Democracy Assistance:

Lessons Learned from Egypt Should Inform Future U.S. Plans

GAO-14-793T: Published: Jul 24, 2014. Publicly Released: Jul 24, 2014.

Additional Materials:


Charles M. Johnson, Jr
(202) 512-7331


Office of Public Affairs
(202) 512-4800

What GAO Found

The U.S. government identified potential risks in providing democracy and governance assistance in Egypt, including the Egyptian government’s likely objection to the U.S. plan to use $65 million to directly fund nongovernmental organizations (NGO) in 2011. The Egyptian government had repeatedly raised objections to such direct funding since the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) began it in 2005. USAID and Department of State (State) guidance calls for the development of risk management plans for their programs. State and USAID have taken some steps to manage the risks of providing democracy and governance assistance in Egypt, including the issuance of an April 2013 cable that provided guidance on how to counter increasing risks to NGOs globally. However, State and USAID have not documented lessons learned from the U.S. experience in Egypt or used these lessons to inform their risk management plans for future democracy and governance assistance.

The U.S. government provided the four prosecuted U.S. NGOs with diplomatic, legal, financial, and grant flexibility support. The U.S. government’s diplomatic efforts included holding multiple meetings with Egyptian officials to try to defend the NGO employees. U.S. legal support to the NGOs included working with the NGOs’ lawyers to develop legal strategies for the case. U.S. financial support allowed the four U.S. NGOs to use a total of $4.9 million in funding from their grants to pay for various legal costs related to the trial. Finally, the U.S. government allowed the four NGOs to modify their grants to adjust their planned activities and time frames as a result of the trial.

The Egyptian government’s trial of the four U.S. NGOs significantly affected U.S. democracy and governance assistance in Egypt. The four prosecuted U.S. NGOs are no longer conducting activities inside Egypt and modified or stopped a number of their programs. Other NGOs implementing U.S. democracy and governance programs reported experiencing delays in obtaining Egyptian government approval to receive U.S. funds. Since the start of the trial, in 2012, the amount of funding and number of grants awarded for democracy and governance projects in Egypt decreased and some activities are now more challenging for the U.S. government to implement.

Why GAO Did This Study

This testimony summarizes the information contained in GAO's July 2014 report, entitled Democracy Assistance: Lessons Learned from Egypt Should Inform Future U.S. Plans (GAO-14-799).

For more information, contact Charles Michael Johnson at (202) 512-7331 or

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