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The Bush Institute, Freedom House, and McCain Institute Coordinate Declaration of Democratic Principles Calling on Democratic Governments to Act

More than 80 organizations urge countries to support election integrity, resist disinformation, adopt safeguards against corruption, and more

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Today, more than 80 leading democracy and human rights-focused organizations from around the world released “A Civil Society Declaration of Democratic Principles” in advance of the second Summit for Democracy beginning this week in the United States, the Netherlands, Costa Rica, South Korea, and Zambia. Coordinated by Freedom House, The George W. Bush Institute, and the McCain Institute, the Declaration contains 14 key principles and associated actions that are integral to the success of all democracies and calls on all governments to act – at home and abroad – to advance each principle.

Governments and leaders can review the full declaration and the signatories at,, and Organizations committed to supporting democracy can sign the declaration by Friday, March 31, 2023.

The Declaration reflects the expertise of 14 thematically focused working groups established during the Summit for Democracy’s “Year of Action” composed of civil society and government leaders. The 14 democratic principles that we feel all governments must uphold are:

  1. States should protect and cultivate fundamental freedoms and civic space by guaranteeing respect for the freedoms of association, peaceful assembly, and expression.
  2. States should support election integrity and political pluralism through a robust multiparty system, free and fair elections, and transparency and accountability in election processes.
  3. States should promote inclusive policymaking by exploring, expanding, and refining mechanisms that give citizens a substantive and visible role in the major policy decisions affecting their lives.
  4. States should maintain solidarity against authoritarian pressure by publicly spotlighting the cases of persecuted human rights defenders, journalists, and democracy activists; providing them with material support and safe havens; and advocating for the release of those who have been detained.
  5. States should support media freedom and resistance to disinformation by promoting a diverse and independent media sector, allowing the press to hold public officials accountable, and promoting media literacy at all levels of society.
  6. States should uphold fundamental human rights on digital platforms by strengthening legal protections for free expression online, addressing digital threats to human security, and enacting data protection and privacy laws that regulate access to and use of personal data.
  7. States should promote the rule of law and people-centered justice by ensuring that their judicial systems are structurally protected from undue political influence and other threats to impartiality, and increasing meaningful participation by ordinary people in judicial processes.
  8. States should adopt safeguards against corruption and strengthen international anticorruption mechanisms to trace, freeze, and confiscate stolen assets; identify and deter professional service providers who facilitate or encourage transnational corruption; and ensure that all high-level government representatives can be investigated without fear of retribution.
  9. States should support gender equality by addressing harmful gender-related norms, stereotypes, and practices that undermine women’s participation in public life, and by reviewing legislation and policies to ensure that they promote women’s political participation.
  10. States should promote youth political and civic engagement by encouraging political parties and civil society organizations to establish youth branches and recruit young people to participate in their activities, as well as by improving access to high-quality information to increase youth involvement in decision-making.
  11. States should protect equal rights for people with disabilities by involving them in decision-making processes across all levels of government and ensuring that they can participate meaningfully in politics as voters, candidates, and election officials.
  12. States should support economic opportunity for all by upholding property rights, promoting free enterprise and fair competition, and guaranteeing the freedom of workers to associate, organize in independent labor unions, and bargain collectively.
  13. States should protect freedom of conscience and religious belief in public and private by ensuring that religious institutions and communities are able to operate freely, and by upholding the freedom to eschew religious beliefs or decline participation in religious activities.
  14. States should pursue comprehensive freedom from discrimination and protect vulnerable populations that are not otherwise addressed above, ensuring that all people are able to exercise their fundamental human rights without disadvantage on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, gender identity, or any other such category.


About Freedom House
Freedom House is a nonprofit, nonpartisan democracy organization that works to create a world where all are free. We inform the world about threats to freedom, mobilize global action, and support democracy’s defenders. Learn more at

About the George W. Bush Institute
The George W. Bush Institute is a solution-oriented nonpartisan policy organization focused on ensuring opportunity for all, strengthening democracy, and advancing free societies. Housed within the George W. Bush Presidential Center, the Bush Institute is rooted in compassionate conservative values and committed to creating positive, meaningful, and lasting change at home and abroad. We utilize our unique platform and convening power to advance solutions to national and global issues of the day. Learn more at

About the McCain Institute at Arizona State University
The McCain Institute is a nonpartisan organization inspired by Senator John McCain and his family’s dedication to public service. We are part of Arizona State University and based in Washington, D.C. Our programs advance democracy and human rights, empower character-driven leaders, combat human trafficking, and prevent targeted violence. Our unique power to convene leaders across the global political spectrum enables us to make a real impact on the world’s most pressing challenges. Our goal is action, not talk, and like Senator McCain, we are fighting to create a free, safe, and just world for all.

Publish Date
March 27, 2023