National Endowment for Democracy

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National Endowment for Democracy
Logo non-governmental organization National Endowment for Democracy (NED)
FoundedNovember 18, 1983 (1983-11-18)
Type501(c)(3) non-profit
OriginsU.S. Congress resolution H.R. 2915
Area served
Key people
Carl Gershman (President)
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. agency that was founded in 1983 with the stated goal of promoting democracy abroad.[1][2][3] Some have described it as a non governmental organization[1][4] while others have described it as a quasi-autonomous non-governmental organization.[5][3] 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-FL) 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.[6] 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.[6]


NED is a grant-making foundation, distributing funds to private non-governmental organizations for promoting democracy abroad. 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.[7]

Source of funding[edit]

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.[8]

From 1984 to 1990 the NED received $15–18 million 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 $35 million, a rise from $30 million the year before) was only retained after a vigorous campaign by NED supporters.[9]

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.[10]


NED's long-serving president (since April 30, 1984[11]) is Carl Gershman, former Senior Counselor to the United States Representative to the United Nations and former Executive Director of Social Democrats USA.[12]


Funding of election monitors and democratic advocacy[edit]

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.[13]

Western Europe[edit]

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.[14]


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.[15]

Democracy Award[edit]

NED's Board of Directors annually gives a Democracy Award to recognize "the courageous and creative work of individuals and organizations that have advanced the cause of human rights and democracy around the world." The trophy is a small-scale replica of the Goddess of Democracy that was constructed during the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests.[16]

Notable recipients include: Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo, former President of Mexico Vicente Fox, and journalist Veton Surroi.[17][18] Past speakers at the award's ceremony have included U.S. Senator John McCain, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi.[19][20][21]


Year Theme Recipient Nationality Notes
2020 Working to strengthen civil society in Sudan Regional Centre for Development and Training  Sudan Group, trained hundreds of youth across of the country on democracy, activism, and local engagement[22]
Nuba Women for Education and Development Association  Sudan Group, trained local women activists to engage in peace processes and activism on local issues and respect for women’s rights[22]
Darfur Bar Association  Sudan Group, supported marginalized people to advocate for their rights and provided legal assistance to vulnerable activists before and during the protests[22]
2019 Defenders of human and religious rights in China World Uyghur Congress  East Turkestan Group, represented by Dolkun Isa, advocating for democracy, human rights, and freedom for the Uyghur people and the use of peaceful, nonviolent, and democratic means to help Uyghurs achieve self-determination[23]
Tibet Action Institute  Tibet Group, represented by Lhadon Tethong, uses digital communication tools with strategic nonviolent action to strengthen the capacity and effectiveness of the Tibet movement in a digital era[23]
ChinaAid  China Group, represented by Bob Fu, international non-profit Christian human rights organization committed to promoting religious freedom and the rule of law in China[23]
2018 Movement for human rights and democracy in North Korea Citizens' Alliance for North Korean Human Rights  South Korea Seoul-based group advocating for human rights in North Korea.[24]
Now Action & Unity for Human Rights  South Korea Group, led by Ji Seong-ho, advocating for human rights in North Korea and Korean reunification.[25]
Transitional Justice Working Group (TJWG)  South Korea Seoul-based non-profit that documents evidence of crimes against humanity in North Korea.[26]
Unification Media Group (UMG)  South Korea Seoul-based multimedia consortium that includes Daily NK, Radio Free Chosun, and Open North Korea Radio.[27]
2017 Anti-corruption activists Cynthia Gabriel  Malaysia Human rights advocate and anti-corruption leader in Malaysia.[28]
Khalil Parsa  Afghanistan Founder and executive director of Supporting Organization for Afghanistan Civil Society (SOACS); survivor of assassination attempt in 2016.[29]
Claudia Escobar  Guatemala Legal scholar, former magistrate of the Court of Appeals of Guatemala, and rule of law advocate; fled the country in 2015 after becoming a whistleblower in a corruption cases involving illegal political interference in the Guatemalan judiciary.[30]
Rafael Marques de Morais  Angola Angolan journalist and human rights activist focused on investigating government corruption, impunity, and abuses in the diamond industry.[31]
Denys Bihus  Ukraine Investigative journalist focused on corruption and anti-corruption.[32]
2015 Political prisoners of Venezuela  Venezuela Mitzy Capriles de Ledezma, Lilian Tintori and Tamara Sujú accepted the award on behalf of "imprisoned political leaders, human rights defenders, labor unionists, and student activists."[33]
2014 Chinese dissidents Liu Xiaobo  China 2010 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, human rights and political reform activist known for role in launching of Charter 08.[34]
Xu Zhiyong  China Legal scholar, co-founder of Open Constitution Initiative in China.[34]
2013 Youth pro-democracy activists Gulalai Ismail  Pakistan Human rights activist that established Aware Girls at the age of 16.[35]
Harold Cepero  Cuba One of the authors of Varela Project in Cuba. Award given posthumously.[35]
Vera Kichanova  Russia Reporter for the independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta, civic activist, municipal deputy in Yuzhnoye Tushino District, Moscow.[35]
Glanis Changachirere  Zimbabwe Founder of Institute for Young Women's Development.[35]
2012 Burmese democracy movement
Min Ko Naing  Myanmar Founding member of the 88 Generation Students Group.[36]
Hkun Htun Oo  Myanmar Politician and chairman of the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy.[36]
Kyaw Thu  Myanmar Actor and founder of the Free Funeral Service Society.[36]
Aung Din  Myanmar Former political prisoner and leader in the 1988 pro-democracy movement.[36]
Cynthia Maung  Myanmar Ethnic Karen physician and medical clinic worker.[36]
2002 Women activists in the Muslim world Mehrangiz Kar  Iran Human rights lawyer and activist.[37]
Muborak Tashpulatova  Uzbekistan Civics education activist, Tashkent Public Education Center director.[37]
Nadjet Bouda  Algeria Human rights activist focusing on the "disappeared" of the Algerian Civil War.[37]
Mariam Hussein Mohamed  Somalia Mogadishu-based human rights activist, founder and director of the Dr. Ismail Jumale Human Rights Organization.[37]


