2019 marks my first full year at the helm of the National Democratic Institute. Looking back on a year that marked the 30th anniversary of both the Tiananmen Square demonstrations in China and the fall of the Berlin Wall in Europe, there is much on which to reflect.
Most profoundly, from Beirut to Bolivia, Quito to Khartoum, Paris to Algiers, Tehran to Hong Kong and beyond, 2019 saw an explosion of mass popular discontent in every corner of the globe. Citizens took to the streets to demand their voices be heard and that their governments end corruption, protect their rights and respond to their demands for justice.
It proved that while confidence in governance is low and faith in political institutions may be declining, political participation is on the rise – led by women and young people. This offers hope of a better future if only systems became more responsive and opened themselves up to fresh voices.
It also proved that people around the world want more, or more precisely, better democracy, not less.
In 2019, as throughout our nearly four decades of work, NDI remained on the frontlines of global efforts to empower citizen voices, and assist governments and citizens to work in partnership to deliver on democracy’s promise - to support the principles that people should have a say in how they are governed, that a government should be accountable to its people, transparent in its actions and inclusive of all citizens.
These are basic values of human dignity, they are also values of democracy, and they are the values that drive NDI’s work.
The following are just a few examples of NDI’s program work in 2019 that highlight innovative approaches to supporting democratic principles in the 21st century:
In November, I was honored to give a speech in Hong Kong on the state of global democracy and the stakes of the current moment. In that speech, I noted that the defining issue of our time is what rules, norms and values will guide nations in the 21st century. With programs in over seventy countries, NDI is grateful to all of its partners, including its donors, whose support will enable us to continue to work for democracy and make democracy work in 2020 and beyond.
Finally, I must pay profound tribute to the amazing work of NDI’s global team, whose talent and dedication are unparalleled, and with whom it is an honor to work every day to support democracy around the world during these challenging times.