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U.S. Department of State

Diplomacy in Action

Strategic Goal 2: Governing Justly and Democratically

FY 2007-2012 Department of State and USAID Strategic Plan
Bureau of Resource Management
May 2007


Photo showing a statue depicting justice.
Stock Photo

The United States supports just and democratic governance for three distinct but related reasons: as a matter of principle; as a contribution to U.S. national security; and as a cornerstone of our broader development agenda. First, the U.S. political system and national identity are grounded in the belief that all people share fundamental rights that are best exercised and guaranteed by capable and democratic governance. Second, as outlined in the President's Freedom Agenda and the National Security Strategy, good governance and democracy promotion are central to U.S. national security and the global war on terror. Failed and authoritarian states that do not respond to the needs of their people or respect international human rights and democratic norms pose a long-term threat to the security of the United States and other democracies. Finally, U.S. support for anti-corruption, good governance, and democratization reinforces our development and transformational diplomacy goals of working with partners to help them build their own sustainable institutions of democratic governance. The U.S. Government goal is to promote and strengthen effective democracies and move them along a continuum toward democratic consolidation.

Strategies and programs that support the Strategic Goal of "Governing Justly and Democratically" take into account the challenges and opportunities presented by each country category as outlined in Appendix I. In restrictive countries, the emphasis will be on building political parties and supporting civil society to challenge closed regimes, sustaining the work of human rights defenders, and supporting independent media. In rebuilding countries, the emphasis will be on promoting government that is effective and legitimate, while protecting human rights and supporting civil society. In developing countries, we seek to strengthen the rule of law and good governance, advance anti-corruption measures, build the capacity of political parties, and expand the growth of civil society. In transforming countries, the focus will be on institutionalizing democracy and good governance, while sustaining a healthy civil society. The need for this assistance in sustaining partner countries varies according to the level of democratization in each country, and our efforts here could range from supporting nascent civil society organizations to training civil servants in key institutions.

Strategic Priorities

Rule of Law and Human Rights: As President Bush said in his January 2002 State of the Union Address, "America will always stand firm for the non-negotiable demands of human dignity: the rule of law; limits on the power of the state; respect for women; private property; free speech; equal justice; and religious tolerance." Our objectives in this area are to advance and protect human and individual rights as embodied in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and international conventions to which states are signatory, and to promote societies in which the state and its citizens are accountable to laws that are publicly promulgated, equally enforced, and independently adjudicated, and which are consistent with international norms and standards. To accomplish this, we will speak out forthrightly through public statements and instruments such as the Human Rights Practices, Trafficking in Persons, and International Religious Freedom reports. We will speak out against states that wield the law as a political weapon or instrument of repression, and that manipulate laws and the judicial system in order to maintain power. We will speak in defense of human rights defenders who are silenced by their governments in order to draw international attention to their plight. We will actively promote the recognition of freedom of religion and conscience throughout the world as a fundamental human right, and denounce regimes that persecute their citizens or others on the basis of religious belief. We will promote and monitor universal recognition and implementation of labor rights and the abolition of abusive child labor practices, and will encourage responsible corporate social behavior. We will protect the rights of women and other underserved populations, including trafficking victims. We will work with members of the UN General Assembly, UN Human Rights Council and other multilateral mechanisms to call countries to account on their performance. We will complement our diplomatic activity by using our foreign assistance to:

  • Support and assist the development or amendment of constitutions, laws, and legal frameworks that are derived through democratic processes and are consistent with international human rights standards.
  • Strengthen judicial independence and impartiality as a means to check excessive power in any branch or level of government by improving processes for judicial review, selection, and self-governance.
  • Support and assist international and domestic courts and tribunals investigating and prosecuting instances of war crimes, genocide, and crimes against humanity.
  • Ensure an effective and equitable justice system by: improving professional capacities and administrative and operational systems of actors and institutions; developing and implementing fair procedures; expanding access to justice; and ensuring adequate oversight, advocacy, and accountability.
  • Protect and promote human rights through education and awareness, training, and support for human rights advocates and defenders, including legal defense for advocates under pressure by their governments, and by strengthening mechanisms for human rights protection.

