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In Case You Missed It: A State Department Program for Leaders in New Democracies

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Mongolian President Elbegdorj Tsakhia in Ulan Bator, Mongolia on July 9, 2012. Photo Credit: Getty

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Mongolian President Elbegdorj Tsakhia in Ulan Bator, Mongolia on July 9, 2012. Photo Credit: Getty

This week, the State Department held a “virtual ribbon cutting” for a new initiative, Leaders Engaged in New Democracies (LEND). LEND will help leaders in fledgling democracies connect with leaders who have experienced democratic transition in their own countries. As Voice of America reports, the initiative will facilitate conversations between leaders “by leveraging voice, video and text communication along with groundbreaking translation tools,” technology that can “address cost and logistical barriers to face-to-face meetings.” LEND is the result of collaboration between the U.S. and Estonia as part of the State Department’s Community of Democracies program, an initiative established in 2000 to “strengthen and deepen democratic norms and practices worldwide.” Among others, sponsors of LEND include the Club of Madrid (a group of former presidents and prime ministers who hail from democracies), Google, and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gave remarks on LEND during her visit to Mongolia, a trip also notable for her plaudits of Mongolia’s democratic system. She described part of rationale behind LEND: “First, new democracies can and should learn from those that have already made the transition, overcome some of the obstacles, and have matured….Second, the pace of political change is accelerating and we have to try to keep up. That’s why we think leaders in emerging democracies can benefit from having access to immediate, on-demand information.” She also suggested that the private sector and civil society stand to play an important role in LEND.

So far media coverage of LEND is confined mostly to official press releases, but I think that it deserves more attention. While many of us interested in democratization and in international relations agree that it is vital for countries and leaders to learn from history, there are relatively few instances of leaders coming together in a systematic, practical way to do so. I’m also interested in how LEND will work–which leaders will be involved and what issues will they choose to discuss? How will they address the differences and similarities between their respective democracies? I look forward to following LEND as it progresses.

  • kathleen millar

    Estonia? The Club of Madrid? The Communities of Democracies? As Hillary Clinton says, “Try to keep up.”


Julia Knight
Julia Knight

Julia Knight is a graduate of Yale's Ethics, Politics & Economics program and a proud resident of New York City. She grew up as an American expatriate in Singapore and has traveled extensively, mostly in Asia and the Middle East. Professional experience ranges from criminal justice research at a public defender in the South Bronx to foreign policy research at a think tank to local government in Connecticut. She is interested in the ways that U.S. foreign policy and U.S. domestic policy interact, particularly in terms of American competitiveness, foreign citizens' perceptions of the United States, and job creation at home and abroad. In her free time, she enjoys drinking coffee, swimming, visiting New York's museums, and trying to learn Persian.