National Endowment for Democracy

National Endowment for Democracy
Logo non-governmental organization National Endowment for Democracy (NED)
Founded November 18, 1983 (1983-11-18)
Type 501(c)(3) non-profit
Origins U.S. Congress resolution H.R. 2915
Area served
Key people
Carl Gershman (President)
Mission democracy promotion
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.

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 structured to act as a grant-making foundation, distributing funds to private non-governmental organizations for the purpose of promoting democracy abroad. The Endowment serves as the umbrella organization in which 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.[3]

The Endowment has come a long way from opposition between both political parties in its earlier stages to widespread bipartisan endorsement on the Hill. And even though the American government has implemented its own democracy promoting capabilities through USAID (United States Agency for International Development), NED's independence plays a key factor in its relevance. The organizations independence gives it an ability to work in situations that official bodies may have to avoid and its non-bureaucratic nature enables it to move quickly in rapidly changing situations. NED has become a universal model and has influenced other nations to create their own institutions for the promotion of democracy.

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.[4]

From 1984 to 1990 the NED received $15–18m 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 $35m, a rise from $30m the year before) was only retained after a vigorous campaign by NED supporters.[5]

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.[6]


NED's long-serving president (since April 30, 1984[7]) is Carl Gershman, former Senior Counselor to the United States Representative to the United Nations and former Executive Director of Social Democrats USA.[8]

The Endowment's bipartisan board is composed of a wide range of people. The group includes government officials like former Congressmen Martin Frost and Vin Weber, 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. The board also includes former Ambassadors Robert Tuttle, Zalmay Khalilzad, Stephen Sestanovich and Princeton N. Lyman, as well as 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, Azir 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 and Fred Redmond, and Vice President of Global Public Policy at Facebook, Marne Levine. The Board also includes: John Bohn, Republican political advisor Barry Jackson, Progressive Policy Institute President Will Marshall, and former World Bank President Robert Zoellick.


The NED has supported programs 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.[9]

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. 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.[10]

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".[11]


Democracy and human rights advocacy

Of the 28 Asian NGOs the NED funds, 18 are related to China. Most of these grants go to organizations promoting democracy and human rights. Democracy organizations funded by the NED that target China as a whole are Human Rights in China, the China Strategic Institute, and the Laogai Research Foundation.

The NGO 'Chinese Urgent Action Working Group'[12] run by Swedish man Peter Dahlin also received funding from the National Endowment for Democracy. Dahlin, a Swedish citizen, was detained and interrogated for 23 days by China’s Ministry of State Security. Interrogators showed him a document about the organization, complete with names of employees, associates and grant recipients. The internal report showed how the "Chinese Urgent Action Working Group" had received financing from NED for the last five years.

"I realized it must have come straight from N.E.D. itself somehow," Mr. Dahlin said in an interview with The New York Times, adding that he had never seen the document before. Dahlin said, "They appeared intent on gathering information about groups financed by the National Endowment for Democracy".[13]


According to the NED's online Democracy Projects Database it has given funding the following groups for programs relating to China's Xinjiang province and its Uyghur people.

To advance the human rights of Uyghur women and children. The Foundation will maintain an English- and Uyghur-language website on the human rights situation of Uyghur women and children; conduct a civic education seminar for Uyghur women; and conduct advocacy on behalf of the human rights of Uyghurs in China.

To promote freedom of expression for writers working in the Uyghur language. The International Uyghur PEN Club will maintain a website that features banned writings and the works of persecuted poets, historians, journalists, and others, and will conduct international advocacy campaigns on behalf of imprisoned writers.

To raise awareness of Uyghur human rights issues and advance religious freedom and human rights. The UAA’s Uyghur Human Rights Project will research, document and bring to international attention, independent and accurate information about human rights violations affecting the Turkic populations of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.

To enhance the ability of Uyghur prodemocracy groups and leaders to implement effective human rights and democracy campaigns. The World Uyghur Congress will organize a conference and training workshop for pro-democracy Uyghur youth, as well as young and mid-career professionals, on the use of new media and social networking technology for advocacy and outreach, Internet security, and innovative tactics in promoting and defending human rights.


According to the NED's online Democracy Projects Database it has given funding the following groups for programs relating to Iran (1990–2006):

Iranians who have served as fellows at NED include:[14]

In 2002, Mehangiz Kar, an Iranian women activist received the annual Democracy award from then-First Lady Laura Bush.[15]

Latin America and the Caribbean


NED supports a wide range of programs in Ecuador including the Asociación de Mujeres Municipalistas del Ecuador (AMUME) which “advocates on behalf of women elected officials during legislative reform efforts by facilitating debate, analysis and women’s participation,” and Asylum Access which provides legal support for refugee communities.


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.[16] As of July, 2010, the NED is accused of funding several journalists in Venezuela who work for opposition media outlets.[17]

The National Endowment for Democracy, on their Venezuela page[18] indicate that the National Endowment for Democracy spent $1,752,300 on grants for the following programs in Venezuela (with specific areas indicated) in 2013: Accountability, Civic Education, Democratic Ideas and Values, Developing Market Economy, Freedom of Association, Freedom of Information, Human Rights, Political Processes, Rule of Law, Strengthening Political Institutions.

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.

More recently, the NED has provided funding to the French NGO Reporters Without Borders (RSF), which promotes freedom of press, particularly in Cuba.[19]

Eastern Europe

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


The NED played a significant role in the 2004 presidential election in Ukraine.

