National Endowment for Democracy

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The National Endowment for Democracy is a QUANGO (i.e, quasi-autonomous non-governmental organization) based in the United States, with a goal of democracy promotion, chartered by the Congress but primarily made up of political party, labor union, and business representatives.

The original U.S. idea came from a backlash from discovery that the Central Intelligence Agency had been covertly funding political parties, intellectual organizations, and other apparently independent groups, within a broad program defined as anti-communism, but also having some of the aspects of democracy promotion. This was an early, but unfortunate, "soft power" alternative to military "hard power", but also sometimes politically unacceptable foreign aid. Aid programs such as the Marshall Plan were forbidden to assist policy influencers.

1967 legislation, introduced by Congressman Dante Fascell (D-Florida) to create to create an Institute of International Affairs, an initiative that would authorize overt funding for programs to promote democratic values failed, but opened the discussion. Under the Carter Administration, human rights promotion. In 1978 Congressmen Fascell and Donald Fraser (D-Minnesota) proposed another "QUANGO," an Institute for Human Rights and Freedom to provide "technical and financial assistance to nongovernmental organizations that promote human rights abroad," but again it was not formed. [1]

A structural model that did work came from the Federal Republic of Germany, which created "party foundations", called Stiftungen. each associated with a political party but receiving government funding, both to remove Nazi vestiges and to spread democratic models. , each aligned with one of the four German political parties, received funding from the West German treasury. "In the 1960's they began assisting their ideological counterparts abroad, and by the mid-70's were playing an important role in both of the democratic transitions taking place on the Iberian Peninsula."

The Stiftungen model became the prototype, in 1977, for a proposed foundation based on the Democratic Party (United States) and the Republican Party (United States), which was founded in 1980 as the American Political Foundation. The APF received funding from the Agency for International Development to design a more general model.

Eventually, the NED was created from:

  • Business: Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE)
  • Democratic: National Democratic Institute for International Affairs (NDI)
  • Republican: National Republican Institute for International Affairs (later renamed the International Republican Institute or "IRI")
  • Organized labor: Free Trade Union Institute (FTUI) (later reorganized as the American Center for International Labor Solidarity, also known as the “Solidarity Center.”)

William Blum, an author and critic of the CIA and U.S. foreign policy, suggests it was set up to legally continue the CIA's prohibited activities of support to selected political parties abroad. [2]


  1. David Lowe, Statement of Principles & Objectives; Idea to Reality: NED at 25, National Endowment for Democracy
  2. Blum, William (2003 (revised edition)), Killing Hope, Common Courage Press, ISBN 1-56751-252-6