Center for Communications, Health and the Environment
Summer 2015 Vol. 9, Issue 1
Dietary Fat & Heart Disease Debate Commands New Attention

Mark Palmer and His Contributions Memorialized Through New Democracy Forum and Award

Two prominent Washington, D.C.-based organizations are honoring the legacy of former Ambassador and CECHE Cofounder and Vice Chairman Mark Palmer and his profound, global contributions to the cause of freedom.

In January 2015, Freedom House, a nonprofit that conducts research and advocacy on democracy, political freedom and human rights, unveiled The Mark Palmer Forum for the Advancement of Democracy and named its D.C. conference room after the accomplished diplomat. Two months later, in March 2015, the American Foreign Service Association (AFSA), the professional group of the U.S. Foreign Service, established The Mark Palmer Award for the Advancement of Democracy – the first such distinguished achievement award for a U.S. Foreign Service officer or member of any U.S. foreign affairs agency.

In addition to unveiling a forum in his honor, Freedom House named its Washington, D.C. conference room after Mark Palmer in recognition of his global advancement of democracy.

Palmer Forum at Freedom House to Assess and Advance Democratic Transitions
The Mark Palmer Forum for the Advancement of Democracy is intended to enhance understanding of why democratic transitions succeed or fail, and to contribute to more vigorous policy support for democracy advancement abroad. At its core, it features an annual half-day conference with leading policymakers and experts on or around the United Nations International Day of Democracy (September 15); it also periodically sponsors events and discussions with frontline human-rights defenders and digital activists.

Going forward, the Forum will explore ways to improve global prospects for democracy and human rights, including more effective public policy formulation and execution, and expanded civil society partnerships. In addition, it will strive to build a track record to enable greater financial support for these causes. To accomplish this, Freedom House plans to arrange meetings for human-rights and digital-freedom activists with congressional and administration officials through the Forum, thereby increasing opportunities for policymakers to hear first-hand accounts from frontline activists, give activists a larger platform to share their insights and policy recommendations, and heighten awareness among congressional leaders and administration officials of the global crackdown on civil society and the growing constraints on independent media.

In addition, Freedom House plans to use The Palmer Forum as a focal point to form a coalition of like-minded civil society partners committed to encouraging measurable, positive improvement in democracy around the world, including entities such as the Council for the Community of Democracies, National Endowment for Democracy, Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies and Atlantic Council. This coalition will meet at least annually at Freedom House or another relevant location. By bringing key people together to brainstorm solutions and promoting advocacy and events to spotlight the challenges democracy faces in today’s world, Freedom House intends to build The Palmer Forum into a serious entity.

To date, Forum-sponsored events, which are announced regularly on the Freedom House website (https://freedomhouse.org/event-types/mark-palmer-forum#.VU5X8bd0yUl), have included:

  • Belarus on the Eve of Presidential Elections, a symposium held on March 25 (Belarus Freedom Day) to examine how the country is preparing for the historic event planned for November 2015.
  • Advancing Democracy: Information Technology, Economic Growth and Political Change in the Middle East, a conference hosted by Freedom House President Mark P. Lagon on April 8 with Christopher M. Schroeder, U.S.-based tech entrepreneur, venture investor and author of Startup Rising: The Entrepreneurial Revolution Remaking the Middle East.
  • U.S.-China Relations: Facing China’s 100 Year Marathon as a Rising Power, a discussion on April 20 about how U.S. foreign policy towards China might be influenced by the Communist Party's intensifying suppression of dissent at home under President Xi Jinping and its growing impact abroad, using Michael Pillsbury’s provocative book, The Hundred-Year Marathon, as a springboard.

Palmer Award Recognizes U. S. Officers Active in Promoting Democracy and Freedom

Also supporting the global cause of civil society and human rights, the AFSA Mark Palmer Award for the Advancement of Democracy is an annual accolade designed to recognize an officer who embodies bold and creative achievement and employs imaginative, determined and effective means to enhance democracy and expand freedom. While open to all U.S. Foreign Service members serving domestically or abroad from any of the foreign affairs agencies, the award is particularly intended to spotlight early- to mid-career level officers. It consists of a $2,500 prize, as well as a stipend to attend the June presentation ceremony in Washington, D.C. Award nominations are reviewed by a panel of judges, and the winner is announced in early spring.

Chargé d’affaires Andrew Young has been named the first recipient of The Palmer Award. Chosen from among 17 nominees on April 2, 2015, Young is currently posted at the U.S. Embassy in Bamako, Mali. Important factors in the judges’ selection of Young were his exemplary work in Burma in the late 1990s to support Nobel Laureate Aung Sang Suu Kyi and the Burmese National League for Democracy, as well as his efforts in the U.S. Congress in 2005 to promote the Advance Democracy Act, legislation that Ambassador Palmer himself initiated. Currently, Young is engaged in courageous work involving peace negotiations between rebel leaders and the government in war-torn Mali.

Dr. Sushma Palmer presents the first annual Mark Palmer Award to Chargé d’affaires Andrew Young.

Young embodies both the spirit and standards of The Palmer Award, candidates of which are expected to have:

  1. Demonstrated critical support, protection and promotion of indigenous, frontline, high-risk democracy activism, whether by directly helping activists and democratic institutions or by pressing government officials, not only regime officials, but also international officials and the U.S. Government.
  2. Demonstrated efforts to engage civil society and support civil society's right to freedoms of assembly, expression and other principles.
  3. Demonstrated sustained efforts to support human rights, including actions which resulted in a release of prisoners of conscience, or an end to cruel and inhuman punishment.
  4. Facilitated a broader dialogue on democratic reform.
  5. Coordinated effective international efforts to advance movement toward democracy.
  6. Identified and articulated the importance of democratic values, despite working in a closed/authoritarian society.
  7. Contributed innovative ideas and support for the consolidation of democratic institutions in countries in transition.
  8. Contributed to preventing democratic backsliding in new and fragile democracies.

Both The Palmer Forum and The Palmer Award are supported by Dr. Sushma Palmer, Mark’s wife of 47 years, through her contributions to the Center for Communications, Health and the Environment (CECHE).


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Copyright © 2015 Center for Communications, Health and the Environment (CECHE)
Dr. Sushma Palmer, Program Director
Valeska Stupak, Writer, Editor & Design Consultant
Shiraz Mahyera, Systems Manager
Rohit Tote, Website Consultant