Last week marked the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. Amid the remembrances, debates over "what went wrong" and doubt about democracy's promise in some quarters almost seemed to overshadow the celebrations.
While it is true that democracy faces new challenges – in Europe and around the globe – we know that great strides have been made in democracy since the momentous events of 1989. And they continue. The expectation of people everywhere that they have a right to hold their government accountable – through elections and otherwise – is arguably more widespread than ever. It is being demonstrated virtually every day in every part of the world.
Last week, I was in Berlin to commemorate the 30th anniversary with young, dynamic leaders who are part of the European Democracy Youth Network (EDYN), a joint NDI-IRI project supported by USAID. This partnership demonstrates the strong bipartisan support for democracy assistance, and a shared commitment between government and civil society to foster the next generation of democratic leaders overseas. I was inspired by the optimism, determination and passion demonstrated by this growing group of young leaders from across Central and Eastern Europe. They represent a bold and exciting future for democracy.
NDI Chairman Madeleine Albright underscored the importance of young citizens voicing their views when she addressed the group. She noted that young people are "the energy of democracy," and called for young people everywhere to participate in their country's democratic future. "Democracy is not a spectator sport," she reminded the group.
At NDI, we are proud to work alongside brave citizens worldwide to bring all people into the democratic process, to help empower and enable dynamic small-d democrats through partnerships such as EDYN in order to create or reinvigorate a democratic culture.
Even as we remain clear-eyed about the increasingly complex challenges to democratic development we face around the world, we must not lose sight of the incredible progress made over the last three decades. NDI is proud to have played a part in supporting democracy's growth for over 35 years, and we remain committed to supporting those working to carry the legacy of 1989 forward.