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The National Endowment for Democracy, or NED, is a U.S. non-profit organization that was founded in 1983, ostensibly to promote democracy by providing cash grants funded primarily through an annual allocation from the U.S. Congress. Although administered as a private organization, its funding comes almost entirely from a governmental appropriation by Congress and it was created by an act of Congress. 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. It has been accused by both right-wing and left-wing personalities of interference in foreign regimes, and of being set up to legally continue the CIA's prohibited activities of support to selected political parties abroad.[1]


Founding of the NED

In a 1982 speech at Britain's Westminster Palace, President Ronald Reagan proposed an initiative "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.[2]

NED was established in 1983 by an act of congress. 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). 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 U.S. Chamber Foundation, and $5 million each for two party institutes. 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.[2]

NED is structured to act as a grant-making foundation, distributing funds to private non-governmental organizations for the purpose of promoting democracy abroad. Approximately 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). The other half of NED's funding is awarded annually to hundreds of non-governmental organizations based abroad which apply for support.[3] NED's long time president is Carl Gershman, former Senior Counselor to the United States Representative to the United Nations and former Executive Director of Social Democrats USA.[4]

Funding of foreign political candidates

NED says it does not directly fund any political party, as this is forbidden by law. However, it has been accused of providing funding to opposition candidates in elections in countries other than the USA. According to NED, it intervenes in elections by funding election observation and civic education on voting, such as student "get-out-the-vote" campaigns.[5]

Critics such as Pat Buchanan accuse the NED of fomenting revolution and regularly interfering in the affairs of other countries, especially dictatorships and undemocratic regimes.[6]

Other critics say that the NED only supports candidates with strong ties to the military. William Blum accuses NED of being part of a U.S. government funding strategy to undermine left-wing leaders and "pervert elections". Others are also critical of U.S. corporate investment in foreign countries, and criticize the NED for not supporting candidates who oppose free trade and the investing rights of US companies. For example, Bill Berkowitz of Working for Change claims, "The NED functions as a full-service infrastructure building clearinghouse. It provides money, technical support, supplies, training programs, media know-how, public relations assistance and state-of-the-art equipment to select political groups, civic organizations, labor unions, dissident movements, student groups, book publishers, newspapers, and other media. Its aim is to destabilize progressive movements, particularly those with a socialist or democratic socialist bent."[7]

However, supporters of the NED say that the NED supports a myriad of groups of social-democratic and liberal orientation everywhere in the world. NED has also supported, provided training, and consulted with groups which approve of democracy, but criticize the United States, in countries such as Indonesia and Ukraine. The NED says that it focuses funding on democracy-minded organizations rather than opposition groups; however it does not support groups that openly advocate communism, fundamentalism, or dictatorships. Michael McFaul, in an article for the Washington Post, 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.[8]

Activities and allegations

NED regularly provides funding to opposition candidates in elections in countries other than the USA. According to Allen Weinstein, one of the founders of NED, "A lot of what we [NED] do today was done covertly 25 years ago by the CIA" (Blum, Rogue State: A Guide to the World's Only Superpower, 2000, p. 180).

On its official web site, in the history section, its difference from the covert nature of CIA activities is explained:[9]

In the aftermath of World War II, faced with threats to our democratic allies and without any mechanism to channel political assistance, U.S. policy makers resorted to covert means, secretly sending advisers, equipment, and funds to support newspapers and parties under siege in Europe. When it was revealed in the late 1960's that some American PVO's were receiving covert funding from the CIA to wage the battle of ideas at international forums, the Johnson Administration concluded that such funding should cease, recommending establishment of "a public-private mechanism" to fund overseas activities openly.

A lot of what we do today was done covertly 25 years ago by the CIA

Allen Weinstein, who helped draft the legislation establishing NED, in a 1991 interview with the Washington Post


Central America

In 1984, NED funded a Panamanian presidential candidate backed by Manuel Noriega and the CIA. Congress afterwards issued a law prohibiting use of NED funds "to finance the campaign of candidates for public office."

John Stauber and Sheldon Rampton wrote that before the 1990 elections in Nicaragua, "President George H. W. Bush sent $9 million in NED, including a $4 million contribution to the campaign of opposition presidential candidate Violeta Chamorro". Chamorro's party won 55 percent of the vote.

