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IRI Vice President Testifies on Support for Democracy in the Middle East

May 17, 2005

Washington, DC – Elizabeth Dugan, vice president for programs at IRI, testified today before the House Subcommittee on National Security, Emerging Threats and International Relations, chaired by Tom Davis (VA-11).  Dugan's testimony focused on support for democracy in the Middle East.

Dugan testified about the strategic importance of strengthening democracies in the Middle East, "The U.S. Government's thinking on democracy and human rights turned an important corner after 9/11, and President Bush articulated the shift in his powerful speech at the commemoration of the 20th anniversary of the National Endowment for Democracy when he said, 'Sixty years of Western nations excusing and accommodating the lack of freedom in the Middle East did nothing to make us safe – because in the long run, stability cannot be purchased at the expense of liberty.'  With these words, he underscored that our commitment to freedom and reform in the region was serious."

Dugan later highlighted the need to ensure that all U.S. government institutions are presenting a consistent message to foreign governments, "the President's vision and commitment to democracy and human rights promotion in the region is well conceived and forcefully articulated.  But the bureaucracies within the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) lag behind the Administration's direction in implementing this policy shift. All elements of our foreign policy apparatus, including our Embassies and USAID missions overseas and within the State Department's Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, need to become constructively and consistently engaged to ensure that democracy promotion remains a priority and that both governments and citizens in the Middle East receive a uniform message about the need to implement reforms."

IRI has been active in the Middle East supporting democratic reform and freedom.  At both the local and national levels, IRI is working with elected officials, political parties and civil society to expand democracy and increase political participation.  Recent elections in the West Bank and Gaza and Iraq have led to a greater demand for political freedom throughout the Middle East and IRI is working to build democratic institutions, open-up the political process and increase the participation of women.