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Democracy and the New Approach to U.S. Foreign Assistance

Ambassador Randall L. Tobias, Director of U.S. Foreign Assistance and USAID Administrator
Remarks to the State Department's Democracy Advisory Committee
Washington, DC
January 17, 2007

[As Delivered]

Thank you, Dean Slaughter, for your warm welcome, and Paula [Dobriansky] for that kind introduction and the opportunity to be here. I am pleased to see all of you again, and feel fortunate to have an opportunity to speak withand, perhaps more importantly from my point of viewhear from such a distinguished group of experts on an issue that is of utmost importance to our country's engagement in the world today and in much of what we are doing in foreign assistance.

You have all been at the forefront of democracy promotion over the years, and I want to begin by thanking you for your dedication to this critical mission.

Democracy promotion has been a significant goal of US foreign assistance over the last half centurybut increasingly so over the last twenty years. This assistance was initially focused primarily on aiding democracies in Latin America, but rapidly expanded with the dissolution of the Soviet Union. By September 11, the United States Government was providing democracy assistance to nearly 100 countries around the world, often through the courageous efforts of our private sector and implementing partners.

U.S. support for democracy is, above all, a matter of principle. The basic demands of human dignity require that every person has the unalienable right to liberty, and that the government protect this right. In countries around the world, men and women are struggling to apply these basic ideas as they pursue democratic reform. Often facing resistance and harsh repression, they are nonetheless pressing for free and fair elections, developing vibrant civil society, building accountable institutions, and establishing the rule of law, as the foundations for just and effective democracies.

As a country founded on these principles, it is our imperative to play a leading role in supporting these efforts, and in ensuring that the struggles associated with them are not carried out in vain.

As you know, all of U.S. foreign assistance is now being applied to the achievement of a single overarching goal-the goal Secretary Rice as articulated as transformational diplomacy: "helping to build and sustain democratic, well-governed states that will respond to the needs of their people and conduct themselves responsibly in the international system."

Focusing all of our foreign assistance on this goal means ensuring that our assistance provides both the necessary tools and the right incentives for host governments to secure the conditions for their citizens to achieve their full human potential.Along with achieving peace and security, promoting investments in people, engendering economic growth and providing for humanitarian needs, improving governance and democratic participation is central to fostering lasting economic, social and political progress. Together, these objectives provide the basis for transforming institutions, economic structures and human capacity to ensure that governments and their people can sustain progress on their own.

As we now know, democracy and good governance are integral to achieving all of our development objectives. Delivering lasting cures for poverty, disease, and illiteracy require effective government institutions with the capacity to represent the needs of their citizens. Without free and open elections, along with a vibrant media and civil society, citizens cannot hold their leaders and institutions accountable. Without adherence to the law by both leaders and citizens, along with the mechanisms to enforce those laws, people will remain saddled by fear and unable to invest in furthering their own prosperity.

Investment in democratic governance produces multiplier effects for all of our transformational development goals: it attracts capital, helps economies grow, improves the delivery of basic services, and pushes countries along the path toward transformation.

At the same time, we have seen young democracies falter on that path due to an inability to provide basic services and secure their populations. People sometimes expect a vote to bring immediate benefits, and become frustrated if these do not materialize. Consolidating democratic transition requires a focus on economic and social goals as well as governance objectives.

Without sufficient attention to all five goals of our foreign assistance, we risk undermining our success in promoting peaceful and prosperous democracies. The new framework for foreign assistance ensures that an appropriate balance is struck among our five priority objectives.

What does this mean in real terms for democracy and governance programs?

As much as some, perhaps all of you, would like to hear me give you the answer that more resources for democracy and governance programs are at the top of the listI do not want to mislead you into believing that in formulating the FY 2008 budget, which we are in the final hours of finalizing with our colleagues in the Office of Management and Budget, we took the approach of choosing sectors and allocating an appropriately prioritized resource level.

Instead, focusing on individual countries, our planning process attempts to accurately identify the main gaps in development, and where our assistance can be most effective in promoting transformation and achieving the transformational goal. This country-level approach ensures that our resources are used strategically to bring a country along the development trajectory. In some countries, this might require a greater investment in peace and security, or economic growth, while in others democracy and governance might be the most significant issue that our assistance can address.

