United States Democracy Assistance Senate Hearing

United States Democracy Assistance Senate Hearing Featured Image

Chairman of the Board of the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) Ken Blackwell, a former Ohio Secretary of State responsible for election administration and a former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Human Rights Commission, submitted a written testimony to the Senate Committee on Appropriations’ Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs for inclusion in the record of the hearing on “United States Democracy Assistance” held on May 9, 2017.

Blackwell urged the subcommittee and the U.S. Congress to continue its tradition of bipartisan support for democracy, rights and governance. The testimony points out that relatively small, strategic investments in electoral assistance will continue to contribute to a more prosperous, secure America.

The testimony also explains how electoral assistance advances American interests. Stable democracies make for better trading partners, provide new market opportunities, improve global health outcomes, and promote economic freedom and regional security.

For example:

  • IFES’ technical support ensured Guatemala’s fall 2015 elections were conducted in a peaceful and transparent manner. IFES helped implement the Inter-Institutional Security Committee, through which electoral authorities and other government agencies monitored and coordinated a prompt and adequate response to electoral violence. Credible elections contribute to a more stable Guatemala, removing incentives for its citizens to emigrate north.
  • Nigeria’s watershed 2015 elections – despite taking place at the height of the Boko Haram insurgency – ensured stability through the first democratic transfer of power in the country’s history and its continuation as one of the United States’ largest African trading partners.
  • Tunisia, a bright spot in a rough neighborhood, has held three credible elections to date with U.S. Agency for International Development-supported IFES technical assistance, and continues to welcome IFES support as it prepares for local elections in 2017. With USG assistance, Tunisia has resisted authoritarianism and failed statehood, and is a reliable partner in the fight against Daesh and violent extremism.
  • Myanmar’s historic 2015 general elections saw a landslide victory of Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy and ushered in a new era of democratic process. Much of its success was due to USG assistance – as stated by the chairman of the Union Election Commission after Election Day, “We wouldn’t be standing here if not for IFES.” Not only has Myanmar’s democratic transition helped open space for improved human rights, but will enhance U.S.-Myanmar cooperation on such international security issues as nuclear nonproliferation and North Korean arms sales.

Read the complete testimony.

The hearing can be viewed online on May 9th at 2:30 p.m. here: https://www.appropriations.senate.gov/

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