||Institute for Democracy in Eastern Europe|
The Institute for Democracy in Eastern Europe (IDEE) is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to the promotion of democracy in Central and Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. Begun in 1985, IDEE provided critical assistance to the democratic movements in Eastern Europe that brought about an end to communist rule. Since 1989, IDEE has administered nearly $12 million in programs to help the region's democratic and civic activists rebuild a free press, a democratic political system, and a plural and open society. Through these programs, IDEE has provided material support, training, civic education, and other assistance to more than 3,000 non-governmental organizations (NGOs), opposition movements, and independent media outlets in twenty-four countries.
IDEE’s current activities address the persistent and long-term challenges facing countries in the region in making a successful transition from communism to democracy. Its programs have focused especially on areas of conflict and crisis, such as the Balkans, the Caucasus, and Central Asia, and on networking democrats in the region to assist their counterparts laboring in countries with post-communist dictatorships.
IDEE’s approach is regional in scope and its activities rely on a broad network of NGOs called the Centers for Pluralism. Through this network, IDEE promotes common initiatives and cross-border cooperation as a means of strengthening civil society and fostering democracy generally in postcommunist countries.
IDEE Programs and Activities: 2002–2003
From its inception, IDEE’s aim was to support pluralist views and independent initiatives being organized in communist countries and to foster civic and political movements seeking democratic change. Since the revolutions of 1989, IDEE has promoted the development of civil society and the basic institutions of democracy, while also continuing to address the persistent problems contributing to the region’s general lack of democratic development. It has especially focused on key crisis areas where extreme nationalism replaced communism as the ideology of power as well as in countries where democracy has been derailed or where new repressive systems have replaced a decades-long communist dictatorship.
In 2002–2003, IDEE programs
• assisted nearly 100 organizations and independent media outlets with material and technical support, training, civic education, technical assistance, networking, and other help to carry out a wide range of civic and pro-democratic activities in more than twenty countries;
• organized or supported approximately 15 training workshops and citizens’ forums in twelve countries reaching nearly 2,500 citizens; and
• facilitated cross-border cooperation and
initiatives in more
than twenty countries, especially a major election monitoring
Azerbaijan Pre-Electinos Monitoring Mission
IDEE’s most notable program in 2003 was its organization of a major Election Monitoring Mission for the October 15 Presidential Election in Azerbaijan. The mission was funded with last-minute support from the State Department at the end of September. In less than three weeks, IDEE drew upon its Centers for Pluralism network (see below) to put together a team of 188 observers from 13 countries of Central and Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. The U.S. embassy formally placed the mission under the umbrella of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s Office for Democracy Initiatives and Human Rights (OSCE/ODIHR), but by agreement the observers had a special task to monitor the 124 Constituency Election Commissions (ConECs) where the local voting precinct protocols were to be received, approved, and tabulated. IDEE Observers also monitored the local precincts during the day, since this would allow proper and full observation of the ConECs. All observers witnessed blatant and egregious election fraud and the organized theft of the voters’ will — involving arbitrary deletions of hundreds of pro-opposition voters at many precincts, the addition at each precinct of gangs of repeat voters, throwing out ballots, false counting, manipulation and intimidation of opposition members of local commissions and opposition voters, intimidation of voters with the presence of police and army personnel as well as unidentified videocam operators, accepting unsigned protocols, filling in or changing numbers on blank or pencilled-in protocols, among many other violations. These seasoned observers, whose own experience included witnessing many examples of voter fraud in their own and other countries in the region, all expressed shock at the egregiousness of the fraud and theft.
When the OSCE/ODIHR, ignoring the reports of IDEE’s
determined to make an early statement offering a qualified, endorsement
of the elections as “generally well administered,” thus sanctioning the
so-called election of Ilham Aliyev, the son of Azerbaijan’s long-ruling
despot, all 188 members of IDEE’s Observer Mission agreed to issue a
statement, a Votum Separatum,
the first such instance in the history of the OSCE/ODIHR that an
group of monitors publicly separated itself from the organization’s
election assessment. Through this statement and demonstrations by the
after returning to their home countries, the final
statement of the OSCE/ODIHR, published in mid-November, reflected
the reports of the IDEE observer mission. Still, the final report,
diplomatically qualified in its criticism, could not make up for the
harm done to the cause of free and fair elections in Azerbaijan by the
organization’s “preliminary” statement.
