Remarks by Jonathan F. Fanton at the Conferral of the MacArthur Award for International Justice
March 20, 2008 | Speech | Human Rights

It is my pleasure to welcome you to this occasion – the conferral of the first MacArthur Award for International Justice on Kofi Annan.

As MacArthur marks its 30th anniversary, our mission is clear: to help build a more just, verdant and peaceful world by supporting creative and courageous individuals, effective institutions and fresh ideas. Advancing human rights and justice has been central to that mission.

Over the years we have funded more than 600 institutions in the field, working on the frontlines in 90 countries to expose human rights abuses, promote media rights, and strengthen the rule of law. Our country offices in Russia, Mexico and Nigeria have focused on issues like police abuse, discrimination and the rule of law. And more recently, MacArthur grants have contributed to the emerging system of international justice by supporting the new International Criminal Court, regional human rights courts and commissions in Europe, Latin America, and Africa, and special tribunals impaneled by the U.N.

We helped bring NGO representatives from the Global South to Rome to participate in the drafting process of the ICC Treaty. Later we supported the Coalition for the International Criminal Court, a group of hundreds of NGOs provided critical support for the ratification of the treaty. Then we provided funds to plan the Court and to NGO’s like Human Rights Watch and Global Rights to gather evidence crucial to the first cases. To build understanding of the Court in situation countries, we funded The Ugandan Coalition for the ICC and the Institute for War and Peace Reporting. And to help witnesses and victims participate fully in the Court’s proceedings, MacArthur supported Redress, and the Women’s Initiative for Gender Justice. Other grants have helped civil society groups bring precedent setting cases to regional courts, which are becoming more robust. There are now 100,000 cases pending before the European Court of Human Rights.

As Milosevic, Fujimori, Charles Taylor, and others fall from power in disgrace and the new ICC tries its first cases, we see the age of impunity coming to an end. A new era of accountability is just over the horizon, but to move forward, the international community needs to enforce the arrest warrants of the ICC in Northern Uganda and Sudan.

MacArthur’s interest is not only in accountability but also in prevention. We believe that public justice and appropriate sentences for those who have committed crimes against humanity will deter future perpetrators. And the standards set by the ICC and regional courts will encourage national courts to fulfill their obligations to uphold international norms and enforce accountability.

A new norm of the Responsibility to Protect commits the international community to take steps to prevent genocide and mass atrocities. MacArthur was proud to support the International Commission organized by Canada that articulated the norm in its report.

Tonight we honor Kofi Annan, and through him, all those who contribute to a world ready to make good on the pledge “never again.”

Many representatives of the organizations that work to fulfill that pledge are here tonight – we welcome you and express our admiration for your courageous and effective work.

We also welcome the ambassadors and delegates from more than 70 countries around the world who are here – your presence expresses the breadth of support for the cause of justice.

And I extend a special welcome to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, who is building his own legacy as a champion of justice.

After dinner we will confer the award and hear from the former Secretary-General, just back from a difficult mediation in Kenya that is a good example of the Responsibility to Protect in action.

And while we celebrate a man who has given his life to making our world more just, we also reflect on the challenges ahead.

Many of you attended a vigorous panel discussion this afternoon on the prospects for an effective international system of justice. Lloyd Axworthy moderated a spirited conversation that gave us a candid but ultimately hopeful assessment about the state of international justice. We thank our panelists for challenging us to do better and for their individual leadership in the pursuit of justice and conflict prevention.

We also thank the Prosecutor of the ICC, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, for his stirring closing statement, but more for his courageous and competent work in turning our dreams of a permanent court into a reality we can be proud of.

As a group, we have gathered because we are passionate about international justice but also about our first honoree. To give greetings from the Board and talk about the selection process I am pleased to introduce the Chair of the MacArthur Board, Robert Denham.

* * *

Thank you Bob. The formal part of the evening will come after dinner and will begin with a short film. For now let us enjoy each other’s company as a family of friends and colleagues.

In keeping with the theme of a family united in pursuit of a more just and peaceful world, let us pause to celebrate a milestone one of our members will reach on April 8: Kofi Annan’s 70th birthday.