Good Governance: Our objective in this area is to promote democratic institutions that are effective, responsive, sustainable, and accountable to the people. Constitutional order, legal frameworks, and judicial independence constitute the foundation for a well-functioning society, but they remain hollow unless the government has the capacity to apply these tools appropriately. The fight against corruption cuts across all of these efforts and works to prevent abuses of power. To accomplish this, we will use diplomatic engagement and foreign assistance to:

  • Strengthen legislative, lawmaking, and legal reform processes, as well as legislative management, administration, accountability, and transparency by providing training on policy analysis, bill drafting, budgeting, constituent relations, administration, and oversight.
  • Work to reduce corruption to foster citizen confidence and help develop legitimate, stable, democratic institutions that are accountable to the people.
  • Promote and support decentralization, assist with anti-corruption reforms, and strengthen public sector executive functions by providing training on financial planning and management, strategic planning, decision-making, policy reform, accountability, and oversight.
  • Promote the professionalization of the security sector and adherence to international human rights standards.
  • Employ the Millennium Challenge Account (MCA) to contribute to a system of incentives for countries to rule justly, invest in their people, and encourage economic freedom.
  • Work with like-minded partners and with the G8, UN, Community of Democracies, the Global Forum on Fighting Corruption, and regional organizations, such as the Organization of American States (OAS) and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), to bolster nascent democracies and to call repressive regimes to account.
  • Work to implement the UN Convention Against Corruption by assisting countries to fulfill their obligations to criminalize corrupt behaviors and develop integrity systems that strengthen institutions and their ability to resist corruption.

Political Competition and Consensus-Building: Our objective in this area is to encourage the development of transparent and inclusive electoral and political processes, and democratic, responsive, and effective political parties. Political parties are indispensable vehicles for like-minded citizens to organize and compete through electoral processes for the right to govern. Parties also serve as vehicles to aggregate and articulate the interests of their members and constituents. Consensus-building processes are critical where fundamental issues about the democratization process have not yet been settled. We seek to promote consensus-building among government, political parties, and civil society to advance a common democratic agenda. To accomplish this, we will use diplomatic and foreign assistance tools to:

Photo showing an elderly woman casting her vote during local government elections in Rawalpindi City District, Pakistan.
  • Support free, fair, legitimate, and credible elections and political processes by helping develop impartial electoral, legal and institutional frameworks; provide assistance for election monitoring, oversight, and security; and support effective election administration.
  • Develop and strengthen democratic political parties through support for developing or reforming political party legal and institutional frameworks; support political party organizational development, campaign techniques, and constituent outreach; improve the representational capacity of political parties and strengthen their ability to participate responsibly in government.
  • Work with governments and local entities to increase citizen awareness of rights and responsibilities, and encourage greater participation in political processes.
  • Support consensus-building processes, enfranchisement, access, and participation, particularly of marginalized groups.

Civil Society: Our objective in this area is to empower individuals to exercise peacefully their rights of expression, association, and assembly, including through their establishing and participating in NGOs, unions, and other civil society organizations. We will actively protect and promote the right of individuals and civil society organizations to advocate their views and communicate with their own members, with their own and other governments, international bodies, and other elements of civil society inside or outside the countries in which they are based. We will seek to protect and promote access to objective information, including through free, open, and independent media, and through new technologies, including the Internet. We will spotlight abuses of civil society freedoms, denounce crackdowns on civil society and independent media, and publicly demonstrate our solidarity with NGOs, labor unions, and journalists under threat. We will complement this diplomatic activity with foreign assistance to:

  • Develop and strengthen the capacity of NGOs to advocate for good governance, democratization, and human rights through training and technical assistance in areas such as coalition building, strategic planning and communications, and laws and legal protections.
  • Advance media freedom by helping to create and develop independent media outlets and media infrastructure, and by providing training on media sector skills (e.g., reporting and investigative techniques), processes, and products, including Web-based services.
  • Increase citizen participation and oversight in governance through education and awareness training on rights and responsibilities.
  • Sustain the UN Democracy Fund's support to civil society organizations.

U.S. Government Partners and Cross-cutting Programs: The following are key U.S. Government partners with whom we will coordinate to achieve this goal:

  • Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG): BBG communicates democracy and human rights promotion messages abroad.
  • Department of Labor: Labor monitors labor conditions around the world, including child labor, and provides technical assistance to promote labor rights and standards.
  • Department of Justice: Justice provides expertise in police and judicial reform.
  • Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC): MCC encourages good governance by rewarding countries that govern justly with economic assistance.
  • Department of Commerce: Commerce supports the sustainable development of transparent and accountable business practices overseas.



The following are key factors, external to the Department and USAID, which could significantly affect the achievement of the goal:

  • Unforeseeable changes in governance (e.g., coups and sudden elections);
  • Natural disasters, terrorism, or insurgency that severely challenge the ability of states to govern;
  • Changes in government that diminish or expand opportunities for democratic reform; and
  • Readiness and desire of indigenous leadership to advance democracy and human rights in their own countries.


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