Part 1: Political and Human Rights Conditions
Algeria is a republic of approximately 36 million inhabitants. President Bouteflika, the head of state, was reelected in 2009 to a third five-year term following the ratification of a November 2008 constitutional amendment eliminating presidential term limits. In 2007 the government did not allow some political parties full access to the electoral process during parliamentary elections, and local elections were marred by irregularities and charges of fraud. A state of emergency imposed in 1992 following widespread political violence remains in force. Since the 1990s, the human rights situation has improved, although significant concerns remain, including restrictions on political party activities; restrictions on freedom of speech, press, religion, assembly, and association; corruption and lack of government transparency; and discrimination against women.
Part 2: U.S. Government Democracy Objectives
The U.S. Government's human rights and democracy goal is to assist in strengthening key government institutions and democratic values throughout society. The country is a major U.S. partner in combating extremism and terrorist networks such as Al Qa'ida and is our second-largest trading partner in the Arab world. The country faces significant challenges in modernizing its political system, completing its transition to a market economy, and addressing the needs of a growing young population.
To help meet these challenges, U.S. human rights and democracy objectives focus specifically on strengthening legislative and judicial institutions, promoting freedom of association to strengthen civil society, and lessening restrictions on the independent print media. Other key objectives include education reform to increase civic participation and exposure to democratic principles among youth, combating trafficking in persons, and strengthening respect for women's rights.
Part 3: Supporting Top Priorities and Other Aspects of Human Rights and Democratic Governance
To strengthen the legislative process, the U.S. Government provides training to members of parliament on budgetary processes, drafting legislation, information technology, and media relations. The program provides parliamentarians new perspectives on oversight and government accountability to citizens by partnering U.S. experts with the parliamentary training institute, sponsoring seminars by expert speakers, and sending members of parliament to the United States to study U.S. legislative practices. In 2009 the program will expand to train regional legislators.
To assist the country's efforts to modernize its legal framework and promote greater judicial independence, the U.S. Government supports programs to train judges, lawyers, and court clerks. One program has helped the Ministry of Justice develop a training curriculum for judges on the judicial code of ethics, as well as a set of e-learning modules on the modernization of family law. The country's judicial training institute, where all judges and clerks receive their legal training, uses the new curricula to train legal professionals and provide continuing education. A separate U.S. program hones the legal skills of young female lawyers, especially in applying international women's rights law and organizing public advocacy campaigns. U.S. officials continue to engage bilaterally with local officials on combating trafficking in persons, an issue that has gained recognition with the 2009 enactment of antitrafficking legislation. U.S. officials also engage the government bilaterally to raise concerns about restrictions on freedom of religion.
The U.S. Government utilizes public diplomacy resources to support the development of young civic and political leaders through English-language education, tailored exchange programs that expose local students to democratic principles and values, and civic education programs. The U.S. Government funds English language programs for at-risk youth and an Internet-based mathematics curriculum for grade schools. Public diplomacy efforts also aim to establish partnerships with high schools and universities in the United States. The U.S. Government sponsors local leaders to visit the United States to study subjects such as democracy, press freedom, and women's rights.
In addition, the U.S. Government conducts outreach and programmatic activities to support civil society and freedom of the press. U.S. officials hold frequent meetings with civil society representatives, representatives of labor unions, persons with disabilities, journalists, human rights advocates, and religious and women's groups, including organizations representing the country's religious minorities. The United States also continues to urge the government to decriminalize press defamation. One U.S.-funded program teaches journalists responsible practices and reporting techniques. Another ongoing program provides business training to independent newspapers to make them more financially stable and qualified to participate in political discussion. The U.S. Government assists some NGOs through small grants. One grant helps a small NGO near the capital develop training materials and launch advocacy campaigns concerning women's rights, youth issues, and voter education; another grant enables a civil society group to build a women's business network.