AUSTIN, Texas—Dr. Larry R. Faulkner, president of The University of Texas at Austin, today (June 15) announced the signing of an affiliation agreement with the bipartisan Center for Democracy in Washington, D.C., to cooperate on programs designed to support the development and maintenance of democratic and free-market societies around the world.
The pact will create international internships and research opportunities for UT Austin students and faculty, while also providing much-needed technical assistance to emerging democracies worldwide.
Headed since its founding in 1985 by historian Allen Weinstein, The Center for Democracy is a non-profit, non-partisan and privately funded foundation dedicated to assisting new democracies across the globe, helping to establish and maintain democratic institutions, and pursuing peaceful resolution of conflicts.
Its board of directors includes distinguished leaders in business and Congress, including U.S. senators Kay Bailey Hutchison, Joseph Lieberman and Richard Lugar, House Deputy Majority Whip Roy Blunt, U.S. Congressman James Moran and former members of Congress Barbara Kennelly and Bob Livingston.
In signing the agreement, Faulkner said, "The University is very pleased to team up with The Center for Democracy. Among other advantages, we see this as an excellent way for our graduate students in law and the social sciences to gain valuable ‘hands on’ experience in international democratic development with some of the country’s foremost experts in the field."
The affiliation agreement provides a framework and mechanism to facilitate faculty-initiated research on international democratization. Additionally, the agreement provides for University-Center cooperation on the development of conferences and technical assistance programs.
At the request of the Congress of Guatemala, UT Austin began its work in democracy programs in 1997 with a three-year, $3 million grant from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to develop and implement a legislative strengthening program. The University currently is implementing a similar project for the Legislative Assembly of El Salvador.
Over the past four years, 26 UT Austin graduate students have interned with the two Central American programs. Under the new agreement, the University will expand its Democracy Fellows program to include internships with the Center for Democracy’s office in Washington, D.C., as well as with democracy projects in other countries.
Overall, U.S. financial support for democracy programs abroad has surged since the end of the Cold War. Over the past 10 years, USAID has budgeted almost $4.6 billion for democracy assistance to developing countries. This year alone, the agency received approval to spend approximately $643 million on democratization efforts. For fiscal year 2002, the Bush Administration will integrate the existing portfolio of USAID democracy programs with new approaches to conflict prevention and developmental support, and is requesting a total of $1.158 billion from Congress.
Combining rigorous academic research with innovative fieldwork, UT’s new partner is both a "think tank" and a development program. The Center for Democracy is dedicated to advancing the understanding of democracy, while also exploring new ways to empower citizens, increase public participation in the political process and develop more responsive, transparent and accountable public institutions.
The hallmark of its approach to democracy programming has been the creative use of experienced development experts, university faculty and graduate students to provide technical assistance, training and research in a variety of democracy-building activities including election monitoring, judicial reform, legislative strengthening, regional development and civic education.
At the ceremony marking the signing of the agreement with UT, Professor Allen Weinstein, president of The Center for Democracy and a pioneer in global democracy programs, said the Center’s projects are designed to "help strengthen parliaments, courts and other public institutions in ways that facilitate healthy self-governance." Weinstein has held tenured professorships at Smith College (1966-1981), Georgetown University (1981-85) and Boston University (1985-89). A prize-winning historian, his international awards for the Center’s democracy efforts include the United Nations Peace Medal and the Council of Europe’s Silver Medal.
Since its founding in 1985, The Center for Democracy — although its core budget is privately raised — often has worked with USAID in the development and implementation of democracy projects. In 1988, the Center launched the agency’s first comprehensive legislative modernization program in Latin America (in Guatemala). That project was followed by similar successes with the Legislative Assembly in Costa Rica in 1992-96 and the National Assembly of Nicaragua in 1992-98.
Election monitoring has been another focus of the foundation’s activity. Bipartisan teams of election observers have been fielded for elections in El Salvador (1985 and 1991), the Philippines (1985-86), the Bahamas (1987), Panama (1988-89), Honduras (1989), Nicaragua (1989-90), Costa Rica (1990), Poland (1990), Guatemala (1990-91) and Russia (1993, 1996, 2000). The Center also has recognized major contributions toward developing democratic societies worldwide through awarding periodically its prestigious International Democracy Medal.
Among others, recipients have included King Juan Carlos of Spain (2001); Vicente Fox, Mexico (2000); Patricio Aylwin, Chile (1993); Boris Yeltsin, Russia (1991); Oscar Arias, Costa Rica (1987); and Corazon Aquino, the Philippines (1986).
Last month, the Center joined with UT Austin and the American Bar Association in hosting a bilateral symposium for the judiciaries of the United States and Mexico, which was keynoted by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer and his Mexican counterpart, Minister Sergio Salvador Aguirre. The affiliation agreement announced today will result in other such international conferences on the UT Austin campus.