To mark the occasion, we are joined by jazz musician Wynton Marsalis. He is Artistic Director of Jazz at Lincoln Center, which next month will debut his newest commission, a celebration of the 200th anniversary of The Abyssinian Baptist Church. We welcome him tonight as an accomplished musician, close friend of Kofi Annan, but also as a person deeply committed to international justice. Ladies and gentlemen, Wynton Marsalis...

* * *

Those powerful images remind us why we are here. We now come to the moment we have gathered for, the conferral of the MacArthur Award for International Justice.

May I ask Robert Denham and our Senior Trustee Drew Days to escort Kofi Annan to the platform.

We knew the first recipient of the award would set the standard for the future. Not all future recipients will be world leaders. Some will be ordinary citizens working through human rights groups, courageous judges, prosecutors or local government officials who take political risks for justice.

But we wanted a person for this inaugural award with a broad vision, a person whose life’s work embodied the values of justice and also the hope for a decent, humane, fair, peaceful world which justice makes possible.

Justice is about rights, but also about the dignity of every human life. No one has done more than you, Kofi Annan, in illuminating that connection, firing our determination to seek a better world, and crafting a tapestry of hope, a pledge that the 21st Century will see steady and unyielding progress.

Let me now read the citation:

Kofi A. Annan

Trusted world leader, eloquent diplomat, courageous champion of justice.
When first appointed Secretary-General of the United Nations, you dedicated yourself to perfecting “the triangle of development, freedom, and peace.” Your moral vision and clarion call to action reenergized the U.N. as an “indispensable instrument of human progress.”

Your exemplary tenure reminded us, in the words of Nadine Gordimer, that “great intelligence and calm insight into the political, economic, and social human condition can still exist in an office of virtually universal responsibility.”

Reaffirming human solidarity in an age of globalization, you resolutely advocated freedom from want, freedom from fear, an end to exclusion, and the inherent dignity of every member of the human family.

In pursuit of this transforming hope, you championed the cause of human rights and universal justice, supporting key principles and new institutions to enforce accountability. From the Rome Conference that envisioned a “court of last resort,” through the arduous process of ratification, and into the first prosecutions, your engagement was critical to establishing the International Criminal Court.

Your charge to the General Assembly spurred the creation of the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty, a body that articulated a new norm: the “Responsibility to Protect” those in danger of the worst atrocities.

Your mediation in intractable conflicts – Burundi, East Timor, Nepal, Sierra Leone, Kenya – opened new possibilities for peaceful resolution. With patience, persuasion, and persistence, you helped defuse violence, save lives, and reconcile nations torn apart by civil strife.

These landmarks in our collective conscience make it imaginable that, in your words, “…the innocents of distant wars and conflicts [should] know that they, too, may sleep under the cover of justice; that they, too, have rights, and that those who violate those rights will be punished.”

You continue to remind us that justice is part of the “larger freedom” that is the true inheritance of all the world’s citizens. Through the Millennium Development Goals, you called us to address the daily humiliations of poverty, lack of opportunity, and endemic disease that depress the human spirit and undermine the foundations of a truly just world order.

The MacArthur Foundation shares your commitment to a more fair, sustainable, and peaceful world. For your capacity to frame that vision, your courage in confronting humankind’s darkest instincts, and your inspiration that galvanizes our best values, the MacArthur Foundation is proud to present you with the inaugural MacArthur Award for International Justice.

* * *

Thank you, Kofi Annan for those stirring words, complex reflections, and moral challenge to seize the possibilities before us.

Through your words and deeds, the norms have been set, the architecture of prevention and protection has been crafted, examples of patient diplomacy given, our passion for justice ignited, our compassion for those at risk or in need deepened, and our determination to turn noble aspirations into reality strengthened.

You have challenged each and every one of us to do our part in ending the age of impunity and nurturing a new era of accountability.

Let us commit here and now to respond to your call.

* * *

The MacArthur Board is legendary for its deep engagement in the substance of MacArthur’s work. Our Senior Trustee and the Alfred M. Rankin Professor of Law at Yale, Drew Days, has been a steady advocate for our programs in human rights and justice. He will now close the evening with his thoughts.

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