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 Home > News & Policies > May 2008

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
May 1, 2008

Fact Sheet: Advancing Freedom and Democracy Around the World

U.S. Pursues Freedom Agenda By Strengthening Support For Democratic Dissidents, Helping Build Democratic Institutions

"Today, America speaks anew to the peoples of the world: All who live in tyranny and hopelessness can know: the United States will not ignore your oppression, or excuse your oppressors.  When you stand for liberty, we will stand with you."

 – President George W. Bush, 1/20/05

May 3 marks World Press Freedom Day.  We stand with journalists, editors, and bloggers who continue their work in spite of the risks.  We call on all governments to guarantee the inalienable rights of their people, including, consistent with Article 19 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the right to freedom of speech and the press.  During Fiscal Year 2007, the United States provided $78 million in approximately 40 countries to promote media freedom and freedom of information. President Bush has met with many journalists and editors who are struggling against forces that seek to suppress media freedom.  We salute these courageous individuals, and we recognize the importance of the right to a free press in spreading freedom around the world.

The United States is committed to the advance of freedom and democracy as the great alternatives to repression and radicalism.  The most powerful weapon in the struggle against extremism is the universal appeal of freedom.  Freedom is the best way to unleash the creativity and economic potential of a nation, the only ordering of a society that leads to justice, and the only way to achieve and permanently protect human rights.

  • Expanding freedom is more than a moral imperative - it is the only realistic way to protect our people.  The 9/11 attacks were evidence of an international movement of violent extremists that threatens free people everywhere.  Nations that commit to freedom for their people will not support extremists; they will join in defeating them. /news/releases/2007/06/20070605-8.html

The Administration created a Human Rights Defenders Fund in 2007, which provides grants for the legal defense and medical expenses of activists arrested or beaten by repressive governments.  This fund began with $1.5 million and will be replenished as needed:

Since December 2007, the Secretary of State has presented awards annually to recognize those striving to advance human dignity.

  • Freedom Defenders Award:  This award recognizes a foreign activist or NGO that has demonstrated outstanding commitment to advancing liberty and courage in the face of adversity.
  • Diplomacy For Freedom Award:  This award honors the U.S. Ambassador who best advances the President's Freedom Agenda by working to end tyranny and promote democracy using the full array of political, economic, diplomatic, and other tools.

Under The Freedom Agenda, America Is Helping Emerging Democracies Build The Institutions That Sustain Liberty

The President has more than doubled funding for democracy, governance, and human rights programs since taking office, and his Budget continues to increase funding in these areas.  The Fiscal Year 2009 Budget Request strengthens governance and the rule of law and fosters independent media, democratic political parties, voter education, election monitoring, and human rights.  The Fiscal Year 2009 Budget requests $1.72 billion for these activities, up from approximately $1.36 billion in Fiscal Year 2008 and $650 million in Fiscal Year 2001.  In addition, the Fiscal Year 2009 Budget Request provides $80 million for the National Endowment for Democracy, up from $31 million in 2001.

It is the responsibility of those who enjoy the blessings of liberty to help those who are struggling to establish free societies.  America is working with its partners through multilateral organizations to advance freedom and liberty.  This includes:

  • Providing support for the UN Democracy Fund, proposed by President Bush at the 2004 UN General Assembly and inaugurated in 2005 by Secretary General Annan, President Bush, and Indian Prime Minister Singh.  Through this fund UN members are working to help nations that want to join the democratic world.  The Fund has raised $85 million, and the United States has granted almost $26 million to the Fund to date.  The number of proposals submitted increased from 1,300 in 2006 to 1,800 in 2007 and projects are being identified for a second round of grant-making.  A priority was funding projects to support the efforts of NGOs in emerging democracies, such as that of Hungary’s International Center for Democratic Transition, and to support civilian participation in the Broader Middle East and North Africa Initiative.  Every free nation has an interest in the success of this Fund - and every free nation has a responsibility to advance the cause of liberty and, through it, the cause of peace.
  • Launched a Roundtable on Democracy in 2005 at the UN General Assembly.  Since then, the President has participated every year in this Roundtable to advance freedom by strategizing with leaders from around the world who are willing to take the steps necessary to spread liberty.
  • Supporting the G-8 in its Partnership for Progress and a Common Future with the governments and peoples of the Broader Middle East and North Africa.  This partnership is based on seeking genuine cooperation with the region's governments, as well as business and civil society representatives, to strengthen freedom, democracy, and prosperity for all.
  • In June 2007 the President traveled to Prague to attend a conference of dissidents and democracy activists organized by former Czech President Havel, Natan Sharansky, and former Spanish President Aznar.  In addition to his address, the President met privately with those gathered to hear their stories and discuss how to help other dissidents and activists.  /news/releases/2007/06/20070605-8.html

America is also using its influence to urge valued partners like Egypt and Saudi Arabia to move toward free political systems.  These nations have taken action to confront extremists, yet they have a great distance to travel to expand liberty and transparency.  The U.S. will continue to press nations like these to open up their political systems and give a greater voice to their people.

