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, more than 2.77 billion 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. Denied freedom of press and speech, 329 journalists were killed or imprisoned in 2020 in relation to their work and speaking out against oppression. We acknowledge that these basic freedoms are essential for humanity to thrive and should be rightfully restored.

Our Democracy Program is in direct response to these issues. Not only do we promote democracy education, we are in the arena working with folks to support them in their local fights for human rights. We partner with activists fleeing and fighting dangerous situations in their home country giving them direct aid and resources to further their mission. Through working groups, we convene changemakers to confront human rights issues on a global scale.

1 – Freedom House (
2 – Committee to Protect Journalists (

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People living in countries considered not free1
Journalists killed or imprisoned in 20202
Defending American Democracy Series

Defending American Democracy Series

As American democracy faces a critical moment, the McCain Institute hosts “Defending American Democracy,” an event series that assesses the state of America’s democracy and aims to find common ground between voters and elected officials on both sides of the aisle. The series examines the biggest issues facing America’s democracy, including the role of journalism, voting rights and political violence. By convening top experts and in-field leaders, the McCain Institute aims to spark a dialogue about what is ailing America’s democracy and how all sides can come together and fix it. These discussions are made possible by a grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

We Hold These Truths

This digital initiative is here to build a community of engaged activists who advocate for human rights around the world. To this end, We Hold These Truths focuses on educating our readers on issues of misinformation and encourages support for local journalism.
WPS Afghan Amb

Women, Peace and Security Initiative (WPS)

The McCain Institute has partnered with The One Earth Future Foundation through Our Secure Future program to ensure more women are involved in peace and security discussions both inside and out of the United States. This initiative has led to the following active discussions:

  • WPS in Afghanistan
  • WPS in Sudan
  • WPS in Belarus

Human Rights Defenders Program

Human rights defenders continue to be under attack making our mission to assist these folks to continue their crucial work all the more important.

Working Groups

The Democracy Program regularly hosts a series of working groups focused on several topical areas. These meetings, held monthly, are used to convene high-level groups of experts on a certain topic to hold closed-door discussions about problems and solutions that affect foreign policy today.

Project on Legal and Organizational Capacity Building for Russian NGOs

The McCain Institute equipped Russian NGOs with tools necessary to succeed and defend their constitutional rights in Putin’s Russia. Standing true to its commitment to protect the vulnerable and advance democracy, the McCain Institute partnered with Latvia-based Russian NGO Astraea to launch four interlinked training programs for Russian NGOs in Europe, Russia, and North America.

Human Rights & Democracy
Women Peace

Support Our Mission

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