On September 24, the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) held its Ninth Annual Charles T. Manatt Democracy Awards in Washington, D.C. This year’s awardees included former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia, United States Agency for International Development Administrator Ambassador Mark Green (Republican), Senator Christopher Coons (D-Del.), and IFES President and CEO Bill Sweeney.
The Charles T. Manatt Democracy Award is presented each year in a special ceremony, and it recognizes the exceptional work of individuals who demonstrate an unwavering commitment to freedom and democracy. IFES presents the awards annually to three individuals – one Republican, one Democrat and one member of the international community – who embody the character and spirit of former U.S. Ambassador and IFES Board of Directors Chairman Charles T. Manatt and work tirelessly to help ensure that citizens around the world have a voice in the way they are governed.
During the program following the conclusion of Senator Christopher Coons’ remarks, the former Liberian leader, Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf walked to the stage to join him in an embrace. CEO Bill Sweeney subsequently introduced Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Africa’s first elected female head of state and the world’s first elected black female president, and introduced a video produced by IFES’ media partner, Voice of America, about her accomplishments.
President Sirleaf then said in her remarks, “Democracy is never given on a silver platter. It must be earned, defended, and nurtured every day, everywhere – in Africa, in Europe, in the United States. There is no alternative to having the freedom we want unless we are prepared to work and sacrifice for it.” In further statements, the former president made the following assertions:
… “Liberia today remains a fragile state. Institutions are still young and are being tested, and resources remain scarce. Nations in a state of fragility, particularly post-conflict nations, need special attention and support”.
I stand with the organizations in this room in devoting myself in my remaining years to strengthening democratic institutions across Africa.
We must look anew, not just at respecting constitutional term limits, but at adjusting Constitutions to address campaign finance, to encourage the participation of women and the engagement of youth and to strengthen the civil service”…
In closing, she extended gratitude to the IFES team and everyone engaged in the promotion of democracy.
Posted: William S. F. Cole