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Foreign policy was blatantly missing in President Obama's inaugural address, but he did say the US would support democracy around the world. What does that mean?
After President Barack Obama was sworn in for a second term, he gave a well-received – and some noted very progressive – inaugural speech while invoking the founding principles of America.
What he didn't do was say much about America's foreign policy. In his nearly 20-minute speech, the references to America's role in the world were few and far between. Obama did say:
We will support democracy from Asia to Africa; from the Americas to the Middle East, because our interests and our conscience compel us to act on behalf of those who long for freedom.
So, how does America "support" democracy besides the obvious military interventions of recent years?
The US government seeks to advance democracy and human rights by strengthening democratic institutions, supporting civil society, enhancing the rule of law and judicial independence, promoting political pluralism and free and fair electoral processes, protecting independent media, promoting respect for Internet freedom, advocating security sector reform that encourages human rights, and promoting human rights for all members of society, including women.
Democratic Institutions and Civil Society
The US supports "civil service reform, including recruitment and training of professionals, and assistance to provide better government services," according to the State Dept., by funding programs for civil society oversight and assisting organizations that advocate for freedom of assembly, religious freedom, democratic governance and legal frameworks.
Examples of countries that receive support: Afghanistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, China, Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, Libya, Myanmar, Nepal, Paraguay, Saudi Arabia, Sri Lanka, Syria, Thailand, Yemen, Zimbabwe
Elections and the Political Process
The US also funds programs to strengthen electoral institutions and support improved political processes, according to the State Dept report. The US urges "political liberalization" and "free and fair elections" by training election officials and providing support for NGOs to observe elections.
It also supports programs to prevent post-election violence and promote tolerance in reform.
Examples of countries that receive support: Burundi, Fiji, Georgia, Kosovo, Malawi, Mauritania, Morocco, Qatar, Tajikistan, Togo, Ukraine, Zimbabwe
Economic Freedom and Opportunity
The US works with the International Labor Organization and International Finance Corporation to support "worker rights and well-regulated labor markets." It also supports anticorruption programs, fiscal and budget management, and fair labor standards, says the State Dept.
Examples of countries that receive support: Albania, Ethiopia, Kenya, Liberia, Niger, Sierra Leone, United Arab Emirates
Press and Internet Freedom
"The United States advocates freedom of expression through media including broadcast, print, and online," says the State Dept. Some specific initiatives include encouraging lower penalties for libel, thorough investigations of attacks on journalists, the release of journalists and bloggers jailed for political reasons and safe internet access.
Examples of countries that receive support: Argentina, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Burkina Faso, The Gambia, Guinea Bissau, Haiti, Jordan, Macedonia, Oman, Somalia, Timor Leste, Turkmenistan
Rule of Law
US programs, according to the State Dept., provide technical assistance to civilian and military courts, legal services and legislative reform. The US funds programs to train judges, police, prosecutors and defense attorneys.
Examples of countries that receive support: Albania, Bosnia, Cameroon, Macedonia, Russia, Serbia
Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms
The US funds "civil society projects to support the protection of human rights, including freedoms of speech, association and assembly, and rights of the child," says the State Dept.
Military training funded by the US includes human rights components, while the US also funds projects that promote international labor standards and prevent child labor.
US-funded programs also help survivors of gender-based violence and support religious freedom.
Examples of countries that receive support: Armenia, Bhutan, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Ethiopia, Niger, Sierra Leone, Eritrea
Promotion of Disability Rights
The US supports organizations run by those with disabilities, according to the State Dept. It also encourages the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
Examples of countries that receive support: Armenia, Egypt, Eritrea, Guinea
Promotion of Women’s Rights
The US promotes women's issues through the US National Security Strategy, the State Department’s Quadrennial Diplomacy Review, and the Secretary’s March 12 Policy Guidance on Promoting Gender Equality, the State Dept says.