The following is a statement by Bill Sweeney, president and CEO of the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) regarding Russian President Vladimir Putin’s announcement that ends the presence of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) in Russia:
“IFES is troubled by the imminent departure of USAID from Russia. The closing of USAID’s office and its support will present additional challenges for Russian citizens and organizations in the pursuit of democratic development. As an organization that proudly worked in Russia from 1993-2001, IFES believes local solutions are needed for a sustainable democracy; and these solutions can benefit from international experience and assistance.
In 1993, IFES first visited Russia to assess the country’s ongoing efforts at electoral reform and identify areas of potential improvement. Over the next five years, IFES was able to provide technical assistance to the Central Election Commission to increase transparency, improve the campaign finance system, and train journalists and media executives in election coverage. This work was considered successful by international donors and domestic stakeholders alike.
Today, democratic advances in this region are becoming increasingly less frequent. With important elections on the horizon in neighboring Georgia and Ukraine, now is not the time to retreat from international assistance to democratic elections and the protection of fundamental human rights. IFES remains committed to supporting citizens who work steadily toward creating a democratic system wherein each person has a voice in the way they are governed.
IFES believes fair elections, rule of law, human rights and credible institutions must be firmly in place for Russia to peacefully move toward a dynamic political system.”