U.S. assistance to advance democracy worldwide has shrunk by 28 percent during Barack Obama’s presidency and is now less than $2 billion per year, says a leading authority. The decline has been especially severe at the U.S. Agency for International Development, which traditionally funds the bulk of U.S. democracy assistance, notes Thomas Carothers, vice president for studies at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. USAID spending to foster democracy, human rights and accountable governance abroad has fallen by 38 percent since 2009, he writes for The Washington Post:
The drop-off affects almost every region to which such aid is directed. It has been largest in the Middle East — a startling 72 percent cut that came just as much of the Arab world attempted a historic shift toward democracy. In Africa, a 43 percent decline has left a paltry $80 million for democracy work for the entire continent outside of Liberia and South Sudan. Overall, the number of countries where USAID operates dedicated democracy programs has fallen from 91 to 63.
To grasp just how unimpressive the U.S. commitment to aiding democracy abroad has become, consider this: Leaving aside Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, USAID spending on democracy, rights and governance in fiscal 2014 — $860 million — totaled less than what just one U.S. citizen, George Soros, spends annually to foster open society globally … The main aid agency of the country that prides itself on being an unmatched force for democracy cannot even match the financial commitment of one of its citizens?
Supporting democracy, human rights and better governance more substantially and effectively will not produce instant solutions, Carothers writes:
But patiently and seriously pursued, such aid can be a crucial part of the longer-term solutions we seek. Troubled though our democracy can seem at home, our society still enjoys its unique stability and security thanks to its pluralistic, open political system rooted in democratic accountability and the rule of law. That formula remains the right one for our pursuit of stability and security abroad.