News and Notes

Issue Date April 1998
Volume 9
Issue 2
Page Numbers 193-96
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NED Honors Chinese Dissidents

On February 4, the National Endowment for Democracy presented its 1998 Democracy Award to Chinese dissidents Wei Jingsheng and Wang Dan at a public ceremony in Washington, D.C. Wei, recently paroled from a Chinese prison on medical grounds and then exiled to the United States, was present to accept his award personally from Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi. The Chinese government is still holding Wang, whose award was presented by Congressman Christopher Cox and accepted on Wang’s behalf by exiled physicist and prodemocracy figure Li Shuxian. Also speaking at the ceremony were Senator Richard Lugar and Representatives Dick Armey, David Bonior, Benjamin Gilman, Sam Gejdenson, John Edward Porter, Christopher Smith, and Dana Rohrabacher.

An electrician by training and a leading voice for freedom and human rights since the “Democracy Wall” movement of 1978–79, Wei has spent 18 years behind bars for his beliefs. Among the fruits of his detention is his recently published volume of prison letters, The Courage to Stand Alone (Viking, 1997). Wang was a student at Beijing University when he helped to lead the Tiananmen Square demonstrations of 1989. He served his first prison term from 1989 to 1993. Rearrested in 1995, he is now serving an 11-year prison sentence.

Speaking to an audience of several hundred at the Capitol Hill ceremony, Wei thanked the people of the United States for their “selfless assistance and sincere support,” as well as for their “encouragement to the countless Chinese who are sacrificing their youth or their lives in their fight for their inalienable rights and for the [End Page 193] establishment of democracy.” Warning against the danger of “a passive and perfunctory attitude” toward the Beijing regime’s human rights violations, he denounced the idea of applying different standards to China and the West, and expressed concern that the spread of such a mindset could “negate the support and assistance given to the Chinese people by decent Americans.”

Turkish Lawyers Honored at RFK Award Ceremony

On November 20 in Washington, D.C., Mrs. Robert F. Kennedy presented the 1997 Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award to Sezgin Tanrikulu and Senal Sarihan. Established in 1984, the award honors individuals who have fought against overwhelming odds to increase respect for human rights. Sezgin Tanrikulu, a prominent human rights lawyer, is secretary-general of the Bar Association in Diyarbakir and founder of the Diyarbakir Human Rights Association. Senal Sarihan, president of the Contemporary Women’s Association, has worked on a number of difficult human rights cases and has been a courageous defender of women’s rights in Turkey.

In announcing the award, Kerry Kennedy Cuomo, founder of the RFK Center for Human Rights, declared, “Turkey needs lawyers like Sezgin Tanrikulu and Senal Sarihan, who have dedicated their careers to strengthening the rule of law, building civil society, and improving respect for human rights.”

Association of Asian Election Authorities Formed

On February 8–10 in Manila, the Philippine Commission on Elections and the International Foundation for Election Systems co-sponsored the “Conference for the Founding of the Association of Asian Election Authorities (AAEA).” Conference participants included representatives from election bodies, nongovernmental organizations, and academic institutions from 21 Asian countries. Discussions focused on the draft charter and future activities of the AAEA, but also included a number of professional workshops dealing with campaign and election financing. The final Charter was signed at a ceremony on February 10 attended by guest of honor Fidel V. Ramos, president of the Republic of the Philippines.

The AAEA will seek to promote and to help institutionalize both open and transparent elections and independent and impartial election authorities. It will also encourage citizen participation in the electoral process and the development of resources for election-related information sharing and research. Bishnu Pratap Shah, chief election commissioner from the Election [End Page 194] Commission of Nepal, stated that his goal as AAEA chair is to “help establish an environment where elections are conducted professionally, and . . . ideas and observations are shared freely.”

OAS Celebrates Fiftieth Anniversary

On the occasion of its 50th anniversary, the Organization of American States (OAS) hosted the “Conference of the Americas” on March 5 and 6 in Washington, D.C., to examine the challenges facing the region in the next century. Panel discussions focused on trade, poverty, education, sustainable development, democracy, and human rights.

