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  • News and Notes

Cuban Dissident Laura Pollán Honored

Laura Pollán, a democracy activist and founder of Cuba's Las Damas de Blanco (Ladies in White), passed away on October 14. On December 14, the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) posthumously awarded Pollán its Democracy Service Medal, which was created to "recognize individuals who have made significant contributions to the progress of democracy around the world."

Yolanda Huerga accepted the award on behalf of Las Damas de Blanco. Remarks were presented at the ceremony by Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and representatives Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Howard Berman (D-CA), and Al-bio Sires (D-NJ).

A panel discussion on "The Legacy of Laura Pollán: the Struggle for Democracy and Human Rights in Cuba" preceded the ceremony. Panelists included Jose Luis García Paneque, member of the Group of 75, former Amnesty International "Prisoner of Conscience," and member of the Cuban Observatory for Human Rights; Pablo Diaz Espí, founder and director of Diario de Cuba; Janisset Rivero, cofounder and national adjunct secretary of the Cuban Democratic Directorate; and Yesenia Alvarez Temoche, founder and president of the Political Institute for Freedom in Peru. For more information, please see

Vitali Silitski Scholarship at CEU

The Vitali Silitski annual scholarship at Central European University (CEU) was established in 2011 in memory of the late Vitali Silitski, who directed the Belarusian Institute for Strategic Studies until his untimely death in June [End Page 177] 2011. Belarusian students from any department at CEU who demonstrate academic excellence and a commitment to social activism are eligible to apply for the scholarship. More information about the scholarship is available at

Democracy in Asia Conference

On February 14, the Asan Institute for Policy Studies hosted a conference in Seoul (cosponsored by NED) entitled "Strengthening Democracy in Asia: New Strategies for Regional Partnerships." Sessions focused on the "Experience of Democratic Cooperation in Asia and Other Regions," "Democracy and Governance: The Challenges in Asia," and "Strengthening Regional Cooperation: Possible Models."

Participants included Donald Emmerson of Stanford University; Kavi Chongkittavorn of the Nation Media Group (Thailand); Jose Luis Martin C. "Chito" Gascon, undersecretary at the Office of the Political Advisor, Office of the President, Republic of the Philippines; and Suren Badral, Mongolia's ambassador-at-large for the Community of Democracies.

Sakharov Prize

Five "Arab Spring" activists received the European Parliament's 2011 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, which is awarded annually to individuals or organizations that have made an important contribution to the fight for human rights or democracy. European Parliament president Jerzy Buzek awarded the prize at a ceremony in Strasbourg, France, on December 14.

Two winners attended the ceremony: Asmaa Mahfouz of Egypt (a youth activist and member of the April 6 Youth Movement) and Ahmed al-Senussi of Libya (a former political prisoner and member of the National Transitional Council, representing political prisoners). Ali Farzat of Syria—a political satirist and leader of the Arab Cartoonists' Association—is in exile in Kuwait, while Razan Zaitouneh, a human-rights lawyer and journalist, is in hiding in Syria. Tunisian Mohamed Bouazizi, whose self-immolation launched the Arab Spring, was awarded the prize posthumously.

African Charter Comes into Force

On January 16, Cameroon became the fifteenth member state of the African Union to ratify the African Charter on Democracy, Elections, and Governance (ACDEG), which thus came into force on February 15.

A joint statement celebrating this development was issued by the African Democracy Forum (a regional network of organizations that focus on democracy, human rights, and governance) and Idasa (an independent democracy-promotion organization in South Africa). The statement [End Page 178] declared that "the ACDEG is a milestone for democracy in Africa . . . setting standards for democratic institutions, rule of law, political, economic and social governance," and called upon civil society groups across Africa to work to attract additional signatories of the charter.

NED's International Forum

On February 23, the Journal of Democracy held a panel discussion to celebrate the publication of its newest book, entitled Poverty, Inequality, and...


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