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Democracy promotion, broadly defined as foreign policy actions that foster transition to or improvement of democracy in other countries, has been a key component of U.S. foreign policy agenda since the 1970s. The Velvet Revolutions in Eastern Europe, the end of the Cold War, and more recently the Color Revolutions in the former Soviet Republics and in the Middle East provided fertile grounds for various U.S. democracy promotion efforts. Yet the challenges that emerged alongside democratic transitions, such as instability, populism, extremism, anti-Western and anti-democratic sentiments and sectarian rivalries lead many experts, as well as the current administration, to question whether the U.S. should continue to make democracy promotion its foreign policy priority.

What are the origins of U.S. foreign policy of support for democracy and how has it evolved throughout history? What approaches to democracy promotion have and have not worked in the past? What is the role of the media in democracy promotion efforts? Is our current policy choice with regard to democracy promotion really just a simple “to do or not to do?” How can, or should, the U.S. support democratization efforts around the world going forward?

To answer these and other questions, the conference will bring together a diverse group of experts. The panel discussion will feature the former U.S. Ambassador to Russia John Tefft, the former U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan, Bahrain and Algeria Ronald Neumann, and the former Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, Lorne Craner. They will examine various approaches to democracy promotion focusing particularly on cases of Russia, Ukraine, Georgia, and Iraq as well as why democracy organizations take an approach different from human rights groups.

In lieu of a keynote address, the former U.S. Ambassador and Head of the OSCE Mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina Robert M. Beecroft will lead a discussion with a Washington Post columnist and Pulitzer-Prize winning historian Anne Applebaum on the subject of the importance of the media to democracy and what the U.S. can and cannot do, or should and should not do, to support free media worldwide.

Sponsored by the American Academy of Diplomacy, the University of Virginia Center for Politics and the Robert H. Smith International Center for Jefferson Studies.

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