In the 1990 elections in Haiti the NED supported Marc Bazin, providing a big fraction of his total $36 million in campaign funds. Despite this funding, he only obtained 12% of the vote. Marc Bazin had earlier been a World Bank official.

Between 1990 and 1992, NED donated a quarter-million dollars to the Cuban-American National Foundation, the anti-Castro group.

NED - together with USAID - financially supported, by disbursing about $50 million annually for "democracy promotion" projects in Honduras, many organisations within the Honduran Civic Democratic Union, a network of organisations which opposed the ousted president Manuel Zelaya and supported the military intervention during the 2009 Honduran constitutional crisis.[10] The International Republican Institute (IRI) received about $1.2 million from NED in 2009 in order to support think tanks and Advocacy groups to "support initiatives to implement political positions during the campaigns in 2009".[10][11]


On Tibet Issue:

On Xinjiang Issue:


According to the NED's online Democracy Projects Database it has given funding the following groups for programs relating to Iran (1990–2006):

Iranians who have served as fellows[13] at NED include:

In 2002, Mehangiz Kar, an Iranian women activist received the annual Democracy award from first lady, Laura Bush.[14]


In 2004, Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez publicized documents which purported to show that the NED funded civil associations in the country, like Súmate, including a tripling of funding from about $250,000 to nearly $900,000 between 2000 and 2001.[15] Currently, the N.E.D. continues to fund several journalists in Venezuela who work for opposition media outlets.[citation needed]

Western Europe

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. This was criticized by the Cato institute, which stated that:

"French democracy in the 1980s did not appear to be so fragile that it required financial assistance from American taxpayers to sustain itself. The government of François Mitterrand was duly elected within a democratic system nearly as old as America's. The AFL-CIO, however, determined that France's socialist government was permitting a dangerous rise of communist influence. According to the late Irving Brown, Paris-based director of international relations for the AFL-CIO at the time of the incident: "France . . . is threatened by the Communist apparatus. . . . It is a clear and present danger if the present is thought of as 10 years from now." That mentality has resulted in AFL-CIO support for highly controversial causes. One of the French groups that received funding, the National Inter-University Union, was widely viewed as a cauldron of rightist extremism and xenophobia and rumored also to have ties to terrorists. Surely, the U.S. government did not intend to fund authoritarian groups that work to undermine the government of a stable democratic nation.[16]

The United States government disassociated itself from these actions. This has taken place in France, Portugal and Spain amongst many other places.[citation needed] In France, during the 1983-4 period, NED supported a "trade union-like organization for professors and students" to counter "left-wing organizations of professors". To this end it funded a series of seminars and the publication of posters, books and pamphlets such as Subversion and the Theology of Revolution and Neutralism or Liberty.[citation needed]

More recently, the NED has provided funding to the French NGO Reporters Without Borders (RSF). RSF has been accused of promoting freedom of press in Cuba more than some other countries (such as Algeria).[17]

Eastern Europe

According to the critics, during the 1990s, NED invested millions of dollars in Eastern Europe to support free trade and the shock therapy program.[citation needed] The NED itself does not fund economic reform programs; NED core grantee Center for International Private Enterprise indeed supports programs aimed at development of private enterprise but this does not account for monetary stabilization programs.[citation needed]

US foreign policy critic William Blum has alleged that the NED engaged in activities intended to liberate through regime change anti-American regimes in the region, including campaigns in Bulgaria and Albania.[18]

Ukraine, Georgia, Serbia, Slovakia

The NED played a significant role in the 2004 presidential election in Ukraine. In an article in the Washington Post, NED director Nadia Diuk acknowledged that there was a controversy surrounding the involvement of the NED: "Some have sought to portray the events in Ukraine as orchestrated in the West, a model executed with the support of Western pro-democracy foundations.' Comparing this to similar recent interventions in Slovakia, Serbia and Montenegro and Georgia, she writes, "Some commentators believe that the similarity of their actions proves they are part of a U.S.-sponsored plot, an effort to extend American influence throughout the world." Diuk states that critics are overlooking a genuinely "home-grown" aspect to the "election revolts" in these Eastern European regimes. She also stated that, "...there was a massive effort by nongovernmental organizations to monitor the vote, whether through parallel vote tabulations, exit polls or reports from domestic observers. These strategies were supported by the reports of Western election observers," and that "all these breakthrough elections have been accomplished with the vigorous participation of civic groups that support free and fair elections by monitoring the media, carrying out voter education, publicizing the platforms of candidates in the absence of a free press, training election observers, conducting polls and so on."[19]


