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National Endowment for Democracy NED

National Endowment for Democracy NED NED

Implanté depuis 1983

Particularités du PTF : Partenaire Financier Partenaire Technique mécanisme d'appui supporté: Candidature libre


The National Endowment for Democracy (NED) is a private, nonprofit foundation dedicated to the growth and strengthening of democratic institutions around the world. Each year, NED makes more than 1,700 grants to support the projects of non-governmental groups abroad who are working for democratic goals in more than 90 countries.

Since its founding in 1983, the Endowment has remained on the leading edge of democratic struggles everywhere, while evolving into a multifaceted institution that is a hub of activity, resources and intellectual exchange for activists, practitioners and scholars of democracy the world over.


NED is a unique institution. The Endowment’s nongovernmental character gives it a flexibility that makes it possible to work in some of the world’s most difficult circumstances, and to respond quickly when there is an opportunity for political change. NED is dedicated to fostering the growth of a wide range of democratic institutions abroad, including political parties, trade unions, free markets and business organizations, as well as the many elements of a vibrant civil society that ensure human rights, an independent media, and the rule of law.

This well-rounded approach responds to the diverse aspects of democracy and has proved both practical and effective throughout NED’s history. Funded largely by the U.S. Congress, the support NED gives to groups abroad sends an important message of solidarity to many democrats who are working for freedom and human rights, often in obscurity and isolation.

The Endowment is guided by the belief that freedom is a universal human aspiration that can be realized through the development of democratic institutions, procedures, and values. Democracy cannot be achieved through a single election and need not be based upon the model of the United States or any other particular country. Rather, it evolves according to the needs and traditions of diverse political cultures. By supporting this process, the Endowment helps strengthen the bond between indigenous democratic movements abroad and the people of the United States — a bond based on a common commitment to representative government and freedom as a way of life.


From its beginning, NED has remained steadfastly bipartisan. Created jointly by Republicans and Democrats, NED is governed by a board balanced between both parties and enjoys Congressional support across the political spectrum. NED operates with a high degree of transparency and accountability reflecting our founders’ belief that democracy promotion overseas should be conducted openly.

We post information about all of our grants and activities on this Web site and are subject to multiple layers of oversight by the US Congress, the Department of State, and independent financial audit



ByDavid Lowe

The National Endowment for Democracy (NED) was launched in the early 1980s, premised on the idea that American assistance on behalf of democracy efforts abroad would be good both for the U.S. and for those struggling around the world for freedom and self-government. This paper offers a brief history of the Endowment, including the events and circumstances that led to its creation, its early legislative battles, more recent legislative success, institutional growth and innovation, and its efforts to help bring democracy foundations into existence in other countries. Although the U.S. experience is undoubtedly unique, the model of a non-governmental organization that receives public funding to carry out democracy initiatives should be considered by other countries that appreciate the benefits of participating in this significant worldwide movement.

The desire of Americans to share with other countries the ideas that helped bring about their own successful democratic transition dates almost as far back as the country’s founding over two centuries ago. As Seymour Martin Lipset has pointed out, throughout American history democratic activists abroad as diverse as Lafayette, Kossuth, Garibaldi and Sun Yat Sen have looked to the U.S. as a source of both ideological and material assistance. Much of the pioneering work in the area of political assistance has been carried out by the American labor movement, which was active in international affairs before the turn of the 20th century.


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.

On Capitol Hill, Congressman Dante Fascell (D, FL) introduced a bill in April, 1967 to create an Institute of International Affairs, an initiative that would authorize overt funding for programs to promote democratic values. Although the bill did not succeed, it helped lead to discussions within the Administration and on Capitol Hill concerning how to develop new approaches to the ideological competition then taking place between the U.S. and the Soviet Union.

Interest in American involvement in the promotion of human rights was intensified during the Administration of President Jimmy Carter, who made it a central component of American foreign policy. In the late 1970’s America became committed to the process of monitoring the Helsinki accords, especially that “basket” dealing with human rights. In 1978 Congressmen Fascell and Donald Fraser (D,MN) proposed a “QUANGO” (i.e, quasi-autonomous non-governmental organization) whose mission would be the advancement of human rights. The bill they introduced would have created an Institute for Human Rights and Freedom to furnish technical and financial assistance to nongovernmental organizations that promote human rights abroad.