Events on the first day included a keynote address by U.S. secretary of state Madeleine Albright, and a panel on “Human Rights in a Democratic Era,” moderated by Carlos Ayala, president of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, with an address by Roberto Reina, former president of Honduras. The day ended with a moderated dialogue among Nobel laureates Oscar Arias (Costa Rica), Baruj Benacerraf (Venezuela), Adolfo Pérez Esquivel (Argentina), Mario Molina (Mexico), John Polanyi (Canada), Derek Walcott (St. Lucia), and Jody Williams (U.S.).

Keynote addresses on the final day of the conference were given by Calliopa Pearlette Louisy, governor general of St. Lucia, and Lloyd Axworthy, foreign minister of Canada. Also of note was a panel discussion on “The Future of Democracy in the Hemisphere,” featuring an address by Patricio Aylwin Azocar, former president of Chile, and comments by Francisco Tudela (former foreign minister of Peru), João Baena Soares (former OAS secretary general), Robert Dahl (Yale University), and Claudette Werleigh (former prime minister of Haiti). The conference closed with remarks by current OAS secretary general César Gaviria.

Report on NED’s International Forum

On February 16–17, the International Forum cosponsored a conference hosted by the Centre for Policy Studies (Johannesburg) on “Democratic Consolidation in South Africa: Progress and Pitfalls.” After an introductory session on “Consolidation in Comparative Perspective,” six subsequent sessions focused on questions relating to democracy in South Africa: the party system, representative institutions, devolution, civil society and political culture, accountability, and crime and public order. Presenters at the conference included Philippe Schmitter, Steven Friedman, Larry Diamond, Khehla Shubane, E. Gyimah-Boadi, Jabu Sindane, Edgar Pieterse, Michael Bratton, Sipho Maseko, Terry Karl, Yvonne Muthien, and Antoinette Louw. A report based on the conference is now in preparation. [End Page 195]

The Forum recently held two luncheon discussions that led to articles in this issue. On January 22, David I. Steinberg spoke on “The Presidential Election in Korea,” and on January 26, Joel D. Barkan spoke on “The Future of Kenyan Democracy.” Maina Kiai, executive director of the Kenyan Human Rights Commission, provided comments on Barkan’s presentation.

The Forum has just published Institutionalizing Horizontal Accountability: How Democracies Can Fight Corruption and the Abuse of Power, a report based on a conference the Forum cosponsored in June 1997 with the Institute for Advanced Studies (Vienna).

The Forum’s lecture series “The Democratic Invention” resumed in February with a talk by Andrea Riccardi, president of the Community of St. Egidio (Italy), on “Democracy, Solidarity, and Peace.” The Community is a lay-Catholic NGO that success-fully brokered the 1992 Mozambican Peace Accord. On March 9, Fatima Mernissi, professor of sociology at Université Mohammed V (Morocco), spoke on “Nurturing Civil Society in the Arab World: The Case of Morocco.” The remaining lectures this spring will be given on April 6 by Diogo Freitas do Amaral, professor of political science at the University of Lisbon on “The Portuguese Transition to Democracy,” and on May 11 by Jean Daniel, editor of Le Nouvel Observateur (France), on “Nation and Democracy.”

The Forum recently welcomed three new scholars to its Visiting Fellows Program. Gérard Conac (France), professor of political science emeritus at the University of Paris I (Panthéon-Sorbonne), is working on a comparative study of democratic transitions in Eastern Europe and Africa. Dominique Fournier (Canada), formerly a consultant to the Cabinet of the Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs, is studying how the Organization of American States can help promote democracy in the Americas. Dai-Kwon Choi (South Korea), professor of law at Seoul National University, is studying American laws and regulations on political parties, campaign finance, and elections.

Finally, the Democracy Resource Center (DRC) recently added several new resources to DemocracyNet, NED’s home page on the World Wide Web ( A “Guide to Sources of Funding” lists organizations providing grants and other support for projects in international affairs. Each entry includes contact information, mission statement, funding limitations, geographical focus, and, in most cases, a link to the organization’s own home page on the World Wide Web. In addition, DemocracyNet now includes a “Guide to Human Rights Honors and Awards” and a “Guide to Fellowships and Grants,” as well as Internet resource guides on civic education, conflict resolution, human rights, independent media, and women’s issues.


Copyright © 1998 National Endowment for Democracy and the Johns Hopkins University Press