President Sweeney Provides Testimony on “Democracy Promotion in a Challenging World”

On June 14, 2018, IFES President and CEO Bill Sweeney submitted written testimony to the House Foreign Affairs Committee on “Democracy Promotion in a Challenging World.”

Democratic backsliding, disinformation and electoral interference dominate the global news cycle. According to Freedom House’s “Freedom in the World” report, democracy faced its most serious crisis yet in 2017, as 71 countries suffered net declines in political rights and civil liberties. As we have seen in Afghanistan, Iraq, Kenya, Libya and the United States, electoral institutions are being targeted for physical and digital attacks. When deciding whether to participate in political processes, the lives and reputations of candidates, public servants and everyday citizens are increasingly at stake. There is no disputing that democracy is under siege.

But behind the headlines you will find that the heroes of democracy are quietly gaining ground. In truth, great strides in access, administration and technology continue to prove the transformative power of elections. Every day in every part of the world, elections and democratic processes are overcoming great odds to meet growing public demand for transparency, speed and accessibility. A greater number of democracies – and particularly of developed democracies – naturally gives rise to move advanced problems. Facing increasingly complex and nuanced challenges is a direct reflection of the sophistication of the world’s electoral systems.

The United States, and particularly the U.S. Congress, must rise to the challenge – those who champion democracy need American support and leadership to administer credible elections, particularly in the rapidly evolving areas of cybersecurity; disinformation; and the empowerment of women, persons with disabilities and ethnic and religious minorities; and especially in the face of China and Russia’s rising “sharp power.” We respectfully urge this committee and the U.S. Congress to continue its tradition of bipartisan support for democracy, rights and governance. Relatively small, strategic investments in electoral assistance will continue to contribute to a more prosperous, secure America.

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