By the late 70’s, there was an important model for democracy assistance: the German Federal Republic’s party foundations, created after World War II to help rebuild Germany’s democratic institutions destroyed a generation earlier by the Nazis. These foundations (known as “Stiftungen”), each aligned with one of the four German political parties, received funding from the West German treasury. In the 1960’s they began assisting their ideological counterparts abroad, and by the mid-70’s were playing an important role in both of the democratic transitions taking place on the Iberian Peninsula.

Late in 1977, Washington political consultant George Agree, citing the important work being carried out by the Stiftungen, proposed creation of a foundation to promote communication and understanding between the two major U.S. political parties and other parties around the world. Headed by U.S. Trade Representative William Brock, a former Republican National Committee Chairman, and Charles Manatt, then serving as Democratic National Committee Chairman, by 1980 the American Political Foundation had established an office in Washington, D.C. from which it provided briefings, appointments, and other assistance to foreign party, parliamentary, and academic visitors to the U.S.

Two years later, in a major foreign policy address delivered at Westminster Palace before the British Parliament, President Reagan proposed an initiative “to foster the infrastructure of democracy–the system of a free press, unions, political parties, universities–which allows a people to choose their own way, to develop their own culture, to reconcile their own differences through peaceful means.” He noted that the American Political Foundation would soon begin a study “to determine how the U.S. can best contribute–as a nation–to the global campaign for democracy now gathering force.” Delivered to a packed Parliamentary chamber in Britain’s Westminster Palace, the Reagan speech would prove to be one of the central contributions to the establishment of a U.S. democracy foundation.

The American Political Foundation’s study was funded by a $300,000 grant from the Agency for International Development (AID) and it became known as “The Democracy Program.” Its executive board consisted of a broad cross-section of participants in American politics and foreign policy making. The Democracy Program recommended establishment of a bipartisan, private, non-profit corporation to be known as the National Endowment for Democracy (NED). The Endowment, though non-governmental, would be funded primarily through annual appropriations and subject to congressional oversight. NED, in turn, would act as a grant-making foundation, distributing funds to private organizations for the purpose of promoting democracy abroad. These private organizations would include those created by the two political parties and the business community, which would join the regional international institutes of the labor movement already in existence.


The House Foreign Affairs Committee included a two-year authorization for the proposed National Endowment for Democracy at an annual level of $31.3 million as part of the FY84/85 State Department Authorization Act (H.R. 2915). The Reagan Administration had originally proposed a larger ($65 million) democracy promotion initiative to be known as “Project Democracy” and coordinated directly by the United States Information Agency (USIA). When the Foreign Affairs Committee reported out H.R. 2915, it did not include funding for ” Project Democracy,” making clear its preference for the non-governmental Endowment concept. The Administration then voiced support for the creation of NED.

The legislation, which was included in the authorization bill for the State Department and USIA, spelled out the following six purposes of the proposed Endowment: encouraging democratic institutions through private sector initiatives; facilitating exchanges between private sector groups (particularly the four proposed Institutes) and democratic groups abroad; promoting 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 groups receiving assistance. The bill spelled out the procedures by which the funding would flow from USIA to NED and the mechanisms for insuring financial accountability.

Included in the legislation were earmarks of $13.8 million for the Free Trade Union Institute, an affiliate of the AFL-CIO incorporated in 1978 that would serve as an umbrella for labor’s regional bodies operating in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and Eastern Europe; $2.5 million for the proposed affiliate of the National U.S. Chamber Foundation; and $5 million for each of the two proposed party institutes.

When the authorizing legislation for the Endowment reached the floor of the House, an effort to eliminate all of its funding-as proposed by the Foreign Affairs Committee-failed by a small margin. Nonetheless, the idea of providing funding for party entities remained a concern for many members. Congressman Hank Brown (R,Co), who had sponsored the earlier amendment, was able to exploit those concerns by proposing that the section of Title VI providing earmarked funding for these party institutes be eliminated. This amendment was passed by a vote of 267-136.

Describing the proposed Endowment as “an idea whose time has come,” the Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Charles Percy (R,IL), introduced NED’s authorization on the floor of the Senate three months after the House vote. Percy, who had participated in some of the discussions of the “Democracy Program,” expressed his conviction that the legislation was “arguably the most important single U.S. foreign policy initiative of this generation.” On September 22, 1983, the Senate rejected by a vote of 42-49 an amendment by Senators Zorinsky (D,NE) and Helms (R,NC) to strike the authorization for the Endowment.

