To eliminate redundancy with constrained budgets and growing demand: Is it time to merge IRI and NDI?

One former insider muses about merging the loosely party-affiliated US democracy promotion institutes, IRI and NDI. He is surely right that there is more overlap than differentiation in their work. That is even somewhat true with the two main German party foundations. I remember in 1990s Morocco it was Germany’s conservative Adenauer foundation that provided more support to feminist and secular currents in civil society, rather than the social democrats one would have imagined as closer in spirit to the Moroccan ‘espace alternative’. But an IRI-NDI merger or rapprochement would surely be a bad thing. It would strengthen the US ‘democracy promotion’ machine, and erase some of the Chinese walls that keep the more-or-less defendable bits of what NDI does (support for liberal NGOs against some authoritarian regimes) separate from the subversive and dirty tricks stuff that goes on outside, but not completely disconnect from the IRI. Inside Europe, a IRI-NDI merger would increase the respectability of the US outfit. So something to keep an eye on…



Mara Herd

This is a post I started a few years ago and let sit. I usually avoid writing about things that directly mention the International Republican Institute other than as specifically necessary in regard to the 2007 election in Kenya and some advocacy for people arrested in Egypt. It’s awkward for a lot of reasons to write about IRI, the most personally important of which is my deep affection for people that work there. And to the extent I have criticisms it would be my desire that they become better rather than that they be harmed.

Nonetheless, I think the structure of democracy assistance is something we need to think about and almost everyone who is in a position to be engaged is also in a position to feel constrained from speaking freely or has an unavoidable conflict of interest. And its is an especially challenging time for the effort to…

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  1. DCbellone · · Reply

    IRI and NDI are virtually interchangeable. There may be some nuanced stylistic differences, NDI employs more dem operatives and IRI vice versa, but overseas there is very little ideological distinction. At the end of the days, these groups, like all others who work off USAID/State funding, provide contractual services to the U.S. government in advance of U.S. foreign policy (political, economic, national security) objectives. This is not a secret. A cursory look at their website and major documents bears this out. They are fairly explicit in detailing their missions. The implementation of the work is just details…


    1. It’s true that there is not much ideological distinction abroad. In many regions, if one of them is present, the other will not develop its own activities unless there is some compelling reason. But you can see the ideological difference in their choice of partners and subcontractors. IRI was instrumental in recruiting Europeans from post-Communist countries to set up ‘national’ programmes to support the Cuban opposition, for example… NDI employs lots of Canadians, and is more attached to the multi-party approach and to consensus building


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