In a discussion at the Legatum Institute, Carl Gershman, who has led the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) since its inception 30 years ago, noted that today’s dictators are using sophisticated means to solidify their authority, curbing civil society and civic gatherings through rule-by-law tactics, such as Russia’s NGO law.

While the Arab Spring has opened democratic prospects in the region, these transition countries remain vulnerable and the development of civil society and independent media is crucial.

He stressed that democracy extends beyond elections and the embracement of liberal values is key. Despite the individual nature of various transition countries and dictatorial regimes across the globe, there are many ways to connect meaningfully with democratic voices to prepare for the future. One also cannot overlook the importance of economic reform in the success of democratic development, which is why the Legatum Institute and NED are partnering on a lecture series to explore that topic.

Gershman concluded that the strength of the West reinforces the strength of democracy and cautioned against attempts to pull inward. Continued support is of vital importance.

A podcast from the event is available below: 

About the speaker

Carl Gershman is President of the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), a private, congressionally supported grant-making institution with the mission to strengthen democratic institutions around the world through nongovernmental efforts.

Prior to assuming the position at NED, Gershman was Senior Counsellor to the United States Representative to the United Nations, in which capacity he served as the U.S. Representative to the U.N.’s Third Committee that deals with human rights issues, and also as Alternate Representative of the U.S. to the U.N. Security Council. While at the U.S. Mission to the U.N., Gershman also served as lead consultant to the National Bipartisan Commission on Central America, and helped draft the final report.

Prior to his assignment at the United States Mission to the United Nations, Mr. Gershman was a Resident Scholar at Freedom House and Executive Director of Social Democrats, USA.

Gershman has lectured extensively and written articles and reviews on foreign policy issues for such publications as: the New Republic, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, and the New York Times, to name a few.

He received The Order of the Knight’s Cross, Government of Poland; President’s Medal, George Washington University; The Distinguished Person for Advancing Democracy in China, Chinese Education Democracy Foundation; International Campaign for Tibet’s 2005 Light of the Truth Award and Romania’s National Order of “faithful service.”