Schiff agrees with those who say that strengthening emerging democracies and helping other states to make the transition to democracy is the best antidote to extremism and the conditions that give rise to it. He also understands that building democracies is a long-term process and that democracy cannot be imposed from without.
In 2005, Schiff was appointed to serve on the newly-created House Democracy Partnership(HDP) by Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi. The mission of the House Democracy Assistance Commission is to promote responsive, effective government and strengthen democratic institutions by assisting legislatures in emerging democracies. Central to the Commission's work is peer-to-peer cooperation to build technical expertise in partner legislatures that will enhance accountability, transparency, legislative independence, access to information, and government oversight.
Schiff served on the panel for three terms and engaged with fellow legislators in a number of important countries that are still relatively new to democracy, including Indonesia, East Timor, Kenya, and Pakistan.
Now, in the wake of the revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt, as well as the pro-democracy demonstrations throughout the Middle East and North Africa, Schiff is pushing for American assistance -- technical, diplomatic and, where possible, economic. Schiff is all too aware of the gravity of our fiscal situation, but also believes that the "Arab Spring" represents a once-in-a-generation opportunity and that the United States cannot and must not fail to reach out to millions of young Arabs who have said "no" to bin Laden and "yes" to democracy and a better future. This is a moment of great hope, but that hope can turn to despair if action is not taken. Recently, Schiff introduced a bill to strengthen the private sector in Egypt and Tunisia by creating enterprise fund that will support economic prosperity through financial investment and technical assistance to small- and medium-sized businesses in both countries. A similar approach was used with great success in Eastern Europe after the fall of communism.