Human Rights & Democracy Fund
The Human Rights & Democracy Fund (HRDF) is the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor’s flagship program. Since Congress established it in FY 1998, the Human Rights & Democracy Fund has been used to fulfill the bureau’s mandate of monitoring and promoting human rights and democracy worldwide.
The HRDF is designed to act as the Department’s “venture capital” fund for democracy and human rights. This flexibility allows the U.S. to respond rapidly and decisively to democratization and human rights crises and deficits. As a result, DRL’s groundbreaking, cutting-edge programs face high risk, but pay great dividends.
Often politically sensitive, HRDF programs have a dramatic effect on democracy promotion and personal liberties. The programs enable the U.S. to minimize human rights abuses, support democracy activists worldwide, open political space in struggling or nascent democracies and authoritarian regimes, and bring positive transnational change. Sometimes DRL’s HRDF programming is the only US assistance available to citizens fighting to change their societies. When possible, however, DRL works closely with other agencies and bureaus to ensure that HRDF programs do not duplicate other assistance efforts. HRDF programs strive for self-sustainability, though a number of programs have received further funding from other resources.
Other DRL Funding Sources
On occasion, DRL will receive additional funds to implement from Congress, Department of State Bureaus, and other U.S. agencies. These have included Congressional Supplemental appropriation, Congressional earmarks, Economic Support Funds (ESF), Partnership to Eliminate Sweatshop Production (PESP) funds, Support for Eastern Europe Democracy (SEED) funds, and funds for Iraq programs.
DRL’s important efforts have brought success and, with success, DRL funding has grown from $7.82 million in FY1998 to over $207 million in FY2010. The vast majority of DRL programs are awarded through an open, merit-based competition. DRL finds such open competitions yield innovative ideas from a variety of partners who bring, among other things, invaluable country- and region-specific experience.
Figure 1 Summary of DRL Administered Foreign Assistance Appropriations (in millions)
Figure 2 Current DRL Programming by Region