Home :: News & Events :: News :: 2019 Human Rights Awards Event Coverage
12 December 2019
2019 Human Rights Awards Event Coverage

By Abby Bowman, UNA-NCA Program Assistant; and Andrew Doll, Managing Director of Programs and Membership

Nominations are open now until May 8th for the 2020 Human Rights Awards.  You can learn more and submit your nominations here.

On the evening of Tuesday, December 10th, 2019, the United Nations Association of the National Capital Area (UNA-NCA) hosted our annual 2019 Human Rights Awards, an event put forth annually to commemorate the anniversary of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In honor of the 71st anniversary of the adoption of this milestone document, UNA-NCA recognized individuals and organizations working to improve human rights in the DC community and around the world. This year’s honorees were The Honorable Michelle Bachelet, IMG_9327Professor Katherine Marshall, Ambassador Suzan Johnson Cook, The Honorable Vivian Lowery Derryck, and World Central Kitchen. In addition to the recipients, the event featured notable speakers and presenters, including DC Mayor Muriel Bowser; Jill Christianson of the National Education Association; UNA-NCA President Stephen F. Moseley; Deputy-Director at the UN Information Centre, Stefania Piffanelli; Director of the UN Population Fund, Sarah Craven; F. Allen “Tex” Harris, Former President of the American Foreign Service Association; George A. Jones, CEO of Bread for the City; and with special messages delivered from UN Secretary-General António Guterres, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet, and Chef José Andrés. 

The event was held at the National Education Association (NEA), and a reception was held upstairs in NEA’s beautifully-decorated atrium, where awardees, guests, and presenters mingled and shared hors d'oeuvres and drinks before heading downstairs for the ceremony to begin. 

UNA-NCA President, Steve Moseley, kicked off the main portion of the event by offering a few words regarding UNA-NCA, and Human Rights Day.  “We're also concerned with the well-being of people here in our community,” said Moseley. “So we're very concerned in our work and in our human rights awards every year to be recognizing those who cross those borders, some of whom cross the borders within our national capital area and some of whom are crossing the globe relative to many countries.”  Stressing the importance of hope in human rights, Moseley continued to underscore the importance of youth in the future saying, “young people are in many ways outnumbering us by an enormous number and they're on the streets and they're making a difference and they're bringing their older peers into the room

Jill_RemarksHe then introduced Jill Christianson, Senior Professional in International Relations at the National Education Association.  As a global advocate for human rights Christianson emphasized that “It's only with our concerted efforts that we can build and maintain a culture of human rights in the United States and beyond.”  Acknowledging these are difficult times, Christianson remarked that “We certainly know the United States has a very mixed record on treaties and ratifying them. Whether it is the many treaties of the International Labor Organization or CEDAW on Women, CRC on Children or COPD on persons with disabilities, we have a long way to go.  But that's where I'm heartened that together we have potential and persistence here.

 In presenting the Inaugural Global Human Rights Leadership Award to UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet, guests heard a message from the High Commissioner on the occasion of the Human Rights Awards and Human Rights Day.  Bachelet’s call to action told guests that “We need to mobilize across the world – peacefully and powerfully – to advance a world of rights, dignity and choice for everyone.”

The second award of the evening was presented to Professor Katherine Marshall, Executive Director of the World Faiths Development Dialogue, by Sarah Craven, Director of the UNFPA’s Washington Office who said of the awardee, “Katherine is the quintessential learning book, documentary vocalist and musician of her space.”

Upon receiving the Louis B. Sohn Human Rights Award, Professor Marshall, informed the audience of her personal fundamentals.  “My own anchor has indeed always been what I understand 
Marshall_Awardas social justice, working to change the deep unfairness of poverty and inequality.”  Not originally having a focus in religion, she developed this focus while working at the World Bank, where
human rights was not frequently discussed during her early years there.  One of her drives while with the World Bank was to bring human rights more into the conversation.  Remarking on the importance of the history and universality of human rights, and their use in the development conversation, Marshall commented that, “the right to freedom, to practice a religion and to hold one's belief and conscience is and should be a unifying and tightly integrated theme. This harks back to the Four Freedoms set out by Franklin Roosevelt that echoes so profoundly today. Freedom from want and fear. Freedom to speak and to worship. Understandings of what religious freedom truly means and how it can and should be applied. Have long brought people together.”

