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February 12 PDAA Program Explores Democracy and Human Rights as Policy Priorities

Women in hijabs

(Vlad Tchompalov, Unsplash)

(Updated 14 February 2018) Throughout U.S. history, and particularly during the past century, democracy and human rights have waxed and waned in their importance to U.S. foreign policy: the Marshall Plan after World War II sought to promote economic recovery in a devastated Europe, but also good governance and democratic states.  Likewise, post-World War II recovery efforts in Japan helped transform Japan into a strong, democratic ally of the U.S.  The U.S. used sanctions and public diplomacy to oppose the human rights abuses and authoritarian, undemocratic practices of the USSR, but succeeded for only a relatively brief time before Vladimir Putin re-imposed an authoritarian government in Russia.

As we begin 2018, these issues are more critical than ever in our debates about the future of U.S. foreign policy.  To help us understand the issues involved and provide ideas for how the U.S. can be more successful in incorporating democracy and human rights in our foreign policy, PDAA asked two experts to discuss the topic from different perspectives at our luncheon program on Monday, February 12, 2018 at 12 noon, at DACOR-Bacon House in Washington, D.C.

The State Department’s annual Human Rights’ reports, mandated by Congress beginning in the 1970’s, are intended to highlight abusive human rights practices and policies, but sometimes antagonize U.S. allies or friends as well as less friendly nations.  USAID development programs seek to promote good governance and democracy, while many public diplomacy programs highlight U.S. democracy and human rights.  Frequently, however, efforts to pressure or punish governments for human rights abuses have been sacrificed for national security or other concerns.

Should promoting human rights and democracy be an important part of U.S. foreign policy?  Can the efforts of the U.S. (and other countries) to promote democracy and human rights in other countries  succeed, or can democracy develop and thrive only if promoted from within a country?   Do democratic states, in turn, contribute to a more secure and stable world, or can democratic transitions lead to instability or even chaos?

Frank Vogl

Frank Vogl at PDAA lunch program, 12 February 2018. (A. Kotok)

Our speakers on February 12 include Frank Vogl  remarks now online — former senior World Bank official and international reporter for The Times of London, the co-founder of two leading international non-governmental organizations fighting corruption—Transparency International and The Partnership for Transparency Fund.    He has served as Transparency International’s Vice Chairman and is now a member of its Advisory Council; he also serves as the President’s Counsellor at The Partnership for Transparency Fund.  He is President of Vogl Communications, Inc., Washington, D.C., an international economics and finance consulting firm, and a professor at Georgetown University, where he teaches a graduate course on Corruption, Security, and Conflict Resolution.  He is the author of numerous books and articles, writes a regular “blog” on corruption for, and lectures extensively on global ethics and corruption.   He earned his B.A. from the University of Leeds in the United Kingdom.

Robert Berschinski

Robert Berschinski at PDAA lunch program, 12 February 2018 (A. Kotok)

Also joining us is Robert Berschinski  — remarks now online — Senior Vice President of Human Rights First, where he oversees the organization’s work advancing a U.S. foreign policy rooted in a strong commitment to human rights, universal values, and American ideals.  Before joining Human Rights First, Mr. Berschinski served in the Obama Administration as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, with responsibility for establishing and implementing U.S. policies on fundamental freedoms and democratic governance in 65 countries across Europe, Russia, Central Asia, and South Asia.   He also served under Ambassador Samantha Power as Deputy Director of the U.S. Mission to the United Nations’ office in Washington, D.C., and spent three years as Director for Security and Human Rights Policy at the National Security Council.  He began his career as an intelligence officer in the U.S. Air Force and is an Iraq War veteran.  He earned a B.A. and an M.A. from Yale University.  He recently testified before the U.S. Helsinski Commission on the Anti-Corruption Provisions of the Global Magnitsky Act.

The program began with a discussion of the issues involved, including the efficacy of promoting democracy and human rights as part of U.S. foreign policy and why these efforts have so often fallen short.  It will then explore strategies for promoting democracy and human rights more successfully—including the use of sanctions, civil society programs, development programs, and public diplomacy.  We will have ample time for questions and comments from members of the audience.

This PDAA program took place Monday, February 12, 2018 at the DACOR-Bacon House, 1801 F St NW, Washington, DC.

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