.S. Agency for International Development-USAID) and is subject to congressional oversight even as a non-governmental organization. In the financial year to the end of September 2009 NED had an income of $135.5 million, nearly all of which came from U.S Government agencies.[5]

From 1984 to 1990 the NED received $15–18 million of congressional funding annually, and $25–$30m from 1991 to 1993. At the time the funding came via the United States Information Agency. In 1993 the NED nearly lost its congressional funding, after the House of Representatives initially voted to abolish its funding. The funding (of $35 million, a rise from $30 million the year before) was only retained after a vigorous campaign by NED supporters.[6]

The NED has received funding from foundations, such as the Smith Richardson Foundation, the John M. Olin Foundation, and others. The Bradley Foundation supported the Journal of Democracy with $1.5 million during 1990–2008.[7]


NED's long-serving president (since April 30, 1984[8]) is Carl Gershman, former Senior Counselor to the United States Representative to the United Nations and former Executive Director of Social Democrats USA.[9]

The Endowment's bipartisan board includes government officials like former Congressmen Martin Frost and Vin Weber, former Congressman and chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee Dante B. Fascell[10] , former United States Senator William E. Brock III[11], former senator Orrin Hatch, former deputy assistant to George W. Bush Elliot Abrams, former Senator Norm Coleman, Congresswoman Karen Bass and Margaret Spellings, former US Secretary of Education and president of the George W. Bush Presidential Center. It also includes former Ambassadors Robert Tuttle, Zalmay Khalilzad, Stephen Sestanovich and Princeton N. Lyman, Former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, Melanne Verveer, former Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women's Issues and current director of the Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security. In addition, positions are held by scholars of political science and international affairs, Andrew Nathan of Columbia University, author and Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution, William Galston, Francis Fukuyama of FSI, George Weigel of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, Azar Nafisi of Johns Hopkins SAIS, as well as Senior associates at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace Michele Dunne and Moises Naim. Other members include business leader Marilyn Nelson of Carlson, attorney Jayne M. Kurzman, union leaders James Boland, Fred Redmond, Former president of the United Federation of Teachers Albert Shankner.[12] former President of the AFL-CIO Lane Kirkland and Vice President of Global Public Policy at Facebook, Marne Levine. The Board also includes: John Bohn, Republican political advisor, Barry Jackson, former chairman of the Republican National Committee Frank Fahrenkopf[13], former chairman of the Democratic National Committee Charles T. Mannatt[14] , Progressive Policy Institute President Will Marshall, and former World Bank President Robert Zoellick.


The NED supports programs only in countries outside the United States.

Funding of election monitors and democratic advocacy

NED does not directly fund any political party, as this is forbidden by law. According to NED, it funds election monitoring and also civic education about voting, such as student-led "get-out-the-vote" campaigns.[15]

NED has also supported, provided training, and consulted with groups which approve of democracy, but criticize the United States, in countries such as Indonesia and Ukraine.[which?] The NED says that it focuses funding on democracy-minded organizations rather than opposition groups; however it does not support groups that openly advocate communism, fundamentalism, or dictatorships. Michael McFaul, in an article for the Washington Post, argues that the NED is not an instrument of U.S. foreign policy. As an example of this, he states that the NED was willing to fund pro-democratic organizations even when the U.S. government was supportive of non-democratic governments in the region.[which?][16]

Central America

According to "London Progressive Journal", The International Republican Institute (IRI) received about $1.2 million from NED in 2009 in order to support think tanks and advocacy groups to "support initiatives to implement political positions during the campaigns in 2009".[17]


In 2002, Mehangiz Kar, an Iranian women activist, received the annual Democracy award from then-First Lady Laura Bush.[18]

Latin America and the Caribbean


In 2004, Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez publicized documents which purported to show that the NED funded civil associations in the country, including a tripling of funding from about $250,000 to nearly $900,000 between 2000 and 2001.[19] As of July, 2010, the NED is accused of funding several journalists in Venezuela who work for opposition media outlets.[20]

Western Europe

NED also funded political groups in the democracies of Western Europe in the 1980s. The French newspaper Libération published a report which claimed that the U.S. funded the National Inter-University Union.[21]

More recently, the NED has provided funding to the French NGO Reporters Without Borders (RSF), which promotes freedom of press, particularly in Cuba.[22]

Eastern Europe

During the 1980s and 1990s, NED invested millions of dollars in Eastern Europe.