Centers for Pluralism
The Election Mission for the Presidential Elections in Azerbaijan was one of the most important examples of the importance and potential of IDEE’s core program, the Centers for Pluralism. It was only through such a network that 188 experienced and committed observers could be mobilized in less than three weeks. In 2003, after expanding to include new organizations, countries, and regions, especially in Central Asia, there are now twenty-one Centers for Pluralism and twenty-two CfP partner organizations participating in CfP-related programs in twenty-two countries and regions, while several hundred are connected through various networking activities and more than one thousand NGOs and active Western donors and organizations are listed in various language editions of the Centers for Pluralism Newsletter. Despite its great success, however, the Centers for Pluralism is in danger (see further explanation below).
Like the Azerbaijan Election Mission, the Centers for
program is the foundation for IDEE’s other programs, serving both as a
model and a resource. In the Caucasus, the third and final year of the Women’s
Networking in the Caucasus program, sponsored by the Educational
Cultural Affairs (ECA) Bureau of the State Department, was completed in
2002. However, the organizations active in it continued their
and leadership development activities, organizing training and
workshops, and publishing additional issues of the Women's Networking
A similar one-year program, also sponsored by ECA, was carried out in
in Central Asia, coordinated with the Tashkent
Public Education Center. Four workshops were held for women leaders
from all five Central Asian countries; ten cross-border support grants
were awarded and carried out; and a number of NGO manuals were prepared
and distributed. For both the Caucasus and Central Asia programs, IDEE
organized intensive U.S. study tours that provided participants with a
wide variety of learning experiences about U.S. institutions, women’s
activism, and conflict resolution.
Other Regional Programs
Another such program, Civic Bridges, completed five-years of activities in March 2002. From 1997-2002, this program carried out a wide range of NGO development, training, exchange, and education initiatives in Kosova, Montenegro, and Serbia to support the main democratic forces that helped put an end to Slobodan Milosevic’s rule and bring new hope to the region. Today, IDEE’s main Civic Bridges partners — Civic Initiatives in Serbia, the Center for Democracy and Human Rights (CEDEM) in Montenegro, and the Kosova Action for Civic Initiatives (KACI) — are among the major organizations struggling for multiethnic and pluralist democracy in the region.
In 2003, IDEE initiated three new programs drawing upon the Centers for Pluralism model and network. One, Democratization in Central Asia, funded by the Democracy, Human Rights and Labor Bureau of the Department of State, will foster NGO development, civic initiatives, and networking across borders and with counterparts in Central and Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. A second program, called Networking Together: Building Community Connections in Armenia, is also funded by ECA and was initiated in September 2003. In November, the All-Armenian Union of Women and the Armenian National Committee of the Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly, IDEE’s two partners for the project, organized a train-the-trainer workshop for 22 community activists and leaders, including local authorities, in order to prepare them for organizing Citizens’ Forums. Teams from ten cities and districts throughout Armenia will organize public forums in their area on key issues affecting the community that will include citizens, local officials, and experts. The aim of the Forums will be to forge connections to solve real community problems and hopefully build greater accountability for municipal leaders. Eight of the community leaders will also take part in a U.S. Study Tour to learn methods for improving citizen participation in public life.
The third program, also funded by ECA, is called Community Building Through Tourism in Ukraine. It aims at helping civic activists in the Crimean Tatar community and in Western Ukraine foster community development through building tourism partnerships modeled on America’s private-public system of Convention and Visitor Bureaus. The program, which was completed in February 2004, included two U.S. study tours, four training workshops with experienced U.S. community trainers, web-site development, and establishment of model community tourism committees in key parts of Crimea and Western Ukraine. While an unusual program for IDEE, it provided key support to civic activists looking for new means for energizing community development in Ukraine.