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.[20]


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."[21]


Center for International Media Assistance (CIMA)

The Center for International Media Assistance (CIMA) "works to strengthen the support, raise the visibility, and improve the effectiveness of independent media development throughout the world. The Center provides information, builds networks, conducts research, and highlights the indispensable role independent media play in the creation and development of sustainable democracies."[24] "CIMA convenes working groups, commissions research reports, and holds events. The Center distributes a comprehensive list of digital media information and maintains a bibliographic database of international media assistance resources."[24]


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.[25] Libertarian congressman Ron Paul also argued against NED funding in 2005 stating that NED has "very little to do with democracy. It is an organization that uses US tax money to actually subvert democracy, by showering funding on favored political parties or movements overseas. It underwrites color-coded ‘people’s revolutions’ overseas that look more like pages out of Lenin’s writings on stealing power than genuine indigenous democratic movements." [26]

The libertarian think tank Cato Institute criticized money spent in France in the 1980s saying that:

"French democracy in the 1980s did not appear to be so fragile that it required financial assistance from American taxpayers to sustain itself. The government of François Mitterrand was duly elected within a democratic system nearly as old as America's. The AFL-CIO, however, determined that France's socialist government was permitting a dangerous rise of communist influence. According to the late Irving Brown, Paris-based director of international relations for the AFL-CIO at the time of the incident: "France . . . is threatened by the Communist apparatus. . . . It is a clear and present danger if the present is thought of as 10 years from now." That mentality has resulted in AFL-CIO support for highly controversial causes. One of the French groups that received funding, the National Inter-University Union, was widely viewed as a cauldron of rightist extremism and xenophobia and rumored also to have ties to terrorists. [27]

Investigative reporter and editor of Consortiumnews Robert Parry has characterized NED as a "neocon slush fund," whose founding was the brainchild of Reagan Administration CIA Director William Casey and its leading propagandist Walter Raymond Jr., then on the staff of the National Security Council. The idea was to set up an organization funded by the U.S. Congress to take over CIA programs that attempted to influence foreign elections by promoting the selection of candidates who supported U.S. policy and would "do what the U.S. government tells them to do."[28]

See also


  1. 1 2 Lowe, David. "Idea to Reality: NED at 25".
  2. 1 2 "History". National Endowment for Democracy. Archived from the original on April 26, 2008. Retrieved November 3, 2008.
  3. "Grants". National Endowment for Democracy. Retrieved November 3, 2008.
  4. "2008 Independent Auditors' Report" (PDF). National Endowment for Democracy. 2008. Retrieved April 2, 2010.
  5. Thomas Carothers, "The NED at 10", Foreign Policy, No. 95 (Summer, 1994), pp. 123–138.
  6. "Recipient Grants: National Endowment for Democracy". Media Transparency. Retrieved November 3, 2008.
  7. World Movement for Democracy, Carl Gershman
  8. "Meet Our President". National Endowment for Democracy. July 9, 2008. Archived from the original on April 26, 2008. Retrieved November 2, 2008.
  9. "Grants Program – 2004". National Endowment for Democracy. Archived from the original on May 14, 2008. Retrieved November 3, 2008.
  10. McFaul, Michael. "'Meddling' In Ukraine: Democracy is not an American plot". Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Retrieved November 3, 2008.
  11. Dominguez, Francisco (2009). "US Support is Propping Up Honduran Military Coup". London Progressive Journal (79). Archived from the original on March 2, 2012.
  12. "Chinese Urgent Action Working Group". Retrieved 10 July 2016.
  13. Wong, Edward (2016-07-09). "Inside China's Secret 23-Day Detention of a Foreign Nonprofit Chief". The New York Times. Retrieved 2016-07-09.
  14. "Fellowship Programs – Past Fellows". National Endowment for Democracy. Archived from the original on April 15, 2008. Retrieved November 3, 2008.
  15. "Publications". National Endowment for Democracy. Archived from the original on May 9, 2008. Retrieved November 3, 2008.
  16. "Hugo Chavez Accuses U.S. of Spending Over $1 Million To Help Oust Him". Democracy Now!. April 3, 2004. Retrieved November 3, 2008.
  17. "Buying Venezuela's Press With U.S. Tax Dollars". NACLA. July 15, 2010. Retrieved September 14, 2010.
  18. "Venezuela National Endowment for Democracy". Archived from the original on March 11, 2014. Retrieved March 17, 2014.
  19. Barahona, Diana (May 17, 2005) Reporters Without Borders Unmasked, CounterPunch. Archived November 30, 2006, at the Wayback Machine.
  20. "Ukraine: National Endowment for Democracy". Retrieved March 17, 2014.
  21. "National Endowment for Democracy is first 'undesirable' NGO banned in Russia". The Guardian.
  22. "National Endowment for Democracy: Russia". National Endowment for Democracy. Retrieved August 9, 2010.
  23. Radio Gives Hope to North Koreans, CNN, February 27, 2008.
  24. 1 2 "About CIMA". Center for International Media Assistance.
  25. Ben A. Franklin, "Democracy Project Facing New Criticisms," The New York Times (December 4, 1985). Retrieved 14 May 2014.
  27. Conry, Barbara (1993-11-08). "Loose Cannon: The National Endowment for Democracy". Retrieved 2015-12-04.
  28. "Key Neocon Calls on US to Oust Putin".

Further reading

External links

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