Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor

Part 1: Political and Human Rights Conditions

The Republic of Macedonia is a parliamentary democracy with a population of approximately 2.1 million. The president, who is popularly elected, is head of state and commander in chief of the armed forces. The first and second rounds of presidential and local elections held on March 22 and April 5, 2009, were well administered and peaceful. A unicameral parliament exercises legislative authority. Parliamentary elections in June 2008 failed to meet international standards due to incidents of violence, intimidation, and electoral irregularities. The 2008 election reconfirmed Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski, who headed a multiethnic governing coalition. The government generally respects the human rights of its citizens, but problems exist in some areas. Rule of law problems were seen in judicial and police procedures, including criminal detentions. Enactment of judicial reforms continued to be delayed, and political pressure and intimidation hindered the effectiveness of the judicial system. Harsh government criticism of media coverage viewed as "anti-patriotic" negatively impacted freedom of the press, as did lawsuits by public officials against journalists for slander. Tensions between the ethnic Macedonian and Albanian populations continued to impact education, employment, and political participation.

Part 2: U.S. Government Democracy Objectives

The top U.S. priorities include helping the government and its citizens to continue reforms needed to build and consolidate strong, stable political institutions that promote democratic values, human rights, and the rule of law. These reforms are key conditions for the country's continued progress toward integration into Euro-Atlantic institutions. The United States priorities related to democratic development are focused on three broad areas: law enforcement and justice; political institutions, including the parliament, municipalities, and political parties; and media and civil society. The United States focuses on increasing the accountability of parliamentarians and other officials to constituents. The United States also works to enhance the ability of the judicial sector to strengthen its independence from the executive and legislative branches and to administer its caseload in a professional and transparent manner, in line with international fair trial standards.

The United States works to strengthen the ability of law enforcement to combat organized crime and corruption and demonstrate an increased sensitivity to treating all citizens in an equitable and respectful manner. The United States promotes good governance and seeks to strengthen democratic systems, goals that complement efforts to bolster the rule of law. In addition, the United States focuses on the development of professional, objective, responsible, and economically viable media outlets, helping ensure the free exchange of ideas and information that are fundamental in a democracy. Capacity building is a priority for ensuring and monitoring free and fair elections and working with the parliament and political parties to make these institutions more effective and transparent. The United States labors to strengthen the capacity of civil society organizations to represent citizen interests, and to monitor government decisions and activities.

Part 3: Supporting Top Priorities and Other Aspects of Human Rights and Democratic Governance

To enhance democratic governance, the United States works closely with the four key elements of a democratic system: the government, the parliament, political parties, and local governments. The United States targeted the 2009 presidential and local elections, which international observers determined met most international standards. U.S. assistance included coordination between the United States and other international community police and security advisors and the Ministry of Interior to ensure security for both rounds of elections. The United States also works with the parliament to increase the accountability of elected officials; U.S. programs provide operational support to the parliament to introduce and improve practices such as public hearings, legislative review, and research. The United States also helps to enable members of parliament to enhance their ability to represent citizens' interests in the legislative process, in part by establishing constituency offices around the country.
U.S. programs provide technical expertise, training, and material assistance to develop the judiciary to ensure that it is strong, effective and transparent. These programs seek to increase citizen trust in, and respect for, the judicial system. In addition, U.S. programs aim to improve the functioning of the courts through timely and effective implementation of structural changes in the judiciary, through the introduction of modern court administration practices and procedures, and by strengthening the capacity of police and prosecutors to conduct investigations and prosecutions of organized crime and corruption cases in a professional, nonpartisan, and accountable manner. The United States supports anticorruption efforts through e-governance programming, local government capacity building and the development and implementation of the government's comprehensive Anticorruption Strategy and Action Plan. For example, U.S. programs provide technical assistance, training, and systems support to local governments, on subjects including fiscal and budget management, local revenue raising, community participation and planning, and development of local government associations. This support helps local governments become more financially sustainable while increasing their transparency and accountability to citizens.

The United States supports development of a professional and independent media. While press freedom is not formally restricted, there is increasing political pressure on media outlets. Additionally, there is room for improvement in the quality and professionalism of some of the reporting and editing. The United States provides training for journalists interested in sharpening their investigative reporting skills. In addition, the U.S. Government sends journalists to attend U.S.-based programs that focus on the importance of an independent media in a strong democracy. As a result, participants return with increased motivation and skills. Additionally, the United States helped fund civil society projects to increase citizens' and politicians' awareness of the importance of free and fair elections, and provided financial support to NGOs to conduct media monitoring of the campaign and election observing.

The United States supports an active, independent, and responsible civil society as a critical element of democracy. The United States is working to help build the capacity of the country's prolific NGOs to represent citizen interests, advocate for public reform, build partnerships with public and private sectors, and promote a multiethnic society. With financial and technical assistance, the United States supports NGO advocacy and service provision activities, anticorruption initiatives, monitoring and watchdog functions, and human rights awareness activities in a variety of fields and geographic areas. The United States supports reforms in the legal framework for NGOs, has introduced new operating models for NGOs to generate resources and promote philanthropy, and promotes volunteerism among citizens. The United States works to facilitate the development of representative, open, and policy-based political parties, with an increased emphasis on issue-based programs, proactive political communications, and the participation of women, minorities, and youth in political institutions. For example, the United States supports a club for female parliamentarians and supports minority parties with training on coalition building and candidate selection, among other issues. The United States fosters participation of women and minority communities in the political process; and strengthens the integrity of the election process. As part of our global effort, the United States supports civil society and government agency efforts to combat trafficking in persons. The United States provides financial support to NGOs that bolster awareness of trafficking through roundtable discussions and information campaigns directed at potential victims in high-risk communities. The U.S. Government also supports training for journalists who cover trafficking in persons to increase sensitivity to victims and improve the quality of reporting.