The following information reports U.S. Government priorities and activities of the U.S. mission in Sri Lanka to promote democracy and human rights in Maldives. For background on Maldives' human rights conditions, please see the 2009 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices and the International Religious Freedom Reports at 2009-2017.state.gov.
Part 1: U.S. Government Democracy Objectives
U.S. priorities for advancing freedom and democracy in the country are to encourage continued democratic progress through the holding of free and fair local elections in 2010, promote full independence of the judiciary as mandated by the new constitution, and strengthen newly created government bodies such as the Elections Commission, the Civil Service Commission, and the Supreme Court. The United States seeks to promote awareness of, and respect for, human rights (including religious freedom, labor rights, and combating trafficking in persons) and democratic institutions through bilateral discussions, public statements, exchange programs, and training for the security forces.
Part 2: Supporting Top Priorities and Other Aspects of Human Rights and Democratic Governance
The United States uses a variety of diplomatic efforts to encourage the consolidation of democracy. The ambassador, other mission personnel, and visiting Washington officials consistently urge the Maldivian government and opposition to cooperate responsibly for genuine democratic reform through increased dialogue and consensus building. The U.S. Government closely coordinated with others at a March 2010 donor conference, which yielded considerable results with bilateral and multilateral organizations committing support in a number of areas including those related to achieving rule of law. In addition, the United States will fund technical assistance to the Ministry of Education to incorporate civic education and social studies in the school curriculum.
The United States promotes a robust civil society by speaking frequently with civil society organizations and calling for respect for freedom of peaceful assembly, a right protected in the new constitution. The United States also supports greater protections for journalists, and it funds a variety of programs to further boost journalists' skills. In May a Fulbright specialist will conduct training sessions for government public relations practitioners and private print, broadcast, and online journalists with the goal of improving the free flow of information to the public in an emerging democracy. The Fulbright specialist will also assist in the implementation of a journalism curriculum. In September a U.S. speaker will conduct workshops on democracy and ethics in journalism for local journalists. The United States continues to support the full implementation of the recently enacted law decriminalizing defamation and of the labor law to enforce workers' rights. In March the United States conducted a fact-finding mission in the country to improve understanding of recent labor and employment reforms and to optimize future assistance programs. To combat rising drug abuse, a destabilizing factor in the country, the U.S. mission sponsored an aftercare treatment initiative launched by several NGOs and government partners. In August 2009 the mission organized a project in which recovering addicts at the national Drug Rehabilitation Center made short films highlighting their challenges; the films were showcased on local television. This successful program will be repeated in 2010.
Through exchange programs, speakers, and educational opportunities, the United States promotes democratic values and seeks to mitigate extremist influences in the country. U.S. officials also regularly engage the government on the need to eliminate continued barriers to women's political and economic equality. In July 2009 the U.S. mission hosted a speaker program in which an American civil society leader talked about women's participation in U.S. politics. The United States also awards small grants to NGOs to support projects that promote expression and counter extremism. To counter religious extremism, the mission has planned several programs in 2010, including visits from a U.S.-based imam to speak on social issues and Sharia law and a foreign policy expert to speak on irregular threats and U.S. foreign policy in South Asia; a religious extremism survey; a "Living Values" educational program to develop religious tolerance among children; and a month-long religious training program for 500 local imams by other local religious scholars. U.S. officials constantly seek out promising young leaders of civil society, journalists, and politicians who may benefit from a closer look at U.S. democracy to travel to the United States under the International Visitor (IV) Leadership Program (IVLP). In April a Maldivian IV visited the United States to learn about the U.S. judicial system. Finally, the U.S. Department of Defense conducts joint exercises and training with the Maldives National Defence Force and sponsors its officers and noncommissioned officers to participate in conferences, training programs, and senior service schools in the United States, with the goal of developing future military leaders who adhere to professional norms and values, including respect for human rights.