- News and Notes
Oswaldo Payá (1952–2012)
On July 22, Cuban democracy advocate Oswaldo Payá died in a car crash in eastern Cuba. Noting suspicious circumstances and prior threats made against Payá’s life, some suggested that the incident was no accident. Payá organized the Varela Project, which in 2002–2003 submitted more than 25,000 signatures to Cuba’s National Assembly in support of a referendum on democracy and human rights. Previously, Payá (who was arrested for his beliefs at age 17 and sent to a labor camp) founded the Christian Liberation Movement, a nonviolent movement dedicated to democratic change in Cuba. In 2002, Payá received the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, presented by the European Parliament to defenders of human rights and freedom of expression. That year, he also received the W. Averell Harriman Democracy Award from the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs. In April 2004, the Journal published an exchange of letters between Payá and Václav Havel entitled “The Czech Past and the Cuban Future.”
Power Transfer to Elected Congress in Libya
On August 8, one month after the country’s first national elections following the fall of Muammar Qadhafi, Libya held a ceremony in Tripoli to mark the handover of power from the National Transitional Council (NTC) to the democratically elected General National Congress, which will oversee the country's constitution-building process. NTC head Mustapha Abdel-Jalil delivered a speech before turning over the podium to the eldest member of the Congress, Mohamed Ali Salim. The following day, Mohamed Magarief of the National Front party, which holds three seats in the Congress, was chosen as its president, beating independent [End Page 186] Ali Zidan by a vote of 113 to 85. For results of Libya’s election, see page 178.
Defending Civil Society
In June, the International Center for Not-for-Profit Law (ICNL) and the World Movement for Democracy released the Defending Civil Society Toolkit, as well as the second edition of the Defending Civil Society Report. On August 14, the two organizations, in partnership with the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, sponsored a panel discussion entitled “Understanding and Responding to Attacks on Civil Society: The Roles of Politics and Law.” The panel featured Maina Kiai, UN special rapporteur on the rights to freedom of assembly and of association; Nilda Bullain, vice-president of operations at ICNL; and NED president Carl Gershman. Both publications are available in Arabic, English, French, Russian, and Spanish at www.defendingcivilsociety.org.
NED’s International Forum
On September 11, the Forum organized a panel discussion on the latest Journal of Democracy book Liberation Technology: Social Media and the Struggle for Democracy. Published in July by the Johns Hopkins University Press, the book was coedited by Larry Diamond and Marc F. Plattner. The panel featured comments by contributors Daniel Calingaert, Rebecca MacKinnon, Xiao Qiang, and Rafal Rohozinski.
The Forum also hosted several luncheon meetings this summer featuring Reagan-Fascell Democracy Fellows.
On June 21, Judith February, head of the Political Information and Monitoring Service at the Institute for Democracy in South Africa, gave a presentation entitled “The Toxic Mix: Money, Power, and Politics in South Africa.” Joel D. Barkan of the Center for Strategic and International Studies commented.
On June 28, Aung Moe Zaw, chairperson for Burma’s Democratic Party for a New Society and cofounder of the Forum for Democracy in Burma and the Student and Youth Congress of Burma, gave a presentation entitled “Personal Reflections on 20 Years of Democracy Assistance in Burma.” Brian Joseph of the NED offered comments.
On July 12, Mokhtar Benab-dallaoui, director of the Doctoral Center for Studies in Politics and Religion at Hassan II University in Morocco, gave a talk entitled “Democratic Transition in the Middle East: Between Authoritarianism and Islamism.” Samer Shehata of Georgetown University commented.
On July 18, Tsveta Petrova, who recently received a Ph.D. from Cornell University, delivered a presentation called “From Recipients to Donors: The New Role of East Europeans in Democracy Promotion.” Ted Piccone of the Brookings Institution provided comments. [End Page 187]