Praise and criticism[edit]

Writing in Slate in 2004, Brendan I. Koerner wrote that, "Depending on whom you ask, the NED is either a nonprofit champion of liberty or an ideologically driven meddler in world affairs."[38]

In a 2004 article for the Washington Post Michael McFaul 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.[39]

Throughout the course of a 2010 investigation by ProPublica, Paul Steiger, the then editor in chief of the publication said that "those who spearheaded creation of NED have long acknowledged it was part of an effort to move from covert to overt efforts to foster democracy" and cited as evidence a 1991 interview of then-NED president Allen Weinstein by David Ignatius, in which Weinstein said that "A lot of what we do today was done covertly 25 years ago by the CIA."[40]

Within Congress, early opposition to NED focused on four issues: the organization's structure, its independence, its mission, and purported redundancy to other U.S. activities.[1] The NED itself has responded to the various criticisms that have been leveled against it:[1]

  • With respect to NED's structure, some within Congress criticized the NED's interrelationship with its four affiliated institutions: the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs, International Republican Institute, Center for International Private Enterprise, and Solidarity Center, which are affiliated with Democratic, Republican, business, and labor interests, respectively.[1] NED responded that the allocation of funds to these grantees serves the national interest; that grants allocated to these grantees have to meet the same criteria as other grantees; and that "the entire concept of 'competitiveness,' as applied to NED's relationship with the Institutes, is misguided" because NED "does not operate by deciding what democracy projects should be funded and then sending out requests for proposals. Rather, it responds to the needs of democratic groups abroad and funds those requests that fit into its program priorities."[1]
  • With respect to independence, some critics took issue with NED's non-government status and suggests that this means the NED lacks accountability.[41][1] NED responded that it "is answerable to a wide array of overseers in both the Executive and Legislative Branches" and suggests that the NED's non-governmental status is advantageous.[1]
  • Some critics charged that NED was redundant to USAID or other U.S. government democracy-promotion efforts. A number of U.S. government studies indicated that the role of NED was complementary rather than duplicative, and NED argues that its work "is of a vastly different character from ... official institutions" in part because it has the advantage of non-bureaucratic flexibility.[1]
  • Some critics challenged the NED's mission on ideological grounds: some on the right wing have criticized NED for its labor affiliations and for supposedly promoting social democracy, while far left critics charged that the NED's democracy promotion efforts are "tantamount to interfering in the internal affairs of other countries in the service of U.S. foreign policy interests."[1] NED has responded by pointing out that criticism of it has diminished since the end of the Cold War, and by referring to its funding of efforts to promote indigenous human rights groups, civil society organizations, and "long-term democratic development" efforts.[1]

Reaction from foreign governments[edit]

