News and Updates

IFES Presents the Baxter Award to Dr. Christiana Thorpe


On November 3, 2014 the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) presented the 2014 Joe C. Baxter Award to Dr. Christiana Thorpe, Chief Electoral Commissioner and Chairman of the National Electoral Commission (NEC) of Sierra Leone.

Dr. Thorpe is the first woman to serve as Chief Electoral Commissioner and Chairwoman in Sierra Leone. A former nun, she has spent her life fighting for the rights of the most vulnerable in society and served as an electoral administrator for many years. During her tenure as the head of the NEC, the Commission has implemented meaningful reforms and conducted elections that have been agreed upon by all electoral stakeholders and the international community as being free, fair, transparent and in conformity with international best practices.

"Dr. Thorpe was selected as this year's recipient for implementing meaningful reforms and conducting elections that have been agreed upon by all electoral stakeholders and the international community as being free, fair, and transparent and in conformity with international best practices," IFES President and CEO Bill Sweeney noted.

While Dr. Thorpe was unable to leave her country to receive the award in the United States, valiantly staying in Sierra Leone to assist in efforts to combat the spread of Ebola, the reception featured a moving video message in which she discussed the importance of women’s rights and education in electoral processes. Dr. Thorpe’s sister, Patricia O. Thorpe-Finney, accepted the award on her behalf.  

Sierra Leone’s Ambassador to the United States Bockari Kortu Stevens delivered opening remarks and described Dr. Thorpe as an icon. “She is a lady of substance and somebody who was prepared to sacrifice her own life, her own security, for the sustenance of democracy in our country,” he said.

Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield, Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of African Affairs at the State Department, also spoke during the ceremony, introducing Dr. Thorpe’s accomplishments in election administration.

In her video message, Dr. Thorpe thanked IFES for the consistent support during her tenure as Sierra Leone's Chief Electoral Commissioner and for providing a framework she used successfully to initiate election reforms and procedures in Sierra Leone.

In recognition of Dr. Thorpe’s dedication to making a difference in the lives of women and girls, IFES presented a $10,000 check to Thorpe-Finney for the Forum for African Women Educationalist (FAWE). This NGO was founded by Dr. Thorpe to empower women for gender responsive education in Sub-Saharan Africa. FAWE's goal is to increase access and retention as well as improve the quality of education for all girls within the school system and for women in universities.

IFES is honored to have presented the 2014 Joe C. Baxter Award to Dr. Christiana Thorpe and show its support to FAWE’s mission.

The annual Baxter Award is given in memory of the late Joe C. Baxter, a legendary figure in the field of international electoral assistance. Baxter began his work with IFES in 1994 as Chief of Party in Ghana, setting up mechanisms to register 9.2 million voters and train tens of thousands of election officials. In recognition of his efforts, he was named a chief by one of Ghana's largest tribes. From 1997-2002, as a Senior Adviser to IFES, his professionalism, kindness and respect left lasting impacts on the people he worked with during IFES missions to Africa, the Middle East and Asia.

Previous recipients of the Baxter Award include Professor of Political Science and Government at Aarhus University (Denmark) Dr. Jørgen Elklit, former Chairman of the Philippine Commission on Elections (COMELEC) Christian S. Monsod, campaign finance expert Delia Ferreira Rubio (Argentina), Chairman of the Electoral Commission of Ghana Kwadwo Afari-Gyan, and elections expert Rafael López-Pintor (Spain).