The conference report on H.R. 2915 was adopted by the House on November 17, 1983 and the Senate the following day. On the one major substantive issue on which the two Houses differed, the conferees agreed to maintain the House’s deletion of the earmarks for the party institutes, but pointed out that this was “without prejudice to their receipt of funds from the Endowment.”


On the day the Senate approved the conference report, articles of incorporation were filed in the District of Columbia on behalf of the National Endowment for Democracy. The Endowment was established as a nonprofit organization under section 501c (3) of the Internal Revenue Service Code.

NED’s original Board of Directors, limited to three three-year terms of service, included party activists, representatives of the U.S. labor, business and education communities, foreign policy specialists, and two members of Congress. Following a brief stint by Congressman Fascell as acting chairman, the Endowment appointed as its first permanent Chairman John Richardson, a former Assistant Secretary of State with many years of involvement in private organizations involved in international affairs. For President, the Board chose Carl Gershman, previously the Senior Counselor to the U.S. Representative to the United Nations.

NED’s creation was soon followed by establishment of the Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE), the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs (NDI), and the National Republican Institute for International Affairs (later renamed the International Republican Institute or “IRI”), which joined the Free Trade Union Institute (FTUI) as the four affiliated institutions of the Endowment. (FTUI was later reorganized as the American Center for International Labor Solidarity, also known as the “Solidarity Center.”) This structure had been recommended by the Democracy Program for three basic reasons: first, because of the wide recognition of the parent bodies of these new entities as national institutions with a public character, an important asset for this non-governmental foundation; second, because they represent sectors of political life fundamental to any strong democracy; and third, to insure political balance. The Endowment would serve as the umbrella organization through which these four groups and an expanding number of other private sector groups would receive funding to carry out programs abroad.

Although the original authorized level for NED was $31.3 million, its appropriation was later set well below this level at $18 million, reflecting in part the fact that the new institution would not be fully organized until well into the year. As NED President, Carl Gershman, would later point out in congressional testimony, the Endowment devoted considerable attention in its early months to the task of putting into place “sound administrative, financial, and reporting procedures.” A procedures manual that included grant guidelines and selection criteria for grants was approved, and a Statement of Principles and Objectives adopted. Because the Endowment had been funded at less than 60 percent of the authorized level, the Board decided to allocate less than the full earmarked amounts to the labor and business Institutes. This would enable it to fulfill that part of the NED Act mandating that grants be made to other private sector groups as well.

During the consideration of the appropriation for NED’s second year held in May, 1984, the Endowment’s opponents went on the offensive and persuaded the House to eliminate all funding for it. A similar effort failed in the Senate, which then voted to reduce the proposed $31.3 million level by $10 million and to explicitly prohibit the party Institutes from receiving any of this amount. The conference committee agreed to a funding level of $18.5 million and maintained the ban on funding the party Institutes. NED’s appropriation was not to reach the original authorized level for another 10 years.

where NED works

Democracy belongs to no single nation, but rather it is the birthright of every person in every nation. That’s why the National Endowment for Democracy works in all corners of the globe, supporting democracy activists on six continents and in 90 countries.

Our work abroad takes the form of grants to local, independent organizations promoting political and economic freedom, a strong civil society, independent media, human rights, and the rule of law. Some of these organizations operate in transitional countries where the goal is consolidating democratic gains, while some operate in authoritarian countries where the goals are liberalization and the protection of human rights.

While NED’s work around the world is guided by the belief that freedom is a universal human aspiration, we know that democracy cannot be achieved through a single election and need not be based upon the model of the United States or any other particular country. Rather, democracy evolves according to the needs and traditions of diverse political cultures. NED helps strengthen the bond between indigenous democratic movements abroad and the people of the United States – a bond based on a common commitment to representative government and freedom as a way of life.

We invite you to explore the amazing work for democracy and freedom taking place today, supported by NED.


In most of the countries of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), prospects for democratic progress and reform were devastated by mounting turmoil, conflict, and terrorism in 2016. Security and stability have become urgent needs, eclipsing the government reform agenda in almost every country.

