Lowey Statement on Hearing on Democracy Promotion
I join Chairwoman Granger in welcoming our distinguished witnesses here today. The challenges you face promoting democracy, civil liberties and basic human rights in repressive and fragile countries are enormous and the results are not always clearly visible.
The seeds of change take time to sow, take root and grow, making it difficult for some of our colleagues to embrace these investments. For example, the fall of the Iron Curtain in the late 80’s and early 90’s was precipitated by 30 years of groundwork.
The most recent Freedom House report reflects an overall decline in freedom around the world for the eighth consecutive year with 54 countries registering declines. State control of the media threatens to delegitimize civil society and isolate political opposition. Intimidation and violence targeted at journalists and censorship is rising in countries such as Russia, Turkey and Mexico. This trend is of great concern to me.
· Despite all of the financial resources and talent we invest in these programs it seems that our democracy, governance and public diplomacy efforts are not as successful as they could be. I hope you all will address why this is the case.
As the Arab Spring continues to evolve, we are all too aware of the potential for instability, violence and upheaval that can accompany the call for change. I remain deeply concerned about the great political upheaval and instability in countries such as Egypt, Libya, Bahrain and Syria.
Additionally, sectarian violence fueled by political motivations remains a reality in Iraq, South Sudan and the Central African Republic. And the world is hearing reports of untold human suffering and crimes against humanity in North Korea, Somalia and Syria due to odious regimes who have no respect for human life or dignity.
These developments make the world a more dangerous place by creating safe havens for terrorists and other bad actors that benefit from the chaos and who would attempt to do harm to American citizens both at home and abroad. This is why I am committed to programs that promote stable transitions and support people around the world as they seek liberty, prosperity and basic human rights.
I harbor no illusions on the difficulty of this task. The road to free and viable democracies is long, hard and costly; but our continued support is vital to our national interests. The FY 2014 omnibus appropriated $2.85 billion to support democracy programs, and I look forward to learning how the Administration plans to prioritize these funds to assist those citizens and countries taking steps toward democracy, especially those who stand at the crossroads.
Each of your agencies has a unique and distinct role, and I want to hear how your efforts are coordinated to avoid duplication and overlap. Finally, I hope to hear from you about what is working, what is not and how we evaluate the effectiveness of these programs.
Thank you again, and I look forward to your testimony.