Under The Freedom Agenda, America Is Strengthening Support For Pro-Democracy Dissidents and Activists

On June 7, 2007, The President announced he had asked Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to direct every U.S. Ambassador in an un-free Nation to seek out and meet with activists for democracy and human rights.
The President has met personally with more than 100 dissidents, democratic and human rights activists, and independent journalists and their family members, including:

  • Afghanistan:  Mohammed Nasib, Sakeena Yacoobi, Sarwar Hussaini, 7/13/2005
  • American Islamic Conference:  Zainab Al-Suwaij and others (meeting with Iraqi-Americans and free Iraqis), 4/4/2003; Zainab Al-Suwaij, 6/5/2007
  • Belarus:  Irina Krasovskaya, Syvatlana Zavadskaya, 2/27/2006; Natalia Bourjaily, 9/19/2006; Aliaksandr Milinkevich, 6/5/2007; Aliaksandr Milinkevich, Anatoliy Lebedko, Sergey Kalyakin, Anatoliy Levkovich, Pavel Severinets, Dmitriy Fedaruk, Enira Bronitskaya, 12/6/2007
  • Bolivia:  Jose Brechner, 6/5/2007
  • Burma:  Charm Tong, 10/31/2005, 4/7/2008 (meeting with Mrs. Laura Bush)
  • China:  Li Baiguang, Wang Yi, Yu Jie, 5/11/2006; Junning Liu, Rebiya Kadeer, 6/5/2007
  • Cuba:  Isabel Roque and others (roundtable discussion with Cuban dissidents), 5/20/2003; Caridad Roque, Eleno Oviedo, Emilio Estefan, Luis Zuniga, 5/20/2005; Elias Amor Bravo, Rafael Rubio, 6/5/2007; Shirlen Garcia, Yamile Llanes,10/10/2007; family members of political prisoners Ricardo Gonzalez Alfonso, Jose Luis Garcia Paneque, Omar Pernet Hernandez, and Jorge Luis Gonzalez Tanquero (before his speech on Cuba, 10/24/2007); Elsa Morejon (wife of Medal of Freedom recipient and political prisoner Dr. Oscar E. Biscet), 1/24/2008; Miguel Sigler Amaya, Josefa Lopez Pena, 3/7/2008
  • Democratic Republic of the Congo:  Immaculee Birhaheka, 6/27/2006
  • Eastern Europe:  21 democracy activists from 13 countries (during Bratislava visit), 2/23/2005; Natan Sharansky, multiple times
  • Egypt:  Engy El-Haddad, 9/19/2006; Saad Eddin Ibrahim, 6/5/2007; Hisham Kassem, 9/18/2007
  • Iran:  Azar Nafisi, 11/2/2005
  • Iraq:  Ghassan Atiyyah, Kanan Makiya, Mithal Al-Alusi, Nibras Kazimi, 6/5/2007
  • Kosovo:  Veton Surroi, 6/5/2007
  • Libya:  Mohamed Eljahmi, 6/5/2007
  • North Korea:  Chol-hwan Kang, 6/13/2005; Gwang-Cheol Kim, Gwi-Ok Lee, Han-Mi Kim, Seung Min Kim, 4/28/2006
  • Pakistan:  human rights activists (civil society roundtable during visit), 3/4/2006
  • Russia:  15 human rights activists (side event at G8 summit), 7/14/2006; Yuri Dzhibladze, 9/19/2006; Garri Kasparov, Karinna Moskalenko, Ludmilla Alexeeva, 6/5/2007; Elena Milashina, 9/18/2007
  • Saudi Arabia:  Jafar Alshayeb, Sami Angawi, 6/5/2007
  • Sierra Leone:  Zainab Bangurra, 6/27/2006
  • Spain:  Edurne Uriarte, Jon Juaristi, 6/5/2007
  • Sudan:  Mudawi Ibrahim Adam, 3/8/2006; Simon Deng, 4/28/2006; Alfred Taban, 6/27/2006;
  • Syria:  Farid Ghadry, Mamoun Homsy, 6/5/2007; Mamoun Homsy, Ammar Abdulhamid, Djengizkhan Hasso, 12/4/2007
  • Thailand:  Kavi Chongkittavorn, 9/18/2007
  • Uzbekistan:  Nozima Kamalova, 9/19/2006
  • Venezuela:  Maria Corina Machado, 5/31/2005; Carlos Ponce, 9/19/2006; Ewald Scharfenberg, 9/18/2007
  • Vietnam:  Cong Thanh Do, Diem Do, Nguyen LeMinh, Quan Nguyen, 5/31/2007
  • West Bank:  Bassem Eid, Issam Abu Issa, Rami Nasrallah, 6/5/2007
  • Zimbabwe:  Reginald Matchabe-Hove, 6/27/2006, 9/19/2006


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