Civil society throughout MENA – including a wave of newborn civic groups, coalitions, and political organizations – struggled on. Despite their inexperience and limited capacity, a younger generation of organizations remained committed to a long-term vision of reform and renewal. They persisted in their work of formulating alternatives to authoritarianism and mobilizing a wide range of social sectors, including small business and community-based groups.

Afghanistan remained a high NED priority, as the country’s nascent civil society faced more challenges and fewer opportunities. In response, NED supported groups promoting national coordination on shared priorities, independent media and free access to information, democratic ideas and values – including the compatibility of Islam and democracy, the rule of law, civic education, and raising awareness of women’s rights under Afghan law.

Despite threats from extremist groups, Tunisia’s transition proved resilient and its civil society groups remained highly committed to enhancing democratic gains. NED expanded its support to include a wide range of civil society initiatives on good governance, transparency and accountability of public institutions, and pluralism.

Morocco’s modest political reforms remained on course. Its newly elected parliament and recent legislation provided civil society groups additional space for advocacy and effective participation in local policy-making. NED expanded its support to civil society, engaging youth in decision-making and the policy process, and creating coalitions to tackle legislative reform and government accountability.

While the West Bank and Gaza are challenged by political stagnation and security concerns, NED grantees persisted in their efforts to foster meaningful public demand for political reform and active citizen participation. In Jordan, NED grantees have been addressing ethnic and religious cleavages, and building bridges between communities threatened by these divisions.

Lebanon struggled to cope with a million Syrian refugees while addressing public demands to fix endemic corruption and public mismanagement. The Endowment supported independent civic actors as they championed evidence-based monitoring of national and local government, expanded space for independent journalism and alternative voices, and promoted youth leadership in civic and political spheres.

With NED support, human rights defenders from Iran, Bahrain, and Saudi Arabia used digital technology to raise awareness, break state monopolies over mass communications, and promote new media organizations, bloggers, and citizen journalists.

Egypt moved aggressively against foreign assistance to independent civil society groups. In March 2016, the government reopened its criminal case targeting foreign organizations and foreign-funded Egyptian NGOs. This further quashed dissent as reform-minded Egyptians feared becoming targets of the state security apparatus. In response, NED extended a lifeline of support to embattled local rights and media groups, and helped to connect local rights groups through regional programs. NED support prioritized efforts to address systemic governance failures and weak local and national institutions.

In Turkey, independent media and civil society faced a wholesale rollback of democratic norms and a campaign of reprisals against peaceful dissent. NED increased its support to meet needs focusing on platforms for citizen-state dialogue, anti-discrimination campaigns, and independent journalism.

NED expanded support for initiatives to foster solidarity among civic-minded actors across the region and create opportunities to learn about and apply innovative approaches to tackling governance challenges.


Each year the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) makes direct grants to hundreds of nongovernmental organizations worldwide working to advance democratic goals and strengthen democratic institutions.

In 2012, NED funded about 1236 projects in 92 countries around the world. Grant amounts vary depending on the size and scope of the projects, but the average grant lasts 12 months and is around $50,000.


NED funds only nongovernmental organizations, which may include civic organizations, associations, independent media, and other similar organizations.

NED encourages applications from organizations working in diverse environments including newly established democracies, semi-authoritarian countries, highly repressive societies and countries undergoing democratic transitions.

NED does not make grants to individuals, governmental bodies, or state-supported institutions such as public universities.

NED is interested in proposals from local, independent organizations for nonpartisan programs that seek to:

  • Promote and defend human rights and the rule of law
  • Support freedom of information and independent media
  • Strengthen democratic ideas and values
  • Promote accountability and transparency
  • Strengthen civil society organizations
  • Strengthen democratic political processes and institutions
  • Promote civic education
  • Support democratic conflict resolution
  • Promote freedom of association
  • Strengthen a broad-based market economy

All proposed projects must be consistent with NED’s general purposes as outlined in the NED STATEMENT OF PRINCIPLES AND OBJECTIVES.

For more information on the types of programs NED supports in each region, please see WHERE WE WORK.


Decisions are made on a quarterly basis by the NED Board of Directors. The Board considers the following factors:

  • how a program fits within the Endowment’s overall priorities,
  • its relevance to specific needs and conditions in a particular country,
  • the democratic commitment and experience of the applicant.