In their 2012 report, NED indicated that it spent US$3,381,824 on programs in the Ukraine, encompassing the areas NGO Strengthening, Political Processes, Human Rights, Accountability, Developing Market Economy, Freedom of Information, Democratic Ideas and Values, Promoting Freedom of Assembly, Strengthening Political Institutions, and Monitoring Electoral Processes.[23]


NED was banned in Russia as an undesirable international NGO in July 2015 for "using Russian commercial and noncommercial organisations under its control... to declare the results of election campaigns illegitimate, organise political actions intended to influence decisions made by the authorities, and discredit service in Russia's armed forces."[24]


Democracy Award

The Democracy Award is given annually by the National Endowment for Democracy's Board of Directors to recognize "the courageous and creative work of individuals and organizations that have advanced the cause of human rights and democracy around the world." The trophy is a small-scale replica of the Goddess of Democracy that was constructed in Tiananmen Square in Beijing, China during the student movement for freedom and democracy in 1989.[25]

Notable recipients include: Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo, former President of Mexico Vicente Fox, and journalist Veton Surroi.[26][27] Past speakers at the award's ceremony have included U.S. Senator John McCain, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi.[28][29][30]


Year Recipient Nationality Notes
2017 Cynthia Gabriel  Malaysia Human rights advocate and anti-corruption leader in Malaysia
Khalil Parsa  Afghanistan Founder and executive director of Supporting Organization for Afghanistan Civil Society (SOACS)
Claudia Escobar  Guatemala the lead whistleblower in a case of grand corruption that revealed illegal interference in Guatemala's judiciary by high-ranking political officials including the country's vice president and the former president of Congress
Rafael Marques  Angola Angolan journalist and human rights defender focused on investigating government corruption and abuses in the diamond industry.
Denys Bihus  Ukraine Leads TOM 14, a group of professional investigative journalists in Ukraine. In 2013, Bihus launched an anti-corruption television program, Nashi Hroshi (Our Money).
2015 Political prisoners of Venezuela  Venezuela Mitzy Capriles de Ledezma, Lilian Tintori and Tamara Sujú accepted the award
2014 Liu Xiaobo  China President of the Independent Chinese PEN Center from 2003 to 2007. Was behind the launching of Charter 08
Xu Zhiyong  China Co-founded the Open Constitution Initiative in China
2013 Gulalai Ismail  Pakistan Human rights activist that established Aware Girls at the age of 16
Harold Cepero  Cuba One of the authors of Varela Project in Cuba that collected over 25 000 signatures
Vera Kichanova  Russia Reporter for the independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta
Glanis Changachirere  Zimbabwe In 2009 Glanis established the Institute for Young Women's Development
2012 Hkun Htun Oo  Myanmar Human rights activists and members of the Democratic Movement of Burma
Kyaw Thu
Aung Din
Cynthia Maung


One criticism of the organization includes a lack of openness and public accountability in its stewardship of millions of dollars a year in taxpayer funds in the year 1985.[31]

A Slate article from 2004 said of NED, "Depending on whom you ask, the NED is either a nonprofit champion of liberty or an ideologically driven meddler in world affairs."[32]

The Maduro government in Venezuela has accused the NED of being a front for covert operations by the US government in Venezuela.[33]

Center for International Media Assistance (CIMA)

CIMA works to improve the development of independent media worldwide while working to strengthen the support for such development.[34] The center works to improve the effectiveness of existing media development efforts by conducting research, building networks and bringing together a broad range of experts to share their experiences. CIMA's mission is based on the conviction that free and independent media play an indispensable role in developing sustainable democracies around the world.

In 2006, CIMA was founded as an initiative of the National Endowment for Democracy with encouragement from Congress and a grant from the State Department's Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor.[35]

