FACT SHEET: U.S. Support for Democratic Institutions, Good Governance, and Human Rights in Africa
“[I]f the dignity of the individual is upheld across Africa, then I believe Americans will be more free as well, because I believe that none of us are fully free when others in the human family remain shackled by poverty or disease or oppression. … Governments that respect the rights of their citizens and abide by the rule of law do better, grow faster, draw more investment than those who don’t.” – President Obama, Cape Town, South Africa, June 30, 2013
The United States is deeply committed to helping African countries strengthen their political institutions, address the challenges of governance, promote an active and empowered civil society, and uphold human rights. We view these efforts as vital to achieving Africa’s economic and security goals, because strong, accountable, and transparent institutions and a commitment to the rule of law help attract investment and generate prosperity, create trust in government, and help mitigate conflict and protect civilians from violence. Our ongoing efforts include:
Supporting Free and Fair Elections. Elections provide a crucial opportunity for citizens to hold their leaders and political parties accountable and to give ordinary citizens a role in determining the future of their nations through peaceful political competition. Through our diplomacy and our assistance, the United States remains committed to supporting credible, transparent, and inclusive elections, encouraging a respect for the political rules of the game, and reducing the likelihood of electoral violence. Our activities include supporting voter registration and civic and voter education; building the capacity of election commissions; strengthening political parties; training official and unofficial civil society election observers; and facilitating the inclusion of women, youth, and people with disabilities at all stages of the electoral process. U.S. elections assistance includes:
- In Nigeria, the United States is providing approximately $51 million over five years to support the conduct of credible and peaceful elections in 2015 and beyond. The United States is working with other donors to support Nigeria’s electoral management bodies and strengthen the ability of Nigerian civil society to promote electoral reforms, expand voter education, and monitor electoral processes in the run-up to the 2015 elections.
- In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the United States is committed to working with the Congolese people, the government, and other donors to encourage the conduct of local, provincial, and national elections that are credible, timely, and in line with the Congolese constitution. In May 2014, the U.S. government announced $30 million in additional funding for elections and stabilization.
- In Tunisia, the United States is committed to supporting Tunisia’s democratic process, and is providing more than $9 million in elections assistance for the 2014 elections, including to support international and domestic observer missions, voter outreach and education programs, and the establishment of a new electoral commission to oversee presidential and parliamentary elections to complete the country’s democratic transition followings decades of autocratic rule.
- In Malawi, the United States provided $3.5 million in assistance for voter education, media training around election issues, and the Malawi Electoral Support Network’s domestic observation and parallel vote tabulation, which helped bolster confidence in the credibility of the May 2014 elections.
Supporting Civil Society and Promoting Civic Engagement. A vibrant and empowered civil society is both a cornerstone of democracy, helping to promote inclusiveness, transparency, rule of law and human rights, and a partner to governments and the private sector in delivering services. President Obama elevated democracy and governance as a key priority for the Administration when, on the margins of the 2013 UN General Assembly, he launched Stand with Civil Society, reaffirming the rights to freedom of assembly and association globally. Through our diplomacy and our assistance, U.S. government engagement in this area in Africa includes:
- In partnership with other governments and private foundations, the United States launched Making All Voices Count to support innovation and research that will empower citizens to engage with government, voice their feedback and demands, and secure government responses. This partnership with the United Kingdom, Sweden, the Omidyar Network, and the Open Society Foundations is providing $55 million globally in support and capacity building from 2013 through 2017. The first round of grants, totaling $2.5 million, was announced this spring and will benefit several African countries, including South Africa, Liberia, Ghana and Nigeria.
- In Tunisia, the United States has provided nearly $50 million to strengthen participatory and inclusive political processes, build the capacity of civil society to stay connected to citizens through ongoing civic education and engagement, and promote freedom of expression.
- In Liberia, the U.S. government, through a 5-year, $18 million program, has assisted civil society organizations in expanding their role from delivering services to engaging in governance and policy processes. The United States has also supported programs that promote civic engagement in policymaking throughout the region, including in Ghana and Tanzania.
- Through the Peace Corps, the United States supports volunteer programs across Africa, including Liberia’s National Youth Service Program Volunteers and Togo’s Program for the Promotion of National Volunteers.
- Through the President’s Young African Leaders Initiative, the United States is helping enhance the capacity, leadership skills, and networks of young leaders committed to building strong democratic institutions and driving economic growth and prosperity. President Obama recently announced the expansion of this effort through the creation of Regional Leadership Centers in Africa and doubling the number of participants in the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders program to reach 1,000 participants each year by 2016.
Partnering to Promote Good Governance and Openness. The U.S. government is working to support African countries as they make improvements in the delivery of public and social services to their citizens and commit to policy and regulatory reforms designed to promote inclusive governance and attract investment, including by opening up their governments. U.S. support in this area includes:
- Through the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), the United States partners with African countries that perform well on critical indicators of good governance, and make investments to reduce poverty and generate economic growth. Of the seven MCC compacts currently being implemented in Africa, investments in Burkina Faso, Cabo Verde, Malawi and Zambia have direct links to building stronger governance-related institutions. In addition, MCC’s rigorous selection criteria have provided incentives for African countries to reform policies, strengthen institutions and improve data quality.