Early investment by NED in the democratic struggles in the 1980s in Central Europe and the Soviet Union –  and many countries in Latin America, Asia, and Africa – contributed to significant democratic breakthroughs. NED continues to focus many of its resources on the remaining communist and authoritarian countries such as China, North Korea, Cuba, Serbia, Sudan, and Burma. NED maintains a long-term, flexible approach that takes advantage of any realistic opportunity to advance democratic ideals, defend human rights, and encourage the development of civil society. Depending on the circumstances of each country, NED works both with democrats in the country and in exile.


In new and developing democracies, NED focuses its support on two objectives: strengthening the institutions and procedures of electoral democracy to ensure free and fair elections; and encouraging the gradual consolidation of liberal democracy by measures that strengthen the rule of law, protect individual liberties, and foster social pluralism. To move beyond successful elections toward mature and resilient democracies, NED takes a long-term approach, supporting groups who will work to establish a functioning market economy, independent trade unions, and a free press as well as institutions that promote political accountability, economic transparency, responsible corporate governance, and civilian control over the military.


NED’s unique multisectoral approach is characterized by its four core institutes: the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs, the International Republican Institute, the American Center for International Labor Solidarity, and the Center for International Private Enterprise, which represent the two major American political parties, the labor movement, and the business community, respectively. Each institute draws on the talents and energies of its respective fields in the United States to offer unparalleled expertise on business, labor, and political party development and electoral reform to democrats around the world. The relationship between NED and the institutes also provides institutional balance, built-in bipartisanship, and reassurance to the Congress and others that the Endowment will be even-handed in its judgments and receptive to diverse approaches to democratic development. In addition to the institutes, NED provides direct support to groups abroad who are working for human rights, independent media, the rule of law, and a wide range of civil society initiatives.


NED is working to increase international cooperation among existing democracy foundations and to encourage all established democracies to create similar institutions. In 1993 NED convened the first of several “democracy summits” among democracy foundations in the United States, Germany, Great Britain, and Canada. In addition to general information-sharing among foundations, these “summits” provide opportunities to coordinate strategy and assistance for some of the most difficult places to promote democracy, including Burma, Belarus, and Serbia. Over the past few years new foundations have been founded in France, Sweden, the Netherlands, Austria, Australia, and Spain. Ireland, Taiwan, Portugal, Italy, and Japan may soon follow suit. NED’s effort to expand this network is based on the belief that democracy promotion is in the common interest of all democracies, and that globalization has made cooperation easier and more relevant than ever.


A promising development in recent years has been the emergence of organizations in new democracies that seek to share their own democratic expertise with democrats in countries that are still working for democratic breakthroughs. Many of these groups were originally funded by NED as they worked for democratic transition in their own country; having met with success, they can now act as experienced guides for new activists facing similar struggles. Polish NGOs have led this trend, working to advance democratic civic education throughout Central Europe and in many parts of the former Soviet Union. NED has encouraged such “East-to-East” work with grants to the Polish groups as well as NGOs in Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Bulgaria that are working to strengthen counterpart groups in the Balkans and Belarus.


In 1990 NED founded the Journal of Democracy. Now a decade old, the Journal is widely recognized as the pre-eminent international forum for publishing new research on democracy, debating critical issues, reviewing current literature, and reporting on important events and recent developments that affect the progress of democracy in the world. The success of the Journal provided a solid foundation for the establishment of the International Forum for Democratic Studies in 1994, a leading center for analysis of the theory and practice of democratic development worldwide. Other activities of the Forum include conferences, seminars, books on all aspects of democratization, a Visiting Fellows Program, a library and online database called the Democracy Resource Center, and a collaborative network of democracy research centers based in new democracies. The Forum is an integral part of the Endowment and demonstrates NED’s belief that research and practical activity are mutually beneficial.


In 1998 NED launched an ambitious new initiative ” The World Movement for Democracy, a dynamic network of democrats, both individuals and organizations, who aspire to work in a coordinated way to address proactively the toughest challenges to the advancement of democracy and human rights in the world today (see page 9). The global initiative complements the interrelated aspects of the Endowment’s work: grant support, international cooperation, and democracy research. The World Movement helps to fulfill one of the objectives of NED’s most recent strategic plan, namely “to create a community of democrats, drawn from the most developed democracies and the most repressive autocracies as well as everything in between, and united by the belief that the common interest is served by the gradual expansion of systems based on freedom, self-government, and the rule of law.”


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