See also


  1. ^ a b Lowe, David. "Idea to Reality: NED at 25".
  2. ^ a b "History". National Endowment for Democracy. Archived from the original on April 26, 2008. Retrieved November 3, 2008.
  3. ^ a b c The National Endowment for Democracy Responds to Our Burma Nuclear Story -- And Our Response, ProPublica (November 24, 2010).
  4. ^ "Grants". National Endowment for Democracy. Retrieved November 3, 2008.
  5. ^ "2008 Independent Auditors' Report" (PDF). National Endowment for Democracy. 2008. Retrieved April 2, 2010.
  6. ^ Carothers, Thomas (1994). "The NED at 10". Foreign Policy (95): 123–138. doi:10.2307/1149427. ISSN 0015-7228. JSTOR 1149427.
  7. ^ "Recipient Grants: National Endowment for Democracy". Media Transparency. Archived from the original on August 4, 2008. Retrieved November 3, 2008.
  8. ^ World Movement for Democracy, Carl Gershman Archived April 3, 2013, at the Wayback Machine
  9. ^ "Meet Our President". National Endowment for Democracy. July 9, 2008. Archived from the original on April 26, 2008. Retrieved November 2, 2008.
  10. ^ Franklin, Ben a (May 29, 1984). "PROJECT DEMOCRACY TAKES WING". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved September 13, 2017.
  11. ^ "William E. Brock | Center for Strategic and International Studies". Retrieved September 13, 2017.
  12. ^ Times, Special to the New York (February 17, 1987). "Labor Officials Deny Link to Covert Project". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved September 13, 2017.
  13. ^ "Frank Fahrenkopf | The Institute of Politics at Harvard University". Retrieved September 13, 2017.
  14. ^ Shipler, David K.; Times, Special to the New York (June 1, 1986). "MISSIONARIES FOR DEMOCRACY: U.S. AID FOR GLOBAL PLURALISM". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved September 21, 2017.
  15. ^ "Grants Program – 2004". National Endowment for Democracy. Archived from the original on May 14, 2008. Retrieved November 3, 2008.
  16. ^ McFaul, Michael. "'Meddling' In Ukraine: Democracy is not an American plot". Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Retrieved November 3, 2008.
  17. ^ Dominguez, Francisco (2009). "US Support is Propping Up Honduran Military Coup". London Progressive Journal (79). Archived from the original on March 2, 2012.
  18. ^ "Publications". National Endowment for Democracy. Archived from the original on May 9, 2008. Retrieved November 3, 2008.
  19. ^ "Hugo Chavez Accuses U.S. of Spending Over $1 Million To Help Oust Him". Democracy Now!. April 3, 2004. Archived from the original on November 14, 2007. Retrieved November 3, 2008.
  20. ^ "Buying Venezuela's Press With U.S. Tax Dollars". NACLA. July 15, 2010. Retrieved September 14, 2010.
  21. ^ Conry, Barbara (November 8, 1993). Cato Institute Foreign Policy Briefing No. 27: Loose Cannon: The National Endowment for Democracy (PDF) (Report). Cato Institute. Retrieved August 12, 2019.
  22. ^ Barahona, Diana (May 17, 2005) Reporters Without Borders Unmasked, CounterPunch. Archived November 30, 2006, at the Wayback Machine
  23. ^ "Ukraine: National Endowment for Democracy". Archived from the original on August 31, 2014. Retrieved March 17, 2014.
  24. ^ "National Endowment for Democracy is first 'undesirable' NGO banned in Russia". The Guardian.
  25. ^ Democracy Award – Official website of the National Endowment for Democracy
  26. ^ Center, Foundation. "National Endowment for Democracy Honors President of Mexico". Philanthropy News Digest (PND). Retrieved September 14, 2017.
  27. ^ "Veton Surroi, journalist and activist, to speak about Kosovo War | U-M LSA Weiser Center for Europe and Eurasia (WCEE)". Retrieved September 14, 2017.
  28. ^ "Senator John McCain's Remarks To NED On Iran's Opposition And The U.S." RadioFreeEurope/RadioLiberty. Retrieved September 14, 2017.
  29. ^ "Speaker Ryan to Address NED 2017 Democracy Award Ceremony". June 6, 2017. Archived from the original on December 23, 2018. Retrieved September 14, 2017.
  30. ^ "Pelosi Remarks at the National Endowment for Democracy - Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi". Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi. November 13, 2013. Retrieved September 14, 2017.
  31. ^ Ben A. Franklin, "Democracy Project Facing New Criticisms," The New York Times (December 4, 1985). Retrieved 14 May 2014.
  32. ^ []
  33. ^ []
  34. ^ "Center for International Media Assistance".
  35. ^ "National Endowment for Democracy" (PDF). Archived from the original on March 12, 2013. Retrieved August 2, 2017.

Further reading

External links