About That Pro-Democracy Funding in Egypt…

Posted on April 15, 2011


The NYT has an article  [US Groups Helped Nurture Arab Uprisings, April 15,  A-1] today about the US’s “pro-democracy” funding in the countries that came down with the Arab-Spring over the past few months. That the US has funded so-called “pro-democracy” organizations in various countries through the National Endowment for Democracy [and USAID] is no secret. They list all these countries, over 90, on their website.  The NED has had a checkered past, and has often been associated with the emergence of sudden populist movements that have surprisingly neo-liberal goals and warm relationships with the US.

But what the article leaves out is that the US actually cut its grants to Egypt in the three years preceding the Arab-Spring uprisings, for organizations like Freedom House, the main focus of the NYT article. As the National reported last year:

Barack Obama’s federal budget proposal for the financial year 2010 chopped democracy and governance aid to Egypt and Jordan – the only two Arab states that maintain diplomatic relations with Israel – by about 40 per cent. In Egypt’s case, funding has been cut by nearly 75 per cent for pro-democracy NGOs of which the Egyptian government does not approve.

… After nearly a decade in which George W Bush’s go-it-alone policy doctrine turned close regional allies into reluctant partners, the Obama administration has decided on a more conciliatory approach toward the autocratic regimes, such as Egypt’s, that dominate Middle Eastern politics.

…Mr Obama’s proposal for the 2010 budget eliminated all USAid funding for unregistered groups and whittled down funding for civil society organisations to a mere $7m from a previous annual sum of $32m, according to a July 2009 report by the Project on Middle East Democracy (Pomed), an independent Washington-based think tank.

Indeed, Foreign Policy also reported that the US sought to create a pocket fund for Mubarak, immune from congressional oversight in 2010:

…the endowment’s lack of a clear governing structure is cause for concern — Congress ought to be wary of allocating resources while leaving those details to be determined after the fact, which would risk turning the endowment into the slush fund that critics fear. In addition, while support for economic and political reform has long been a core component of U.S. economic aid to Egypt, it is troubling that this new endowment will likely include neither.

I wrote about this at the beginning of the pro-democracy demonstrations in Egypt, here. What’s ironic about this reporting is that the pro-democracy movement in Egypt happened at a time when US funding of opposition groups was at its lowest in years, and strengthening of alliance with the Mubarak regime ratcheted to its apogee. This is what they want to put up behind a pay-wall? I’ve seen better reporting on a GE tax return.