December 20, 2023
On December 6th, 2023, UNA-NCA hosted our annual Human Rights Awards Ceremony at the National Education Association. This year’s celebration was special as it marked the 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. We were incredibly delighted to present awards to four outstanding individuals and one organization who are working to improve human rights in their communities and around the world.

This year’s honorees were: Senator Ben Cardin, recipient of the Louis B. Sohn Human Rights Award; Stephanie Ortoleva, recipient of the Perdita Huston Human Rights Award; Allison Lombardo, recipient of the F. Allen “Tex” Harris Human Rights Diplomacy Award; Amanda Strayer, recipient of the Emerging Human Rights Leader Award; and the Georgetown Law Juvenile Justice Clinic & Initiative, recipients of the Community Human Rights Award.

As recipients and attendees gathered, our event began with a slideshow recognizing our honorees, thanking our sponsors, and highlighting our UNA-NCA Human Rights Committee. A video was presented to emphasize the significance of the 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The video urged viewers to identify the rights that personally resonate with them, take ownership of those rights, and actively advocate for them. UNA-NCA’s Chair of the Board of Directors Jill Christianson then took the stage to kick off the night, welcome attendees, and speak to how important our Human Rights Awards are for recognizing the important work being done in spaces to uphold and advocate for the human rights of all. This was followed by UNA-NCA’s President Paula Boland who introduced a video message from UN Secretary General António Guterres who spoke on the Universal Declaration and its importance today as a tool to “help resolve tensions and create the security and stability our world craves.”

It was then time for the presentation of our awards. First, Ambassador Mark Lagon, Chief Policy Officer at the Friends of the Global Fight Against AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria introduced the Louis B. Sohn Human Rights Award to Senator Ben Cardin. Senator Cardin is a senior United States’ Senator from Maryland who is currently serving as the Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. In his work as Chair, Senator Cardin has worked to ensure that good governance, transparency, and respect for human rights are integral to the United States’ foreign policy. In his address, Senator Cardin delved into the current challenges facing our world, underscoring the importance of accountability in safeguarding human rights universally. He emphasized the necessity for collaborative efforts to drive meaningful change and foster a commitment to upholding the rights of all.

The second award of the evening, the Perdita Huston Human Rights Award was presented by Karen Mulhauser, founder of Mulhauser and Associates and Past President of UNA-NCA. This award was presented to Stephanie Ortoleva, Founder and Board Member Emeritus at Women Enabled International. Throughout her career, Ortoleva has championed human rights as a lawyer and prominent feminist leader, scholar, and activist, and Ortoleva's speech highlighted the crucial need to prioritize inclusion within spaces dedicated to human rights work.

The next award presented was the F. Allen “Tex” Harris Human Rights Award. This award was presented by Christopher Le Mon, Deputy Assistant Secretary at the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Right, and Labor and awarded to Allison Lombardo, Deputy Assistant Secretary at U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of International Organizational Affairs. In her career, Lombardo has championed human rights and humanitarian affairs, previously working in the State Department’s Office of the Special Envoy for Sudan, representing the United States at peace talks between Sudan and South Sudan, and serving as a Senior Advisor to the USAID Administrator. Lombardo shared insightful personal anecdotes from her career, shedding light on the challenges inherent in human rights work. She discussed the difficulties faced but also highlighted the fulfillment that accompanies work focused on creating impactful change.

The Emerging Human Rights Leader Award was presented next by Scott Busby, Distinguished Fellow in the Human Rights Institute at Georgetown Law. He introduced recipient Amanda Strayer, Supervising Staff Attorney for Accountability at Human Rights First. In her career so far, Strayer has championed human rights by taking on those who commit human rights abuses and championing the rights of marginalized persons around the world. Strayer spoke on the importance of the Magnitsky Act and taking on human rights abusers globally to create a more just world.

Our final award of the night, the Community Human Rights Award, was presented by Executive Director of the Gault Center Mary Ann Scali who introduced the Georgetown Law Juvenile Justice Clinic & Initiative. This award was received by Kristin Henning, professor of law at Georgetown University and director of the Clinic & Initiative. The Georgetown Law Juvenile Justice Clinic & Initiative advances the rights of youth by working to ensure children are protected from maltreatment and focusing on racial justice to fight for a more just juvenile legal system in the District of Columbia, the mid-Atlantic region, and across the United States. In her speech, Henning highlighted how difficult the work is but how “energy, inspiration, resilience, and fire” can be drawn from their clients, students, fellows, and young lawyers.

Co-Chair of UNA-NCA’s Human Rights Committee, Kate Lovas, delivered the evening’s closing remarks highlighting the inspiration of the honorees and the importance of championing work in human rights. We want to thank all of our sponsors, our Human Rights Committee, and our staff for making this evening special. We congratulate all of our wonderful honorees and celebrate 75 years of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

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