Russian government officials and state media have frequently vilified NED.[42] The Russian state news agency RIA Novosti claimed in 2015 that NED grants were to blame for the Euromaidan mass protests that forced Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych from power.[42] In July 2015, the Russian government declared NED to be an "undesirable" NGO, making the endowment the first organization banned under the Russian undesirable organizations law signed two months earlier by Russian President Vladimir Putin.[42]

In 2019, the government of the People's Republic of China sanctioned the NED in response to the passage by the U.S. Congress of the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act.[43] The Chinese government asserted, without evidence, that the NED and CIA worked in tandem to covertly foment the 2019–20 Hong Kong protests,[44][43] and that NED acted as a U.S. intelligence front.[43][45] NED was one of several U.S.-based NGOs sanctioned by the Chinese government; others included the Human Rights Watch, Freedom House, the National Democratic Institute, and the International Republican Institute.[46][47] China also already tightly restricted the activities of foreign NGOs in China, particularly since 2016, and the NGOs sanctioned by China typically do not have offices on the mainland; as a result, the sanctions were regarded as mostly symbolic.[46] NED grant recipients in Hong Kong included labor advocacy and human rights groups such as the Solidarity Center and Justice Centre Hong Kong.[44] The Chinese government claimed that the sanctioned organizations were "anti-China" forces that "incite separatist activities for Hong Kong independence;[45] a U.S. State Department official said that "false accusations of foreign interference" against U.S.-based NGOs were "intended to distract from the legitimate concerns of Hongkongers."[47][48] Michael Pillsbury, a Hudson Institute foreign policy analyst and former Reagan administration official, stated that the Chinese accusation was "not totally false."[49][48]

Other governments that have objected to NED activity include Venezuela and Egypt.[43]

Center for International Media Assistance (CIMA)[edit]

In 2006, CIMA was founded as an initiative of the National Endowment for Democracy with encouragement from Congress and a grant from the State Department's Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor.[50]