Source of funding

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 2004 NED had an income of $80.1 million, $79.25 million of which came from U.S Government agencies, $0.6 million came from other contributors, plus a little other revenue.[21]

The NED receives a small amount of funding from various foundations, among whom the Smith Richardson Foundation, the John M. Olin Foundation and the Bradley Foundation, which has provided the most to date, nearly $1.5 million in the past 18 years to support the 'Journal of Democracy.[22] All three associations are indirectly financed by federal contracts.

Links with other think tanks

Current and former directors of the Endowment's Board include Lee Hamilton of the 9/11 Commission (currently the president and director of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars), former Congressman Richard Gephardt, Richard Holbrooke, former U.S. Senator and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, Frank Carlucci of the Carlyle Group, retired General Wesley Clark, Michael Novak of the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research, Dr. Francis Fukuyama of Johns Hopkins SAIS, and U.S. Senator Evan Bayh of Indiana, former chairman of the Democratic Leadership Council.

See also


  1. ^ William Blum, Killing Hope
  2. ^ a b "History". National Endowment for Democracy. Retrieved 2008-11-03. 
  3. ^ "Grants". National Endowment for Democracy. Retrieved 2008-11-03. 
  4. ^ "Meet Our President". National Endowment for Democracy. 2008-07-09. Retrieved 2008-11-02. 
  5. ^ "Grants Program - 2004". National Endowment for Democracy. Retrieved 2008-11-03. 
  6. ^
  7. ^
  8. ^ McFaul, Michael. "'Meddling' In Ukraine: Democracy is not an American plot". Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Retrieved 2008-11-03. 
  9. ^ "History > Origins". National Endowment for Democracy. Retrieved 2008-11-03. 
  10. ^ a b Washington behind the Honduras coup: Here is the evidence on "Global"
  11. ^ Dominguez, Francisco (2009). "US Support is Propping Up Honduran Military Coup". London Progressive Journal (79). 
  12. ^ "Third General Assembly of the World Uyghur Congress to be held in Washington, DC". Retrieved 2009-08-09. 
  13. ^ "Fellowship Programs - Past Fellows". National Endowment for Democracy. Retrieved 2008-11-03. 
  14. ^ "Publications". National Endowment for Democracy. Retrieved 2008-11-03. 
  15. ^ "Hugo Chavez Accuses U.S. of Spending Over $1 Million To Help Oust Him". Democracy Now!. 2004-04-03. Retrieved 2008-11-03. 
  16. ^ Loose Cannon: The National Endowment for Democracy, CATO Institute
  17. ^ Barahona, Diana (May 17, 2005) Reporters Without Borders Unmasked, CounterPunch.
  18. ^
  19. ^ Diuk, Nadia (2004-12-03). "In Ukraine, Homegrown Freedom". Washington Post. Retrieved 2008-11-03. 
  20. ^ Radio Gives Hope to North Koreans, CNN, 2008-02-27.
  21. ^ "Ned 2004". National Endowment for Democracy. 2004. Retrieved 2008-11-03. 
  22. ^ "Recipient Grants: National Endowment for Democracy". Media Transparency. Retrieved 2008-11-03. 

Further reading

  • William Blum. Rogue State: A Guide to the World's Only Superpower, Common Courage Press (2000) and Killing Hope.
  • Eva Golinger. The Chávez Code - Cracking US Intervention in Venezuela, Olive Branch Press (2006).
  • William I. Robinson. Promoting Polyarchy: Globalization, US Intervention, and Hegemony, Cambridge University Press (1996).
  • Beth Sims. Workers of the World Undermined: American Labor's Role in U.S. Foreign Policy, South End Press (1992).

External links


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