For example, if the indicator for rule of law for Angola, which is categorized as a developing country in the framework, showed that it performed lower than the average for all transforming countries, which is the next highest category of countries in the foreign assistance framework, the USAID and State sectoral and country experts deciding how to allocate funding for Angola might choose to invest resources in programs to improve the rule of law in order to close the gap in that area.

In determining the FY 2008 budget levels, our core country teams conducted a careful analysis to establish these priorities and make the difficult trade-offs required in maintaining them.

In addition to established indicatorssuch as the Freedom House measures for democracy, along with a broad range of otherscountry teams considered absorptive capacity, current governance structures, international assistance contexts, and several other country conditions, in determining whether investment in any sector would maximize the impact of those resources. The resulting budget reflects the best balance of priorities required to promote all five of our transformational diplomacy objectives.

While the final detailsin terms of amounts by country, region, and program areaof the President's budget request will not be public for several weeks yet, I can share with you some trends we are seeing in the final analysis, which I'm certain will be of interest.

First, of the five priority objectives, Governing Justly and Democratically is a strategic priority thatdespite a resource-constrained environmentI suspect will likely see an increase resources from FY06 levels, the last year for which we have an enacted budget.

In the Restrictive Countries category, where countries are furthest from a just and democratic system of government, the vast majority of our assistancenearly two-thirdswill be focused on Governing Justly and Democratically.

In Rebuilding Countrieswhere fragile systems of governance need support in the wake of conflictsignificant resources will be targeted to Governing Justly and Democratically.

In fact, it is likely that of the five priority objectives, only Peace and Securityunderstandablywill receive a higher level of support in Rebuilding Countries.

This year, the Secretary personally reviewed resource levels and was able to engage forcefully in support of our request for resources for program priorities for USAID and State-funded programs. By placing Governing Justly and Democratically as one of the five main objectives of foreign assistance, the reform has enabled greater integration of democracy goals into overall assistance planning, while facilitating heightened attention to governing justly and democratically as a discrete global objective. Our reforms have thus improved our ability to implement the President's Freedom Agenda, as codified in the National Security Strategy's goal of promoting democracy.

It should be no surprise to any of you that democracy and governance, as well as foreign assistance in general, have become central to our overall national security efforts. I have heard a concern that our reforms will perhaps privilege short-term security goals over our long-term commitment to democratic transformation. This cannot be further from reality.

Since September 11, it has become abundantly clear that promoting democracy and good governance is central to promoting the national security of all Americans. Terror networks and other transnational threats thrive in failed states or weakly governed regions. Governments that suppress political and social rights breed internal instability and foster grievances that lead to hatred and violence. Our security depends on our active commitment to transforming governments and expanding the family of democratic and well-governed countries.

Supporting credible elections in Afghanistan, building strong governance institutions in Liberia, backing up human rights defenders in Central Asia, and providing tools for democrats in Latin America are all central to neutralizing the forces that foster oppression, violence and threaten our security.

But these efforts must be pursued alongside investments in fighting global disease pandemics, reducing illiteracy, providing the basis for economic growth, and combating the transnational threats of terrorism, organized crime and weapons of mass destruction. All of these are long-term efforts that must be pursued in tandem, as defined by the particular circumstances for each country or region.

Yet since these are also tasks that require the partnership of democratic, well-governed states and peoples, supporting the long-term transformation from autocracy to democracy and from corruption to good governance remains central to pursuing our national security. As Secretary Rice has said, "America's security is linked to the capacity of foreign states to govern justly and effectively."

The new foreign assistance framework is aimed at ensuring the most strategic and effective use of our resources to achieve that aim. Our assistance must lead to concrete results, in empowering developing countries around the world to strengthen security, to consolidate democracy, to increase trade and investment, and to improve the lives of their people.

We cannot achieve any of this alone. In order to make our reforms successful, I will need your support as you work with the Hill and our NGO colleagues to push for increases in foreign assistance, and as you continue in your efforts to promote democracy in innovative, creative and courageous ways. As the leading experts in the field, I know that your input and your support will be invaluable as we move forward in the process. And I know Members of Congress will carefully consider your views and your impressions of the reform process.

I hope to earn your support in making sure that these plans lead to results for those who need them most. I look forward to hearing your thoughts, concerns and questions, and welcome your input and feedback on how to ensure that our transformational development goals are achieved, and I hope that we can move forward together. Thank you very much.


Released on February 7, 2007

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