Bipartisan senators earmark $3 billion to support democracies globally

Associated Press/J. Scott Applewhite

A bipartisan group of senators introduced legislation on Monday aimed at increasing funding to support democratic governments globally, according to draft text shared exclusively with The Hill.

The move comes ahead of President Biden’s Summit for Democracy, a virtual meeting set to take place on Thursday that is convening over 100 democratic states. The summit is aimed at uniting foreign governments against rising authoritarianism globally and reinforce protections for democratic norms and institutions.

The draft legislation, called the Democracy in the 21st Century Act, would authorize an increase in U.S. democracy funding to over $3 billion, aimed at helping foreign governments confront specific challenges that are undermining democracy, including disinformation, extremism, and attacks on independent media, according to a summary of the bill shared with The Hill.

It is being led by Senators Chris Coons (D-Del.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), the top lawmakers on the Senate Appropriations subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs.

“Every country will bring something to the table this week as President Biden convenes more than 100 countries to advance democracy and human rights around the globe, and this legislation will bolster the Biden administration’s efforts on that front,” Coons said in a statement to The Hill.

“Our bipartisan bill charts a course and provides new resources for the United States to modernize its tools to better address emerging threats to democracy — including foreign interference, transnational corruption, and digital authoritarianism — and support those efforts across the world,” he added. 

The bill would divide the cash between four funds within the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development to address specific challenges. It also provides funding for the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), a nonprofit and nongovernmental organization that works to promote and strengthen democracy globally. 

An estimated $40 million is being earmarked for a “Fund to Defend Democracy Globally”, to be divided between the State Department and USAID (United States Agency for International Development), to support democracy programs that bolster freedom of expression, election integrity and democratic technology.

An additional $20 million is being directed to USAID for a “Fund to Combat Corruption and Cronyism,” to support civil society, foreign governments and the private sector to combat corruption. 

USAID is also set to receive an additional $15 million for a “Democracy Research and Development Fund,” to support research, development and innovation within democratic programing, with an emphasis on technology and inter-department coordination and information sharing. 

Tags Chris Coons democracy promotion Joe Biden Lindsey Graham Summit for Democracy

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