Institute for Democracy in Eastern Europe

What is IDEE?





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What is IDEE?

          The Institute for Democracy in Eastern Europe (IDEE) is a tax-exempt, not-for-profit organization dedicated to the active promotion of democracy, civil society, and human rights throughout Eastern Europe, the former Soviet Union, and other communist or post-communist countries. IDEE also seeks to share the experiences of democratic opposition and transformation in Eastern Europe with other countries and regions seeking democratic change.

          IDEE began in 1985 as an extension of the Committee in Support of Solidarity, which had supported Poland's underground Solidarity movement since the imposition of martial law in December 1981. In addition to continuing the effort to organize support for the Solidarity movement, IDEE supported the growing human rights and opposition movements in the countries of Eastern Europe seeking democratic change and an end to communism. It provided direct financial and material assistance to independent publications and to human rights and opposition groups that were at the forefront of the 1989-91 revolutions and offered a gateway for dissidents and semi-clandestine democratic movements to the West and for Western institutions and funders to the “East.”

          Since 1989, IDEE has helped democrats in the region, where possible, dismantle communism's legacy and build the institutions of a democratic political system and a plural and open society. In this period, IDEE has worked with a broad network of democrats and civic activists in 23 countries to develop and carry out many original programs and ideas that later were replicated  by other donors and practioners. These included small and medium grant programs, local press competitions, cross-border and regional training, internships and exchanges, and various education and funding initiatives that have reached more than 3,000 publications, civic and human rights organizations, political groups, and opposition movements in twenty-six countries throughout the region and Cuba. 

          Since 1994, IDEE focused particular attention on countries and regions where the end of communism did not result in democratic transition but instead brought continued dictatorship or war, especially Belarus, the Caucasus, Central Asia, Chechnya, Ukraine, former Yugoslavia, as well as Cuba. Drawing upon previous experiences and networks, IDEE has helped to build democratic and civic forces in these countries through the Centers for Pluralism Network (see below), direct support, and a variety of innovative and comprehensive programs, such as Civic Bridges (former Yugoslavia and Central Asia) and Women Networking in the Caucasus (see Programs). As in the 1989-91 period, IDEE's partners have been central actors in recent democratic changes in the region that began in 2000, from Serbia to Kyrgyzstan. And beginning in 1995, IDEE was the first organization to introduce human rights and civic activists in Cuba to former dissidents from Eastern Europe, who helped their Cuban counterparts develop a strategy of civic resistance.

          From 1988-98, IDEE published the journal Uncaptive Minds, which included information and analysis on independent social and political movements in the communist and post-communist world. The journal included unique reportage on events and movements, analytical articles on often misunderstood events, as well as in-depth interviews with individuals intimately involved in their countries’ democratic transitions yet unheard of in the West (for the index go to the link above).

Centers for Pluralism

          In 1992, IDEE expanded previous efforts to facilitate the transition to democracy through regional cooperation by launching the Centers for Pluralism, a program to promote civic development through common suport, cross-border cooperation, and sharing of experiences among countries throughout the post-communist region. Existing non-governmental organizations were invited to join a regional network of  individuals and organizations dedicated to principles of liberal democracy and pluralism. Through publications, cross-border exchanges, common democracy programs, and other initiatives, the CfP program reached thousands of organizations in all twenty-seven former communist countries and helped Western organizations and donors establish lasting partnerships. Today, there are 20 Centers and an additional 16 CfP partner organizations in 18 countries and regions working to foster principles of liberal democracy through a wide range of civic, educational, and political activities, both within and across borders. Medium and small targeted grants, internships, exchanges, and common transborder programs have allowed these organizations to develop wide-ranging, long-lasting, and effective programs fostering citizens participation in elections, civic education, development of NGOs and civil society, dissemination of independent information, women’s leadership, community building, humanitarian aid, and other essential instruments of democracy building. As a result, these Centers for Pluralism  have emerged as among the region’s most effective civil society organizations and as key facilitators in their countries of cross-border networking. 

          The network of the Centers for Pluralism fostered a number of cross-border and cross-regional programs such as organizing democracy and election seminars in Azerbaijan, Belarus, Serbia and Montenegro, and Ukraine drawing upon experts from throughout the region. IDEE also used the network to organize election monitoring in Azerbaijan and Belarus.

            The CfP Network’s exchange of experiences was focused on building democracy in countries in transition and also on opposing antidemocratic forces and regimes. Eighteen8 Annual and nine regional meetings of the Centers for Pluralism helped democratic activists share experiences and develop common programs in all areas fostering basic democratic values and the development of civic society. Twenty-eight issues of the Centers for Pluralism Newsletter were distributed widely throughout the region, offering information on the activities of independent NGOs in the region and how they may be contacted, as well as on ways to strengthen the NGO sector and democratic movements. Its format and content were the basis for Azeri, Belarusan, Mongolian, Russian, and Ukrainian versions, among others, broadly expanding the Newsletter’s reach and impact (see also Centers for Pluralism: Networking for Pluralism: 10 Years and Centers for Pluralism Newsletter No. 28). 

            Since 2003, the Centers for Pluralism has lacked direct funding, in part the result of donor strategies that focus on quick and inconsequential programs as opposed to more long-lasting and substantial ones. Despite this lack of direct funding, the Centers for Pluralism has continued as an active network of democrats in the region and members of the network have participated in essential and integral ways in IDEE programs in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Central Asia, and Cuba.

Current and Regional Programs

           The Centers for Pluralism have developed and supported a wide range of democracy advancement programs  throughout the region and IDEE continues to draw upon the Centers for Pluralism Network to help develop these and other regional programs. In the last decade, these have included Civic Bridges in Yugoslavia (1997-2002), the Women's NGO Leadership and Networking Initiative in the Caucasus (1999-2002), a similar program for Central Asia (2001-2002), an Azerbaijan Election Monitoring Mission for the Presidential Elections in Azerbaijan (2003), a Community and Citizens’ Participation Program in Armenia (2003-2004), a Belarus Election Monitoring Mission (2004), a Democratization in Central Asia program and a specific democracy networking program in Uzbekistan (2003-2006), and two current programs in Belarus and Cuba (see IDEE Activities 2009). 

          For further information or to find out how you can help IDEE and the Centers for Pluralism Network, please write or contact IDEE by email at [email protected] or by fax (202-466-7105) or mail (1718 M Street, NW, No. 147, Washington, DC, 20036). IDEE is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization; all donations are tax-exempt.

IDEE Activities By Year
IDEE Activities: 2010-12
IDEE Activities: 2009
IDEE Activities: 2007-2008
IDEE Activities: 2004-2006

IDEE Activities: 2002-2003
IDEE Activities: 2000-2001

IDEE Program Countries and Regions

Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Chechnya, Crimea, Croatia, Cuba, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Georgia, Hungary, Kazakhstan, Kosova, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Mongolia, Montenegro, Poland, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Slovakia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan


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1718 M Street,  NW,  No. 147, Washington,  D.C.  20036
 Tel: (202) 466-7105  · E-mail: [email protected]
Eric Chenoweth and Irena Lasota, Directors