Advocacy and Public Participation

DRL programs equip civil society with the knowledge and skills to conduct effective advocacy around the world on human rights and governance issues in domestic, regional, and international fora. DRL programs also strengthen civic engagement and participation in democratic processes to hold governments accountable to citizen concerns.


DRL anti-corruption programs support civil society and investigative journalists in uncovering corruption, demanding reform, and increasing availability of legally actionable information for use by government and law enforcement. DRL is a founding donor of the Global Anti-Corruption Consortium (GACC), a multilateral initiative that promotes a global, transnational approach to combatting corruption.

Freedom of Expression

DRL assists independent media outlets and journalists in some of the most sensitive environments around the world to build their own capacity and develop high-impact, in-depth news reports covering governance and human rights topics.  DRL programs support media in collaborating across borders while utilizing cutting-edge skills and technology to reveal grand-corruption among public officials and undemocratic practices that decrease the quality of governance in the region.  Recognizing the tremendous risks journalists take in holding some governments accountable, we also provide holistic security trainings that help journalists proactively address and minimize the risks from their work.  Combined with DRL’s work to protect freedom of association in these environments, these programs result in better informed citizens that are able to organize and assemble freely to hold their governments accountable.

Integrated Human Rights

DRL programs protect and defend the universal human rights, fundamental freedoms and dignity for all individuals. DRL takes an intersectional approach and provides targeted support to address barriers created by rising levels of violence, discrimination and criminalization based on religion, sex, disability, race, ethnicity, nationality, and/or sexual orientation and gender identity. These programs are demand-driven, locally led, and leverage common strategies used by civil society to prevent and respond to human rights violations and abuses. DRL requires all of its programming to be inclusive and expects all implementers to demonstrate deliberate analysis, integration, and investment in at-risk or vulnerable individuals and communities. DRL programs promote the Women, Peace, and Security Act of 2017, by ensuring that women and girls serve as agents of peace via political and social empowerment.  DRL programming promotes women and girls as equal partners in preventing conflict and building peace, while also endeavoring to rectify the adverse impacts of armed conflicts on women and girls.

Internet Freedom

Promoting Internet freedom is an essential part of the U.S. government’s approach to protecting and promoting human rights in the 21st century.  The U.S. conceptualizes Internet freedom as the online exercise of human rights and fundamental freedoms – such as freedoms of expression, association, peaceful assembly, religion, or belief – as well as privacy rights, online.  DRL leads the State Department’s efforts to promote Internet freedom globally through bilateral and multilateral engagements as well as through foreign assistance programming.  DRL’s programs aim to advance Internet freedom globally through integrated support for four pillars of work – technology development, digital safety, policy advocacy, and research.

Justice and Accountability

DRL programs promote justice and accountability in the context of ongoing lack of justice and impunity in countries and regions with a legacy of gross human rights violations. Through inclusive, community-owned, victim-centered approaches, DRL supports civil society engagement with a wide range of transitional justice and accountability measures – judicial and non-judicial, formal and informal, retributive and restorative – in both conflict and post-conflict environments around the world.


DRL programs help to foster a more competitive and level playing field for the American worker by promoting internationally recognized labor rights and empowering workers throughout the world in support of democracy promotion and inclusive economic growth.  Programs work to support core labor standards abroad and focus on issues such as freedom of association, the right to collective bargaining, combating anti-union labor violence, and protecting the rights of marginalized and vulnerable migrant workers and their access to safe, affordable, and legal migration channels.

Political Participation

DRL programs enable citizens to participate fully in political life, whether it be as informed voters, candidates, election administrators, or elected officials.  DRL programs provide civic and voter education; improved access to the polls for all voters, including persons with disabilities and other groups; technical assistance for accountable elections; training for journalists on the essentials of political reporting; facilitate grants for civil society organizations to lead inclusive voter campaigns; focus on ensuring that candidates are accountable to their constituents; strengthens inclusive societies as a necessary pillar of strong democracies; and prioritize activities targeting youth, women, and other groups.  Outside of elections, DRL programs provide avenues for improved platform development for political parties, technical assistance to elected officials from all segments of society, and increased engagement between representatives and their constituencies.

Rapid Response and Emergency Assistance

DRL’s rapid response and emergency assistance programs support embattled human rights defenders and civil society organizations around the world through direct financial support and technical assistance. These programs are designed to ensure that human rights defenders and media practitioners in closed and closing spaces can remain resilient, mitigate risks, overcome threats, and continue their important work as safely as possible. DRL also funds a broad range of rapid response interventions to protect and advance the fundamental freedoms of association, assembly, expression, and religion.

International Religious Freedom

DRL’s programs on religious freedom foster inclusive societies for all who are persecuted on the basis of religion or belief or non-belief. DRL strives to help all communities, especially religious minorities, to enjoy full membership in their societies without compromising their beliefs. DRL’s approach is both top down and bottom up, depending on the country context. Programs focus on both intolerance by official actors as well as societal level intolerance, including support for legal reforms, to increase religious freedom protections for all.

Rule of Law

DRL supports programs that promote due process, just and accountable laws, and access to justice. DRL programs work to strengthen legal frameworks to ensure the protection of human rights; build media capacity in legal reporting to promote community awareness of judicial processes and reforms; foster civil society oversight of application of laws and reforms; and support judicial actors in understanding and applying legal frameworks in line with international human rights standards.

U.S. Department of State

The Lessons of 1989: Freedom and Our Future