News and Notes

Issue Date April 2012
Volume 23
Issue 2
Page Numbers 177-179
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Cuban Dissident Laura Pollán Honored

Laura Pollán, a democracy activist and founder of Cuba’s Las Damas de Blanco (Ladies in White), passed away on October 14. On December 14, the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) posthumously awarded Pollán its Democracy Service Medal, which was created to “recognize individuals who have made significant contributions to the progress of democracy around the world.”

Yolanda Huerga accepted the award on behalf of Las Damas de Blanco. Remarks were presented at the ceremony by Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and representatives Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Howard Berman (D-CA), and Al-bio Sires (D-NJ).

A panel discussion on “The Legacy of Laura Pollán: the Struggle for Democracy and Human Rights in Cuba” preceded the ceremony. Panelists included Jose Luis García Paneque, member of the Group of 75, former Amnesty International “Prisoner of Conscience,” and member of the Cuban Observatory for Human Rights; Pablo Diaz Espí, founder and director of Diario de Cuba; Janisset Rivero, cofounder and national adjunct secretary of the Cuban Democratic Directorate; and Yesenia Alvarez Temoche, founder and president of the Political Institute for Freedom in Peru. For more information, please see www.ned.org/events/the-legacy-of-laura-pollan-the-struggle-for-democracy-and-human-rights-in-cuba.

Vitali Silitski Scholarship at CEU

The Vitali Silitski annual scholarship at Central European University (CEU) was established in 2011 in memory of the late Vitali Silitski, who directed the Belarusian Institute for Strategic Studies until his untimely death in June [End Page 177] 2011. Belarusian students from any department at CEU who demonstrate academic excellence and a commitment to social activism are eligible to apply for the scholarship. More information about the scholarship is available at https://alumnicareer.ceu.hu/vitali-silitski-scholarship.

Democracy in Asia Conference

On February 14, the Asan Institute for Policy Studies hosted a conference in Seoul (cosponsored by NED) entitled “Strengthening Democracy in Asia: New Strategies for Regional Partnerships.” Sessions focused on the “Experience of Democratic Cooperation in Asia and Other Regions,” “Democracy and Governance: The Challenges in Asia,” and “Strengthening Regional Cooperation: Possible Models.”

Participants included Donald Emmerson of Stanford University; Kavi Chongkittavorn of the Nation Media Group (Thailand); Jose Luis Martin C. “Chito” Gascon, undersecretary at the Office of the Political Advisor, Office of the President, Republic of the Philippines; and Suren Badral, Mongolia’s ambassador-at-large for the Community of Democracies.

Sakharov Prize

Five “Arab Spring” activists received the European Parliament’s 2011 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, which is awarded annually to individuals or organizations that have made an important contribution to the fight for human rights or democracy. European Parliament president Jerzy Buzek awarded the prize at a ceremony in Strasbourg, France, on December 14.

Two winners attended the ceremony: Asmaa Mahfouz of Egypt (a youth activist and member of the April 6 Youth Movement) and Ahmed al-Senussi of Libya (a former political prisoner and member of the National Transitional Council, representing political prisoners). Ali Farzat of Syria—a political satirist and leader of the Arab Cartoonists’ Association—is in exile in Kuwait, while Razan Zaitouneh, a human-rights lawyer and journalist, is in hiding in Syria. Tunisian Mohamed Bouazizi, whose self-immolation launched the Arab Spring, was awarded the prize posthumously.

African Charter Comes into Force

On January 16, Cameroon became the fifteenth member state of the African Union to ratify the African Charter on Democracy, Elections, and Governance (ACDEG), which thus came into force on February 15.

A joint statement celebrating this development was issued by the African Democracy Forum (a regional network of organizations that focus on democracy, human rights, and governance) and Idasa (an independent democracy-promotion organization in South Africa). The statement [End Page 178] declared that “the ACDEG is a milestone for democracy in Africa . . . setting standards for democratic institutions, rule of law, political, economic and social governance,” and called upon civil society groups across Africa to work to attract additional signatories of the charter.

NED’s International Forum

On February 23, the Journal of Democracy held a panel discussion to celebrate the publication of its newest book, entitled Poverty, Inequality, and Democracy and edited by Francis Fukuyama, Larry Diamond, and Marc F. Plattner. Speakers included contributors Peter Lewis and Mitchell Orenstein, along with Fukuyama and Plattner.

The Forum hosted several luncheon meetings this winter featuring Reagan-Fascell Democracy Fellows.

On December 15, Tamirlan Kurbanov, former program officer at the Moscow office of the National Democratic Institute, gave a presentation entitled “Youth Activism in Russia: Can a New Generation Make a Difference?” Nadia Diuk, NED’s vice president of programs for Africa, Central Europe and Eurasia, and Latin America and the Caribbean, offered comments.

On January 25, Hikmet Hadjyzadeh, cofounder and president of the Baku-based think tank the Far Centre for Economic and Political Research, gave a talk entitled “What Is to Be Done with Pseudo-Democracies: The Case of Azerbaijan.” Sharon Wolchik, professor of political science and international affairs at the Elliott School of International Affairs at George Washington University, commented.

On February 9, Hollman Morris, an acclaimed investigative journalist from Colombia, gave a presentation entitled “Intercepting Democracy: Colombia’s Intelligence Service vs. Civil Liberties.” Brandon Yoder of NED offered comments.

On February 16, Birtukan Midekssa, a former federal judge and leader of the prodemocracy opposition movement in Ethiopia, gave a talk entitled “Building Democratic Opposition Parties in Ethiopia: Reflections from the Ground.” Adrienne LeBas, assistant professor of government at American University’s School of Public Affairs, offered comments.

On March 15, Aziz Royesh, founding director of the Kabul-based Marefat High School, gave a presentation entitled “Civic Education and Democratic Change in Afghanistan: The Story of the Kabul-based Marefat High School.” Clare Lockhart, cofounder of the Institute for State Effectiveness and director of the Market-Building Program at the Aspen Institute, commented.

In the spring, the Forum welcomed a new group of Reagan-Fascell Democracy Fellows: Malik Siraj Akbar (Pakistan), Mokhtar Benabdallaoui (Morocco), Darko Brkan (Bosnia-Herzegovina), Judith February (South Africa), Normando Hernández (Cuba), Abril Perez (Nicaragua), Tsveta Petrova (United States), B. Tsering (Tibet/India), and Aung Moe Zaw (Burma). They will be in residence through July 2012. [End Page 179]