- With South Africa, Tanzania, and five other countries, President Obama in 2011 launched the Open Government Partnership (OGP), a voluntary, multi-stakeholder initiative in which governments make concrete commitments to promote transparency, empower citizens, fight corruption, and harness new technologies. The OGP has grown rapidly to include 64 countries, including Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, Malawi, Sierra Leone, and Tunisia from Africa. U.S. assistance has helped Sierra Leone to develop its first OGP National Action Plan with robust citizen engagement; Tunisia to become eligible to join OGP on the third anniversary of its revolution in January; and, with support totaling approximately $16 million, Liberia to implement its OGP commitments to transparency, accountability and citizen engagement. The United States is also working with several private sector partners and associations to help build capacity to implement open data policies, develop legal and regulatory reforms, and improve accountability and public service delivery in African OGP member countries.
- Voice of America (VOA), overseen by the Broadcasting Board of Governors, has country-specific news and information programming in local languages across the continent as well as in English and French. These programs, produced with on-air talent from the countries where their audiences are located, showcase democratic best practices in the United States and around the globe, and promote understanding of human rights. Corruption and good governance are recurring themes in much of VOA’s reporting of events in the region.
- The United States is also providing assistance to help governments improve service delivery, including through the launch of a $38 million, four-year Democracy, Human Rights, and Governance Program in Tanzania to promote government accountability at the local and national level, including in the health, agriculture, and education sectors. In Ghana, the U.S. government has worked to help improve the delivery of public services by training local government officials in effective planning, budgeting, and implementation and strengthening citizens’ ability to advocate and engage with local government. In Nigeria, the United States is supporting a 5-year, $40 million program with similar goals.
Consolidating the Rule of Law and Protecting Human Rights. Protecting the rights and ensuring the participation of all people in civic and political life are critical to democratic governance and economic growth. Through our active diplomacy, public outreach, and programmatic assistance, the United States continues to engage African governments, civil society, and international institutions to advance human rights for all people in Africa, including women and girls and vulnerable communities such as persons with disabilities, indigenous minorities, and individuals who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT). U.S. government activities in this area include:
- The U.S. government helps build the capacity of anticorruption, counter-narcotic, judicial, and police sector institutions across Africa to uphold the rule of law through informed, transparent, and fair investigations and prosecutions of transnational organized crime. Our West Africa Cooperative Security Initiative focuses on building the capacity of judges, prosecutors, and police to fight organized crime, increasing civil society’s ability to expose corruption and empowering citizens to fight it, thereby helping citizens and reform-minded officials improve governance in countries such as Senegal, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Ghana, Burkina Faso, and Togo.
- In the Great Lakes region, the U.S. is funding a $1.5 million program over two years to strengthen judicial capacity; improve the impartiality, efficiency, and effectiveness of magistrates and court support personnel; support interaction between the judicial sector and civil society organizations; and provide training on best practices for addressing women’s rights.
- In Côte d’Ivoire, the U.S. government is providing assistance of $19 million over five years to help make the justice sector more effective, accessible, and equitable, including by providing training for judicial personnel and community organizations and helping rehabilitate judicial infrastructure.
- In the Democratic Republic of the Congo and South Africa, the U.S. government has worked to provide legal redress mechanisms and treatment services to survivors of gender-based violence.
- As President Obama said to the U.N. General Assembly in 2011, no country should deny people their rights because of who they love, which is why the U.S. government stands up for the human rights of LGBT people everywhere. In addition to our ongoing public outreach and our diplomatic advocacy, the U.S. government’s investments in protecting the human rights of and access to services by LGBT persons have continued to expand, including through USAID’s LGBT Global Development Partnership and the Department of State’s Global Equality Fund, which have provided over $20 million since 2011 in 50 countries worldwide, including across Africa.
- President Obama announced in 2012 a comprehensive Administration strategy to prevent atrocities, underscoring that “preventing mass atrocities and genocide is a core national security interest and a core moral responsibility of the United States of America.” The U.S. government is working to implement that strategy and investing in prevention efforts within the U.S. government and around the world, including through our efforts to support the training and deployment of effective peacekeepers to the Central African Republic and to mitigate the risk of violence associated with the upcoming national elections in Burundi, Nigeria, and other countries in Africa.
- The United States works closely with foreign governments and civil society to combat human trafficking, which afflicts communities in the United States, Africa, and all over the world. The Department of State and USAID have increased their commitments to programs countering trafficking in persons in sub-Saharan Africa by $4.2 million, for a total of $13.4 million over the next two years, including technical assistance in developing and implementing strong national anti-trafficking frameworks and support to research on human trafficking in certain product supply chains.
- The U.S. government partners with oil, gas, and mining companies and other stakeholders through the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights Initiative to help and encourage companies to ensure that their activities respect the human rights of people in the communities where they do business. To that end, the State Department funds a program to help implement the Voluntary Principles in Ghana and Nigeria.