The National Endowment for Democracy and US Public Diplomacy: Part 1May 15, 2013
Before I went to ISA I promised that I would write about the National Endowment for Democracy as a mittler – that is an organization that mediates between a government and foreign publics. As I argued in the original post mittlers blur the boundaries between state and non-state. In this sense there’s nothing that unusual about that in the domestic sphere states often work through a variety of intermediate bodies. These organizations create a problem for scholars of PD because it’s often difficult to figure out what they are and what they do without a great deal of investigation.
Let’s look at the NED. In the second part of this post I want to raise the question of how the politics of the NED fit into the history of American public diplomacy but let’s start with a general overview.
According to its website it’s a “private, non-profit foundation dedicated to the growth and strengthening of democratic institutions around the world”
The NED is a grant giving organization rather than an operator but as well as responding to applications for grants It funds four core partners (more mediating organizations): the International Republican Institute and the National Democratic Institute – organizations associated with the American political parties and inspired by a German model, the American Center for International Labor Solidarity, and the Center for International Private Enterprise.
In addition in lists three ‘initiatives’ on its website, the International Forum for Democratic Studies, the World Movement for Democracy: ‘a global network of democrats including activists, practitioners, academics, policy makers, and funders, who have come together to cooperate in the promotion of democracy’, the Journal of Democracy and the Center for International Media Assistance.
I suspect that unless you are specifically paying attention to NED and democracy support work you’ve either never heard of some these organizations or have no idea that they are connected to the NED and its congressional funding. (I didn’t)
Each of these activities has its own partners so that mapping the network of the NED will take you into some interesting places.
Is this a public diplomacy organization? It would say that it isn’t but;
1. It’s created by legislation that requires it to promote democracy in a manner “consistent… with the broad concerns of United States national interests.”
2. It’s funded with US tax payer money appropriated by congress. To ensure funding it has to be able to demonstrate that it’s pointing in the same direction as US foreign policy.
3. Its board is composed of paid up members of the US foreign policy and political establishment: In any country you can take people out of the MFA or the local equivalent of the White House and put them on the board of an independent organization like this and they will still check that the grants that they are making are consistent with 1.
In thinking about mittlers we need to consider where the money comes from, where the formal locus of control is but also what the real dynamics of these networks are – both historical studies of state-private networks and recent work suggest that the you can’t just follow the money you need to look at the motivations and practices of the people involved.