IFES Celebrates 30th Anniversary with 2017 Charles T. Manatt Democracy and Joe C. Baxter Awards

2017 Democracy Awards Ceremony
Publication Date: 
3 Oct 2017

News Type:

On October 2, the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) held its Eighth Annual Charles T. Manatt Democracy and 2017 Joe C. Baxter Awards at the Four Seasons Hotel in Washington, D.C. This year’s awardees included His Excellency Luis Almagro, secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS), former IFES Board Vice Chair Judy Black (R), Congressman David Price (D-N.C.), and Joe C. Baxter awardee Tamar Zhvania, chairwoman of the Central Election Commission of Georgia. Cook Political Report Editor and Publisher Charlie Cook emceed the ceremony, which was co-chaired by IFES Board Director and Connecticut State Treasurer Denise Nappier and IFES Board Director and Foley & Lardner LLP partner Cleta Mitchell.

This year’s ceremony celebrated IFES’ 30th anniversary. Since 1987, IFES has supported citizens’ rights to participate in free and fair elections. Our independent expertise strengthens electoral systems and builds local capacity to deliver sustainable solutions. To mark our the anniversary, we are featuring 30 human interest stories throughout the year that illustrate the positive impact of IFES’ work.

Opening the ceremony, Cook discussed IFES’ commitment to ensure that every voice has a vote. “From election administration to voter administration, to inclusion and women’s empowerment, the IFES team provides support in setting the fundamental building blocks of democracy in place,” Cook said. Along with recognizing IFES’ 30th anniversary, he also told the audience about the IFES Innovation Fund, an endowment that supports original projects that address pressing issues in democratic development today. Cook announced the winning proposal for this year’s Innovation Fund, “Driving Advancements in Transparency and Elections,” authored by Research Coordinator Heather Szilagyi, Center for Applied Research and Learning Deputy Director Erica Shein and Senior Legal Specialist Katherine Ellena. Thanking the generous sponsors of the ceremony, Cook noted that all proceeds from the Democracy Awards benefit the Innovation Fund.

IFES President and CEO Bill Sweeney followed Cook on stage and acknowledged IFES’ Board Directors, former IFES presidents Jean-Pierre Kingsley and Richard Soudriette, members of the diplomatic community, current and former members of Congress and representatives from IFES’ partners in the Consortium for Elections and Political Processes Strengthening – the International Republican Institute and the National Democratic Institute – and introduced the ceremony’s co-chairs, Nappier and Mitchell.

Introducing the ceremony’s first honoree, IFES Board Chairman Ken Blackwell praised Black for her commitment to IFES’ principles and lifetime of experiences embodying the values of IFES, as well as her important dedication to bipartisanship. For her part, Black spoke of her firsthand experience with the IFES team and dedicated the award to all those she has worked with in her more than two decades of service on the IFES Board of Directors.

IFES Board Co-Chair Don Sweitzer introduced Democratic honoree Congressman Price and told the audience about the critical contributions the congressman has made to the global democracy movement. Sweitzer noted, “His tireless efforts to strengthen democratic institutions are evident in his long history of public service and commitment to expanding the House Democracy Partnership.” On stage, Congressman Price congratulated IFES on its 30th anniversary and discussed the symbiotic relationship between organizations like IFES and the House Democracy Partnership in expanding global democracy.

IFES presented the 2017 Joe C. Baxter Award to Zhvania during this year’s Democracy Awards ceremony. IFES Board Director June DeHart introduced Zhvania and her impressive career as an election administrator: “It is through the work of dedicated public servants like Zhvania that democracy is built. She has spent her career working to provide the right to have say in how one is governed.” Zhvania thanked the IFES team in Georgia and Washington for its support and said that although she was receiving the Baxter Award, “it also goes to each Georgian voter as they made it possible to succeed in every new initiative and achieve tangible progress.”

The ceremony’s co-chair, Nappier, introduced the international honoree of the Democracy Award, Almagro. Nappier spoke of Almagro’s commitment to ensuring more rights for more people, his advocacy for democracy in Venezuela and his work as a Uruguayan lawyer, diplomat and public official. In his remarks, the secretary general praised IFES for its work around the world and thanked the organization for its cooperation with the OAS. He also took the opportunity to spotlight the situation in Venezuela. “This evening, I am not here to accept this award because my efforts for the cause of Venezuela warrant recognition, I am here so that I can highlight the tragedy that has taken place in Venezuela,” Almagro said. In conclusion, he added, “As a hemisphere rooted in the proud tradition of democracy and human rights, we must uphold our commitment to principles and values. We must continue to reaffirm our solidarity with the people of Venezuela.”

IFES’ annual celebration of democracy, the Charles T. Manatt Democracy Awards, 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 are able to have a voice in the way they are governed. The annual Joe C. Baxter Award recognizes the contributions of election professionals whose skills, dedication and sacrifices to the field of election administration epitomize the mission of IFES and embody the spirit of former IFES Senior Adviser for Election Administration Joe C. Baxter.

To read Judy Black's remarks, please click here

To read Congressman David Price's remarks, please click here

To read Tamar Zhvania’s remarks, please click here.

To read His Excellency Luis Almagro’s remarks, please click here

To view a photo gallery from the ceremony, please click here.

To view a video of the ceremony, please click here