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16 December 2015
UNA-NCA Hosts Inspiring Human Rights Awards Reception

How better to celebrate 70 years of the United Nations than with a sold-out Human Rights Awards Reception?

On December 10, the 67th anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Human Rights Day, UNA-NCA hosted its annual Human Rights Awards Reception in the Gold Room of the Rayburn House Office Building. The room was filled with more than 130 dedicated human rights advocates and supporters of UNA-NCA, eager to discuss recent achievements in the field and to suppport the recipients of UNA-NCA's four annual awards.
IMG_1865From Left, Ms. Patty Stonesifer, Dr. Kathleen Kuehnast, Dr. Wesley Reisser, Ambassador Mark P. Lagon (ret.)

This year’s outstanding honorees shared powerful experiences, capturing their efforts to fight for justice and advance human rights in the areas of international human rights law monitoring and enforcement, rights for women and girls, LGBTI rights, and poverty and hunger. With much work left to be done, we are inspired and hopeful because of champions like the ones honored at this year’s reception, and determined to continue to promote human rights globally and locally.

"Multilateral institutions... are not just venues to defend against parochial and pernicious ideas and claims, but to actively deepen norms, and more significantly, improve the implementation of human rights in practice."
           - Ambassador Mark P. Lagon
1015904_10154401334218662_1483672413687116254_oFrom left: Ms. Elisa Massimino, Ambassador Mark P. Lagon (ret.), Ambassador Donald T. Bliss (ret.)Ambassador Mark P. Lagon (ret.), President of Freedom House, received the 2015 UNA-NCA Louis B. Sohn Human Rights Award. Ambassador Lagon reflected on the award's namesake and Sohn's keen understanding of the necessity of an international system committed to human rights. He also stressed the role of multilateral institutions in advancing human dignity and freedoms, discussing the achievements on the part of these institutions in responding to human rights abuses, while also mentioning its challenges and shortcomings, including the Security Council's action on the refugee crisis. He charged the United Nations with serving people over states, and acting as a "vehicle to advance their rights and democratic voice in their societies... [to] better advance the peace and development aims to which it is also rightly devoted."
Read Ambassador Lagon's full remarks.

"No matter which stakeholder group we represent... we see the progress as a larger community in making the invisible visible."
           - Dr. Kathleen Kuehnast
12366403_10154401045498662_1367598951381522674_nDr. Kathleen Kuehnast and Ms. Eliza PaynellDr. Kathleen Kuehnast, Senior Gender Advisor at the United States Institute of Peace (USIP), accepted the 2015 UNA-NCA Perdita Huston Human Rights Award. Dr. Kuehnast has conducted research on the gendered impacts of violence and conflict on both men and women, particularly the impact of the post-Soviet transition on Muslim women. She began with a nod to Perdita Huston's legacy in the protection of gender rights, then discussed her own work with USIP, particularly in "reframing gender in the peace and security sectors." Dr. Kuehnast cautioned the audience against excluding men when thinking about gender, as their own narrow gender roles impact conflict zones as much as do those of women. She also shared an inspiring list of recent progress in giving voice to the voiceless, including an advocacy effort to end violence against women, a Pakistani textbook that highlights protecting women, women's participation in municipal elections in Saudi Arabia, and availability of all military roles to US women. 
Read Dr. Kuehnast's full remarks.

"Yet we continue to march toward that better world, while at the same time fighting back against the forces of regression that try to use ideas like 'traditional values' to undermine the inherent rights of individuals."
           - Dr. Wesley Reisser
IMG_1872Dr. Wes Reisser and Mr. Tex HarrisDr. Wesley Reisser, Senior Foreign Affairs Officer in the International Organization Affairs Bureau's Office of Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs at the US Department of State, was presented with the 2015 UNA-NCA F. Allen "Tex" Harris Human Rights Diplomacy Award. Dr. Reisser thanked Mr. Harris for his work and commitment to service of human rights in such places as apartheid South Africa and military Argentina, pledging to follow his example. Although Dr. Reisser recognized that reality continues to fall short of the ideal described in the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, which guarantees equality to all individuals, he was encouraged by the progess that we continue to make in that direction. 
Read Dr. Reisser's full remarks.

"We believe that strong children and strong families are the foundation of strong communities."
           - Ms. Patty Stonesifer
10269193_10154401044363662_703040155527995792_oMs. Patty StonesiferMartha's Table was awarded the 2015 UNA-NCA Distinguished Community Human Rights Award, which President and CEO Patty Stonesifer accepted on behalf of the organization. Martha's Table serves the human rights of individuals in the DC area providing access to healthy food and quality early education. By helping children and their families develop healthy food practices and engaging learning processes, the staff members at Martha's Table strengthen the community and prove their commitment to human rights.
Read more about Martha's Table.

You can view a photo album from the event here. Additional information about the event, bios, and articles from each of our awardees, can be found in the Program Book. If you are interested in learning more about our awardees, we encourage you to check out the Spotlight! series on the UNA-NCA blog.


We are very grateful to our sponsors, honorary chairs, LiteSource Photography, and Representative Donald S. Beyer, Jr. who provided the space for the reception.

This is an annual event - we hope you will join us next year!