In 2002-2003, IDEE has continued to work extensively on assisting its Chechen Center for Pluralism, Latta, and its wide range of humanitarian, informational, and peace-promotion activities in the face of nearly insurmountable obstacles. Most importantly, IDEE worked with Latta to continue Dispatches from Chechnya, which provides on-the-ground reporting of information about the grave situation in Chechnya. It has also assisted Chechen foreign minister Ilyas Akhmadov in promoting new peace initiatives for Chechnya in the wake of continued and unrelenting violence by Russian military forces. IDEE also has maintained an ongoing Cuba Democratization Project, which since 1995 has organized exchanges and published pamphlets with the aim of providing Cuban democracy activists with concrete knowledge of Eastern Europe’s opposition movements and the region’s transition from communism. This program has been copied by a number of organizations. In the past year, IDEE distributed over 2,000 democracy pamphlets to activists and independent libraries in Cuba, including essays written by Sidney Hook, Vaclav Havel, Jakub Karpinski, Mart Laar, and Jozsef Szajer, among many others.
• • •
The Centers for Pluralism program deserves additional mention. It was begun in 1992 as a means of aiding the development of non-governmental organizations and civic initiatives throughout Central and Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. Beginning with seven Centers in 1992–93, the program has expanded to twenty-one Centers for Pluralism and twenty-two CfP partner organizations spanning twenty-two countries (see List of Centers for Pluralism). In the 2002-2003 period, IDEE provided ten small grants and ten “medium” grants to CfPs and CfP partners (organizations cooperating with the CfP program). Three regional meetings of CfPs were organized in Belgrade, Tbilisi, and a third in Baku. The last was the first regional meeting for Central Asia and was also organized around the CfP’s 18th Meeting, in which over 80 participants from twenty-three countries attended.
Overall, since 1992, IDEE has awarded more than 200 support grants, provided training, networking, and other help to hundreds of organizations, published six language editions of its Centers for Pluralism Newsletter, and organized 27 CfP regional and trans-regional meetings of the Centers for Pluralism. A booklet, Centers for Pluralism - Networking for Democracy: 10 Years, and a Newsletter will be issued describing its activities (these will be posted on the web page and will be available in printed version from IDEE or from the Institute for Statehood and Democracy in Ukraine.)
Unfortunately, at the end of 2002, IDEE had to suspend
liquidate the regional coordinator for the Centers for Pluralism, the
IDEE (known also as IDEE-Warsaw). The reasons for doing so were more
than the liquidation itself, namely IDEE-Warsaw had acted secretly and
without the knowledge of the president (Irena Lasota) in misusing
providing salaries and benefits that could not be afforded, building up
huge debts, and taking illegal bank loans. In the end, IDEE-Warsaw,
a minimum debt of $34,000 (and in fact larger), had to be liquidated.
was able to inform NED of these unfortunate facts — as well as
about a web of corruption involving other NGOs — just as it had awarded
IDEE-Warsaw two direct grants. (The
whole cautionary tale can be found through this link.) While in
IDEE-Warsaw had stopped acting as the regional coordinator already for
more than a year, it is a testimony to the strength of the Centers for
Pluralism that this loss to the network did not affect their overall
or networking. Indeed, we witnessed more effective internships, study
meetings, cross-border cooperation, and joint projects.
IDEE is a not-for-profit tax-exempt corporation. In addition to co-director Irena Lasota and Eric Chenoweth, IDEE’s Board of Directors includes Janusz Bugajski of the Center for Strategic and International Studies; Midge Decter, former director of the Committee for the Free World; Charles Fairbanks of the Central Asia Institute; Arch Puddington, author and Vice President for Publications at Freedom House. Its Board of Sponsors include Sandra Feldman, Pierre Hassner, Walter Laqueur, and Peter Reddaway, among many others. IDEE’s program support has come from a variety of public and private institutions, including the U.S. Agency for International Development, the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and the Bureau for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor of the U.S. Department of State, the National Endowment for Democracy, as well as from the American Federation of Teachers, Freedom House, German Marshall Fund, the Goodbooks Foundation, among other foundations and individuals.