The United States continues to actively support and engage in efforts to build democratic institutions and protect human rights, as demonstrated in Supporting Human Rights and Democracy: The U.S. Record 2006. Capable and democratic governance that exercises rule of human and supports a vibrant civil society are integral to ensuring respect for human rights and basic freedoms.
The annual Human Rights and Democracy Achievement Award recognizes the exceptional achievement of officers of foreign affairs agencies posted abroad. It pays tribute to outstanding reporting on human rights and democratic developments, and to the active advancement of strategies and institutions to deepen respect for human rights and democracy.
Mr. Joshua Morris of Embassy Nouakchott was selected as the 2006 winner of the Human Rights and Democracy Achievement Award. Secretary Rice presented the award to him during the Department's official commemoration of Human Rights Day on December 14, 2006. Mr. Nathaniel Jensen of Embassy Hanoi was selected as the runner-up.
Mr. Morris made democracy promotion one of his primary responsibilities during a time when Mauritania was demonstrating significant interest in and commitment toward building a sustainable democracy following a 2005 coup. He worked with the Government of Mauritania to re-open voter registration lists, extending to an additional 85,000 citizens- including a significant number of Afro-Mauritanians - the opportunity to participate in the country's November 29 elections. Mr. Morris also developed, organized, and supervised a series of political leadership workshops to engage Mauritania's youth in the political process, helping to train future leaders in the ongoing democratic transition. His program was the largest youth-focused democracy project in Mauritania in five years.
In the challenging human rights environment of Vietnam, Mr. Jensen successfully advanced the human rights agenda on several fronts. He facilitated and organized the resumption of bilateral Human Rights Dialogue; pushed for the release of Vietnam's prisoners of concern; and dedicated himself to improving religious freedom in northern Vietnam, which included visiting numerous ethnic minority communities in the most rural parts of the country.
Mr. Morris and Mr. Jensen were chosen from an extremely impressive group of candidates nominated by their Chiefs of Mission. All nominees demonstrated a deep and personal commitment to advancing human rights and democracy in their host countries, and creativity and resourcefulness in developing strategies to advance these goals. They all deserve our praise and gratitude. The other nominees were:
In Georgia, Ms. Bridget Brink and Ms. Deborah Miller substantially advanced the mission's highest priority of promoting democratic reform in Georgia. They were recognized for their specific efforts to work with the Georgian government on implementing judicial reforms and promoting improvements to the prison system.
In Uzbekistan, Mr. Baron Lobstein demonstrated impressive human rights efforts during a period of increasing tensions between the United States and Uzbekistan, and mounting Uzbek pressure on local activists. Baron established and maintained close ties with various local human rights activists to provide them with a voice that had been silenced by the 2005 Andijon event and subsequent NGO crackdown.
In Syria, Ms. Kari Paetzold actively engaged with human rights and civil society activists in a country with rampant human rights abuses. Kari's efforts included working closely with activists to find the most accurate information about recent arrests and human rights abuses, helping potential grantees develop proposals for submission to the Middle East Partnership Initiative, and creating a database for tracking human rights cases.
In Tajikistan, Ms. Uyen Tan's human rights and democracy promotion efforts include promoting free and fair elections through Tajikistan's Central Commission on Election and Referenda, and supporting religious freedom through her relationships with the Muslim communities.