UNA-NCA was excited to have F. Allen “Tex” Harris present his namesake award along with a tribute to the U.S. Foreign Service this year.  His tribute underlined an often forgotten fact about the Foreign Service, “let me be clear on who Foreign Service Officials are and how we serve this country. We are professionals, public servants who by vocation and training pursue the policies of the president, regardless of who holds that office or what party they affiliate with.”  These are attributes he respected ab out this year’s awardee, Ambassafor Suzan Johnson Cook, former Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom.  “Ambassador Suzanne Johnson Cook, who was a representative during the Obama administration in representing all around the globe, the key AmericanCook_Award value of freedom of religion. This is a value which we stand by from the earliest days of the settlement of this country and a value which makes us proud and makes us Americans to recognize all religions and support them, not only in the United States, but around the world. A core value of human rights.”

Upon receiving the award, Ambassador Johnson Cook, reflected upon her time of service and how she got there, saying, “during the times of the hearings and in the time of service and now post-service. I've met some of the most tremendous an awesome men and women. Many of you who are in the room, many of you who we've sat together, work together, walk together and hopefully won together. But all of you give up your lives and give of your service so often. So I also want to thank you for your service.

One of the highlights of the evening was the presentation of the Perdita Huston Human Rights Award to Vivian Lowery Derryck, Founder Bowserand President Emerita of the Bridges Institute and member of UNA-NCA’s Advisory Council by the Honorable Muriel Bowser, Mayor of the District of Columbia.  The Mayor highlighted one of UNA-NCA’s major issues this year has been advocating for the right to representation for the people of the District of Columbia.  “I want to extend my thanks to the United Nations Association of The National Capital Area and all of your members for the advocacy that you provide around the world this year. I especially want to thank you for continuing to raise awareness about DC’s lack of statehood and for making this a human rights issue.”  Mayor Bowser and Derryck have a long relationship, and share their alma mater as Chatham College, from where they both, “share in a manner that focused on delivered by flipping women as leaders and charging us with going throughout the world to make it more sustainable, more sustainable, better, fairer and more equal for all of us.”

Closing by lauding Derryck’s accomplishment’s saying “To say that Vivian makes Washington, D.C. proud is indeed an understatement. She makes women and girls, men and boys and all of us around the world proud.”

The Honorable Vivian Lowery Derryck, thanked the mayor saying, “You are a symbol of women's competence to govern.”  Highlighting values shared by both the Mayor and herself, as well as UNA-NCA, Derryck reminded us all that, “Quality education for girls and women is one of the fundamental human rights that animates my work to this day. It's the right that I seek for every young girl.  We have the ability to make this a national and international movement. We can seize the moment if traditional and religious leaders, women and youth get together with men's Vivian_Awardassociation in the private sector to work with the U.N. women and collectively mount a campaign to end this scourge”

The final award of the evening was presented to World Central Kitchen by George A. Jones, CEO of Bread for the City, the 2017 recipient of the Community Human Rights Award.  Demonstrating the shared values between World Central Kitchen and Bread for the City, Jones said that, “Not only is hunger sort of fundamental to our work, but it really is a kind of entree for any community member to sort of understand that there is support and resources in the community.  It's just amazing that this organization has marshaled the will, the commitment to food security to make itself present all across the globe.”

In his remarks on accepting the award on World Central Kitchen’s behalf, Executive Director Nate Mook indicated that global-local connection of all our work, “As you've seen, our work really takes us around the world. But we are based here. Our roots come from this region and we could not have served 12 million meals to date without the support of all of you and everybody here in this area.”

NateSharing the values of World Central Kitchen’s founder, Chef Jose Andres, and the central importance of food beyond sustenance saying, “Food isn't just what you eat and putting in your body to go.  Food is our health.  Food is education.  Food also touches the environment. You know, if you are cutting down the trees to cook the food. You get the erosion in the soil that destroys the marine ecosystems, you can't grow food anymore. Food touches everything.”

The evening was closed by UNA-NCA Executive Director, Paula Boland, who thanked everyone for celebrating Human Rights Day with us and for all their support during the year.  Though a celebration, this was not a time to relax.   Following UN Secretary-General António Gutteres’ call to action for youth in honor of the UN’s 75th anniversary, Boland reminded the audience that “More than ever, we must protect and empower youth who are standing up for human rights around the world and at home. Building peace, advocating for climate action and bringing education to all. Now, more than ever, we must hold leaders and institutions accountable.”

In closing, Boland gave the audience a charge: "Yes, we need dreams. We cannot live without dreams. But this is the time to wake up and take action. This is the moment in history when we need to be wide awake and fight for human rights for all."

We want to thank all of our sponsors who made this evening possible!  Your support made it possible for all of us to #StandUp4HumanRights Together!