CIMA works to improve the development of independent media worldwide while working to strengthen the support for such development.[51]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Lowe, David. "History - Idea to Reality: NED at 30". National Endowment for Democracy.
  2. ^ Richmond, Yale (2008). Practicing Public Diplomacy: A Cold War Odyssey. Berghahn Books. p. 161. ISBN 978-0-85745-013-5. NED was founded at the initiative of a small group of Washington insiders, who believed that the United States needed a "quango" (quasi-autonomous non-governmental organization) to promote democracy and counter communist influence abroad...
  3. ^ a b Otsuru-Kitagawa, Chieko (1998). "The Role of QUANGO in American Democratic Assistance". International Relations (119): 127–141. eISSN 1883-9916.
  4. ^ "National Endowment for Democracy is first 'undesirable' NGO banned in Russia". The Guardian. The Guardian. 28 Jul 2015.
  5. ^ Dominguez, Jorge I. (2013). The Future of Inter-American Relations. Routledge. p. 429. ISBN 978-1-136-68424-1. 13: On NED and other QUANGO programs...
  6. ^ a b "History". National Endowment for Democracy. Archived from the original on April 26, 2008. Retrieved November 3, 2008.
  7. ^ "Grants". National Endowment for Democracy. Retrieved November 3, 2008.
  8. ^ "2008 Independent Auditors' Report" (PDF). National Endowment for Democracy. 2008. Retrieved April 2, 2010.
  9. ^ Carothers, Thomas (1994). "The NED at 10". Foreign Policy (95): 123–138. doi:10.2307/1149427. ISSN 0015-7228. JSTOR 1149427.
  10. ^ "Recipient Grants: National Endowment for Democracy". Media Transparency. Archived from the original on August 4, 2008. Retrieved November 3, 2008.
  11. ^ World Movement for Democracy, Carl Gershman Archived April 3, 2013, at the Wayback Machine
  12. ^ "Meet Our President". National Endowment for Democracy. July 9, 2008. Archived from the original on April 26, 2008. Retrieved November 2, 2008.
  13. ^ "Grants Program – 2004". National Endowment for Democracy. Archived from the original on May 14, 2008. Retrieved November 3, 2008.
  14. ^ Conry, Barbara (8 November 1993). Cato Institute Foreign Policy Briefing No. 27: Loose Cannon: The National Endowment for Democracy (PDF) (Report). Cato Institute. Retrieved 12 August 2019.
  15. ^ "Ukraine: National Endowment for Democracy". Archived from the original on August 31, 2014. Retrieved March 17, 2014.
  16. ^ Democracy Award – Official website of the National Endowment for Democracy
  17. ^ Center, Foundation. "National Endowment for Democracy Honors President of Mexico". Philanthropy News Digest (PND). Retrieved 2017-09-14.
  18. ^ "Veton Surroi, journalist and activist, to speak about Kosovo War | U-M LSA Weiser Center for Europe and Eurasia (WCEE)". Retrieved 2017-09-14.
  19. ^ "Senator John McCain's Remarks To NED On Iran's Opposition And The U.S." RadioFreeEurope/RadioLiberty. Retrieved 2017-09-14.
  20. ^ "Speaker Ryan to Address NED 2017 Democracy Award Ceremony". June 6, 2017. Archived from the original on December 23, 2018. Retrieved September 14, 2017.
  21. ^ "Pelosi Remarks at the National Endowment for Democracy - Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi". Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi. 2013-11-13. Retrieved 2017-09-14.
  22. ^ a b c "SUDAN'S CIVIL SOCIETY WILL BE HONORED WITH 2020 NED DEMOCRACY AWARD". National Endowment for Democracy. 5 March 2020. Retrieved 6 May 2020.
  23. ^ a b c "DEFENDERS OF HUMAN AND RELIGIOUS RIGHTS IN CHINA TO RECEIVE 2019 DEMOCRACY AWARD ON 30TH ANNIVERSARY OF TIANANMEN MASSACRE". National Endowment for Democracy. 21 May 2019. Retrieved 6 May 2020.
  25. ^ 2018 DEMOCRACY AWARD RECIPIENT: NOW, ACTION & UNITY FOR HUMAN RIGHTS (NAUH), National Endowment for Democracy.
  27. ^ 2018 DEMOCRACY AWARD RECIPIENT: UNIFICATION MEDIA GROUP, National Endowment for Democracy.
  33. ^ 2015 Democracy Award, National Endowment for Democracy.
  34. ^ a b 2014 Democracy Award, National Endowment for Democracy.
  35. ^ a b c d 2013 Democracy Award, National Endowment for Democracy.
  36. ^ a b c d e 2012 Democracy Award, National Endowment for Democracy.
  37. ^ a b c d "Publications". National Endowment for Democracy. Archived from the original on May 9, 2008. Retrieved November 3, 2008.
  38. ^ Brendan Koerner, Bush Aims To Raise Whose Budget? The skinny on the National Endowment for Democracy, Slate (January 22, 2004).
  39. ^ McFaul, Michael. "'Meddling' In Ukraine: Democracy is not an American plot". Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Retrieved November 3, 2008.
  40. ^ The National Endowment for Democracy Responds to Our Burma Nuclear Story -- And Our Response, ProPublica (November 24, 2010).
  41. ^ Ben A. Franklin, "Democracy Project Facing New Criticisms," The New York Times (December 4, 1985). Retrieved 14 May 2014.
  42. ^ a b c Alec Luhn (July 28, 2019). "National Endowment for Democracy is first 'undesirable' NGO banned in Russia". The Guardian.
  43. ^ a b c d Shih, Gerry (3 December 2019). "China announces sanctions against U.S.-based nonprofit groups in response to Congress's Hong Kong legislation". The Washington Post. Retrieved 12 December 2019.
  44. ^ a b Steven Lee Myers, In Hong Kong Protests, China Angrily Connects Dots Back to U.S., New York Times (September 9, 2019; updated October 15, 2019).
  45. ^ a b "China suspends US warship visits and sanctions NGOs over Hong Kong unrest". Hong Kong Free Press. 2 December 2019.
  46. ^ a b Amy Qin, China Hits Back at U.S. Over Hong Kong Bill in a Mostly Symbolic Move, New York Times (December 2, 2019).
  47. ^ a b China bars U.S. military ships, aircraft from Hong Kong, sanctions U.S.-based NGOs, Reuters (December 2, 2019).
  48. ^ a b Snyder, Christopher (24 March 2015). "China tries to blame US for Hong Kong protests". Fox News.
  49. ^ Pillsbury, Michael (13 October 2014). "China Tries to Blame US for Hong Kong Protests". Hudson Institute.
  50. ^ "National Endowment for Democracy" (PDF). Archived from the original on March 12, 2013. Retrieved August 2, 2017.
  51. ^ "Center for International Media Assistance".

Further reading[edit]

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