Presentation of the Annual Report:
Katrina Lantos Swett
Chair, U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom
Ambassador Princeton Lyman
Adjunct Senior Fellow, Council on Foreign Relations
Board of Directors, National Endowment for Democracy
VP for Asia, Middle East and Global Programs, National Endowment for Democracy
Senior Program Officer for Asia, National Endowment for Democracy
President, National Endowment for Democracy
On May 8, 2013, the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) co-sponsored the presentation of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom’s (USCIRF) 2013 Annual Report. USCIRF is an independent and bi-partisan U.S. government advisory body that monitors religious freedom worldwide.
USCIRF Chair Katrina Lantos Swett , presented the findings of the report. A discussion on religious freedom and democracy followed featuring panelists Ambassador Princeton N. Lyman, adjunct senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations (and NED Board Member); Louisa Greve, NED Vice President for Asia, Middle East & North Africa, and Global Programs; and John Knaus, NED senior program officer for Asia. The event was moderated by NED President Carl Gershman.
“Standing up for religious freedom globally is not simply a moral imperative,” Dr. Lantos Swett said, “it is not just the right thing to do but it is inextricably linked with advancing stability, peace, democracy and opportunity for people of all faiths, genders and persuasions globally.
The 2013 Annual Report recommended that the Secretary of State re-designate the following eight nations as “countries of particular concern” or CPCs: Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Uzbekistan. The report also found that seven other countries meet the CPC threshold and should also be designated: Egypt, Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Vietnam.
“When it comes to violent religious extremism, it is clear that religious freedom abuses not only offend human rights, but pose a grave threat to the security and stability of countries,” Dr. Lantos Swett said. “The U.S. government must prioritize religious freedom not just as a core human right, but as a global security imperative and vital to a counter-extremism strategy.”
“The issues of diversity are still the major political issues in Sudan, whether racial, geographic or religious,” said Lyman, former US Special Envoy to Sudan and South Sudan. “Can this government move to being a more inclusive and tolerant system? It is going to be a major challenge.”
Greve emphasized the theme of “control, repression, and punishment” for all religions in China, as well as severe treatment for those who try to resist policy.
In Burma, recent reforms made by the government are only “the initial steps in a long process of change,” Knaus said. The largest challenges to democracy in Burma will be religious and ethnic reconciliation, he added.
All of the panelists expressed their appreciation for USCIRF’s 2013 Annual Report and, although cautious, were optimistic about the future for international religious freedom.
“If we as a country reaffirm our commitment to religious freedom by making it a permanent and integral part of our foreign policy, it can be a game changer both for us and for the world,” Dr. Lantos Swett said.
About the Event
The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), an independent federal advisory body created by the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA) to monitor religious freedom abuses abroad, has released its 2013 Annual Report. The Report highlights the status of religious freedom globally and identifies those governments that are the most egregious violators.
“The state of international religious freedom is increasingly dire due to the presence of forces that fuel instability,” said USCIRF Chair Katrina Lantos Swett. “These forces include the rise of violent religious extremism coupled with the actions and inactions of governments.”
The National Endowment for Democracy (NED), through its support to hundreds of grassroots organizations around the world that are working to secure and protect basic rights and freedoms, is keenly aware of the challenges faced by minority populations and religious groups around the world.
We welcome the opportunity to join with USCIRF to highlight the cause of religious freedom and hope you will join us for a presentation of the report findings by Dr. Lantos Swett, followed by a discussion featuring regional experts from the NED Board of Directors and staff.
About the Speakers
Dr. Katrina Lantos Swett is the Chair of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, which uses international standards to monitor religious freedom conditions abroad and recommend policies that will enhance freedom where it is imperiled. She also established the Lantos Foundation for Human Rights and Justice in 2008 and serves as its President and Chief Executive Officer. In addition to managing the Lantos Foundation, Dr. Lantos Swett teaches human rights and American foreign policy at Tufts University.
Ambassador Princeton N. Lyman is an adjunct senior fellow for Africa policy studies at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) and an adjunct professor at Georgetown University. Ambassador Lyman’s career in government included assignments as deputy assistant secretary of state for Africa, U.S. ambassador to Nigeria, and U.S. Special Envoy for Sudan and South Sudan. He also served as the executive director of the Global Interdependence Initiative at the Aspen Institute.
Louisa Greve is Vice President for Asia, Middle East & North Africa, and Global Programs at the National Endowment for Democracy. She has studied, worked, and travelled in Asia since 1980 and has testified before Congressional committees on human rights in China and democracy promotion in Asia. Ms. Greve also served as a member of the Board of Directors of Amnesty International USA from 1993 to 1998.
John Knaus is the Senior Program Officer for Asia focusing on mainland Southeast Asia and North Korea since 1997. Mr. Knaus travels throughout Asia to assist and evaluate current NED grantees, consult with regional experts, and develop future programs. Prior to joining the Endowment, Mr. Knaus worked with Tibetan refugees in northern India. His writings on Asia have appeared in the Korea Times, the Nation (Bangkok) and the Journal of Democracy.
Carl Gershman is President of the National Endowment for Democracy. In addition to presiding over the Endowment’s grants program in Africa, Asia, the Middle East, Eastern Europe, the former Soviet Union and Latin America, he has overseen the creation of the quarterly Journal of Democracy, International Forum for Democratic Studies, and the Reagan-Fascell Democracy Fellows Program. Previously, Mr. Gershman was Senior Counselor to the United States Representative to the United Nations. He was also a Resident Scholar at Freedom House and Executive Director of Social Democrats, USA.