Carl Gershman’s Remarks at the 2020 Democracy Award

Honoring Sudan’s Civil Society

Thank you Andy for your kind introduction, and thank you as well to Ambassador James for your remarks about Sudan and our awardees, which we greatly appreciate.

All of us at NED attach great importance to the this recognition of our awardees’ contribution to Sudan’s democratic transition. At a time of a global democratic recession, when even once-stable democracies in Africa and across the world are endangered, Sudan’s transition offers a ray of hope, showing that 30 years of brutal dictatorship did not crush the spirit of the Sudanese people but only strengthened their commitment to core democratic values. The remarkable breakthrough in Sudan has inspired democrats everywhere, especially those in the world’s darkest corners who are struggling for human rights and political freedom.

Though the nationwide Sudanese uprising that began December 2018 at first might have seemed hopeless, the masses of ordinary citizens who took to the streets calling for freedom, peace, and justice, especially women and youth, eventually forced the military to remove Bashir from power and agree to a three-year transition period ahead of national elections in 2022. Sudan’s transition faces immense challenges, but it provides a rare opportunity to transform one of the world’s pariah states; to seek justice for the victims of terrible human-rights violations in Darfur, the Nuba Mountains, and last year in Khartoum on June 3; to provide equal rights for women and ethnic and religious minorities; and for all Sudanese to finally enjoy peace and a better life.   Progress has been made in the last year, but there is enormous work still to be done, and we will hear about this during today’s events. 

NED’s grant-making program has been engaged in Sudan continuously since 1989, and the success of the December Revolution has only deepened our commitment to the Sudanese people. Support for the democratic transition in Sudan is one of NED’s highest priorities.  Our three awardees today are broadly representative of the young people, the women, and the marginalized groups who led the struggle for democracy. They played a vital role in bringing about Sudan’s political breakthrough, and they will be key actors in the process of democratic transition that is now beginning to unfold.  We honor them for their courage, and for their commitment to democratic values and human dignity. 

We will now see a short video message from Sudan’s Acting Foreign Minister Omer Ismail. Minister Ismail is known to many people in Washington for his earlier work as a democracy activist and an advisor to the Enough Project.  His current position in the transitional government is yet another testament to the momentous progress taking place in Sudan and a clear indication of the government’s commitment to changing how Sudan engages with the international community. It is my great pleasure to introduce His Excellency Foreign Minister Omer Ismail.

Concluding Remarks:

Our purpose today was not just to honor brave democrats for what they have done, but to inspire greater commitment to meeting the very difficult challenges that lie ahead.  May we move forward with steadfastness and solidarity. Thank you all for being with us virtually and in spirit.