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Fighting Injustice and Aiding the Oppressed

For more than a quarter of people living around the world, freedom from their government is not a reality. Militaries and government agencies across the world use fear and force to withhold basic human rights from their citizens. At the McCain Institute, we believe this denial of freedom is a denial of one’s humanity. Inspired by Senator McCain’s words in The Restless Wave, we believe “this shared devotion to human rights is our truest heritage and our most important loyalty.”

It is clear that our work is necessary now more than ever. Currently, 38% of people live in countries considered “not free,” according to the Freedom in the World Report by Freedom House. This means that these folks do not have basic human rights, including the freedom to practice religion or even to wear specific clothing. The Pew Research Center has identified that 28% of all countries have high or very high government restrictions on religion. We acknowledge that these basic freedoms are essential for humanity to thrive and should be rightfully restored.

The McCain Institute elevates the importance of uplifting democracy and human rights at home and around the globe. Our work seeks to reflect the legacy of Senator McCain who routinely spoke up for civility and respect in our political system and those who faced injustice and oppression around the world. The Democracy Programs convene changemakers to confront democracy and human rights issues on a global scale through our three categories of work: American Democracy, Frontline Democracies, and Human Rights Defenders.

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People globally living in countries considered “not free.”
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People who took to the streets to protest the oppression of women’s rights and murder of Mahsa Amini in Iran in 2022

American Democracy

American democracy is facing a critical moment. The next electoral cycles may well determine whether the United States deepens its democracy, faces an erosion that gradually weakens its democratic system, or worse, collapses under the assault of neo-fascist actors. To this end, the McCain Institute launched Defending American Democracy Project which directly addresses threats to American democracy including misinformation attacks on democracy, threats to election officials, the loss of local journalism, and much more. This line of work presents unique opportunities to offer solutions to better safeguard American freedom and human rights. This project is made possible by support from the Knight Foundation and Microsoft.

Frontline Democracies

“Frontline” Democracies are countries where democratic values and processes are threatened, emerging and fragile, or at risk of backsliding. To this end, the McCain Institute’s Democracy Programs work to inform policymakers of the situation in these countries and foster the connections that make substantive change. With Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and China’s autocratic influence extending across the world, the importance of such effort is more important than ever. Below are our ongoing areas of focus.

Human Rights Defenders

Globally, human rights defenders continue to face arbitrary detainment, torture, and murder, in response to their fight for human rights and democratic values. The Democracy Programs prioritize directing resources to and uplifting these activists as they do work crucial for a better future.

Women Peace

Support Our Mission

Donating directly to the Democracy Programs will help us shape a secure future and continue to rise as a world-renowned national and international institution.