President and CEO Testifies on Emerging Threats to Democracy and Elections Worldwide
On March 12, 2019, International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) President and CEO Anthony Banbury provided testimony to the House Appropriations Subcommittee on State and Foreign Operations on “Electoral Assistance: Critical to American Interests, Essential for the Future of Democracy.”
A recording of the hearing is available below, and a summary of his oral testimony follows.
Banbury assessed increasing threats to democracy and elections abroad from an alignment of hostile foreign actors, rising authoritarianism and new technologies being weaponized to advance undemocratic objectives. To proactively address this crisis, Banbury recommended that the United States (U.S.) Congress:
- Continue the $2.4 billion set-aside for democracy programs, which represents just four percent of the total international affairs budget.
- Establish a “DARPA for Democracy.” The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has successfully advanced U.S. national security by making “pivotal investments in breakthrough technologies.” Banbury suggested a similar initiative focused on developing new tools to promote, protect and defeat attacks against democracies and elections abroad. A “DARPA for Democracy” would provide the kind of dedicated, focused and holistic approach needed to make progress across the full range of threats to democracy and electoral integrity. Once developed, new tools would be deployed using regular foreign aid programming.
- Provide critical funding for middle-income countries that have “graduated” from traditional electoral assistance, but are now facing next generation challenges. Banbury recommended increased democracy and electoral assistance to countries at risk of democratic backsliding to protect the investment the U.S. has made in these allies and partners over the years.
Banbury concluded by thanking Chairwoman Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) and Ranking Member Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) for their bipartisan leadership and championing of robust funding for democracy assistance.