Celebrating Democracy: IFES’ 2015 Charles T. Manatt Awards Dinner

Publication Date: 
1 Oct 2015

News Type:

On September 29, the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) held its sixth annual Charles T. Manatt Democracy Awards Dinner at the Four Seasons Hotel in Washington, D.C. This year’s awardees included former Chairman Attahiru Jega of Nigeria’s Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Congressman Ed Royce (R-Calif.). NBC’s Meet the Press host Chuck Todd emceed the awards dinner, which was co-chaired by IFES Board Director and Baker & Hostetler LLP Partner Ambassador Tom McDonald and Manatt, Phelps & Phillips LLP Partner June L. DeHart.

In his opening remarks, Todd noted, “It is through the ballot box that sustainable democracy and governance are established. And it is through the work of IFES that stable societies are formed.” Discussing the difficult challenges of such work, Todd added, “I applaud the IFES team for their passion and their focus, often working under challenging circumstances, to bring legitimacy to the right to vote.” Following Todd on stage, IFES President and CEO Bill Sweeney thanked all of the generous sponsors who made the dinner possible. The proceeds of the Democracy Awards Dinner benefit the IFES Innovation Fund, an endowment that supports original projects that address pressing issues in democratic development today.

Following opening remarks from Todd and Sweeney, IFES Board Director and former Congressman Bob Livingston offered remarks to honor the late Allen Weinstein, a former Archivist of the United States and a major figure in the global democracy movement who passed away in June 2015. “Allen’s passion for freedom and democracy and his lifelong commitment to our cause inspired a generation,” said Livingston.

Introducing Leader Nancy Pelosi, IFES Board Chairman Don Sweitzer praised the first woman Speaker of the House for demonstrating “a lifelong commitment to advocating for human rights and women’s empowerment, with a record of leadership on the inclusion of underrepresented groups and the promotion of democratic values.” Upon receiving the award, Leader Pelosi spoke about her relationship with the Chuck Manatt, praised IFES’ work to ensure that citizens around the world have a vote and a voice, and tied such work to the civil rights movement in the United States.

Following Leader Pelosi, IFES Board Vice Chairwoman Judy Black introduced Congressman Ed Royce, who she called a “stalwart defender of human rights and democracy” who has “been involved in humanitarian, development, business and educational efforts abroad, with special attention to human trafficking and the security and economic well-being of the United States.” In his remarks, Congressman Royce praised IFES along with its partners in the Consortium for Elections and Political Process Strengthening – the International Republican Institute and the National Democratic Institute – for its work to advance global democracy. Royce, the Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, noted that democracy programming is vital to addressing many international challenges.

During the awards dinner, IFES also introduced its first ever e-fundraising campaign, “A Vote for Every Voice.” Over one billion people in the world have a disability, yet citizens with disabilities are often from excluded public life. The goal of IFES’ campaign is to raise $10,000 by December 31 for IFES’ global programming to politically empower persons with disabilities.

Former Colombian President and current IFES Board Director Andres Pastrana, a prominent advocate for democracy in Venezuela, provided an update on the current situation in the country during the ceremony. In 2014, IFES presented the Democracy Award to Maria Corina Machado, a Venezuelan opposition leader, who has been the target of numerous unproven accusations by the Venezuelan government and death threats since calling on citizens to publically demonstrate against President Nicolas Maduro. Although she was barred from leaving the country, Machado delivered a stirring video message at the 2014 dinner. Pastrana noted that since receiving the award, Machado “has been beat up inside the Congress, expelled from it, and with spurious charges has been barred from running in the upcoming elections.” Pastrana ended his remarks with a forceful call for international observation for Venezuela’s upcoming parliamentary elections.

Nigeria’s 2015 elections were a watershed moment for democracy in the country and Africa, as the largest country by population with the biggest economy on the continent experienced its first democratic transfer of power. Professor Attahiru Jega, the Chairman of the INEC at the time of the elections, was vital in ensuring a credible and transparent electoral process. IFES’ media partner for the dinner Voice of America detailed the challenges Professor Jega and the INEC faced in a video presented during the ceremony. Welcoming him to the stage as the international recipient of the 2015 Democracy Award, President Sweeney asserted, “Professor Jega embodies what we hope for from every election administrator.”

In his remarks, Professor Jega suggested that the collaboration between domestic and international stakeholders will be vital to consolidating democracy in Nigeria moving forward. “IFES has done a commendable job in supporting and strengthening the INEC and we hope that others in the international community follow this example and join hands to contribute to democratic consolidation in Nigeria,” Professor Jega said. For Professor Jega, “free and fair elections are only the starting point. For democracy to truly flourish, credible elections must result in improved democratic governance and socioeconomic development. That is the hope of so many Nigerians.” Professor Jega’s remarks were met with a standing ovation as the 2015 Charles T. Manatt Democracy Awards Dinner drew to a close.

The Charles T. Manatt Democracy Awards recognize 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 are able to have a voice in the way they are governed.

Past Democracy Award Recipients


Maria Corina Machado, Venezuela
Hon. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.)
Hon. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.)


Dr. Leonardo Valdés Zurita, Mexico
Hon. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.)
Hon. Kay Granger (R-Tex.)


Maimuna Mwidau, Kenya
Hon. David Dreier (R-Calif.)
Hon. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.)


Judge Johann Kriegler, South Africa
Hon. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.)
Hon. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.)


Ziad Baroud, Lebanon
Hon. M. Peter McPherson, USAID
Hon. David Obey (D-Wis.)

Recipients, 1996-2007

Hon. Lee H. Hamilton
H.E. José Miguel Insulza, Chile, OAS
Hon. James Inhofe (R-Okla.)
H.E. Leonid Kuchma, Ukraine
Hon. Tom Lantos (D-Calif.)
Hon. Richard G. Lugar (R-Ind.)
Rev. Msgr. Agripino Núñez Collado, Dominican Republic
H.E. Ronald Reagan
Richard Soudriette, IFES