What Does a Democracy and Governance Program Do, Anyway?

September 15, 2014 By Jayne Miller

“International development” brings to mind photos of mosquito nets, bags of rice, and children at spigots. But some of the most fundamental work America does in the world isn’t as easily represented by a single image.

Today is International Day of Democracy, when the development community reflects on democracy and governance projects. We invest in these because good governance and democratic rights are crucial to sustainable development.

But what does that mean?

1. Building a Foundation for Progress

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Nations with corrupt governments and a weak rule of law face a higher risk of violence and civil war, while nations with transparent, accountable governments are better able to grow economically, keep their citizens safe, and provide opportunities for women and girls.

As such, the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) actually lists deepening democracy as one of their long-term goals. The MCC believes aid is most effective in countries committed to democratic rights, which is reflected in their selection of partner countries and continued support of good governance.

2. Boosting Election Credibility and Citizen Engagement

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Take Malawi. The U.S. invested in voter education programs, media training, and election observation initiatives leading up to the national election. In Liberia, civic engagement activities have gotten local organizations more involved in policymaking.

USAID also enabled the first-ever meeting between civil society leaders and legislators in Tunisia to talk policy, an experience Tunisians are now sharing with their counterparts in Libya.

3. Something Else

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There are lots of other stories like these. Powerful stories. From programs that mitigate electoral violence and support victims of such crimes, to promoting the inclusion of women and persons with disabilities in the election process, D&G missions are empowering citizens and providing basic human rights. What a good reason to share these stories on September 15.