Press release May 8, 2023
Freedom House Awards 2023 Mark Palmer Prize to US Ambassador Michael McCarthy
A longtime diplomat, Ambassador McCarthy has dedicated his career to defending human rights and advancing democracy around the world.
WASHINGTON—Freedom House today awarded the 2023 Mark Palmer Prize to US ambassador to Liberia Michael McCarthy for his commitment and leadership in transforming state institutions and promoting democratic values and principles. The award will be officially presented May 9 at Freedom House's annual awards dinner.
“We are thrilled to honor Ambassador McCarthy with the Mark Palmer Prize,” said Michael J. Abramowitz, president of Freedom House. “His dedication to promoting democracy and human rights and addressing corruption in Liberia and beyond is critically important to advancing a more just and equitable world. Democracy and human rights will not advance without such vigorous support from individual diplomats.”
The Mark Palmer Prize, given in honor of the late US ambassador, Freedom House trustee, and foreign policy innovator Mark Palmer, recognizes diplomats and civil servants who have taken bold and creative steps, long demonstrated a commitment to the advancement of democracy and freedom, and gone beyond their normal course of duties to promote democracy and human rights.
“I am honored to accept this prestigious award, noting how impactfully Ambassador Palmer’s legacy has advanced diplomacy, democracy, and human rights for countless communities around the world,” said Ambassador McCarthy. “I believe rampant corruption is both an abuse of human rights and a threat to democracy. Fighting corruption is a foreign policy priority shared across the aisle and between our three branches of government. I am honored to accept this prestigious award, but I do so on behalf of the vast majority of Liberians who hold out for a future in which the scourge of corruption is defeated.”
Ambassador McCarthy has distinguished himself through his dedication to promoting a peaceful dialogue among diverse stakeholders in Liberia to advance a unified development agenda for the country after years of civil conflict. His team put the full force of the U.S. Government behind a coalition of domestic and international groups—holding frequent meetings with the National Elections Commission, civil society organizations, the Press Union of Liberia, religious and traditional leaders, opposition parties, and the current government—that helped to ensure the security and legitimacy of Liberia’s 2021 bi-elections.
Further, Ambassador McCarthy has consistently called out high-profile Liberian businesses and elites over corrupt practices, abuse of public trust, and human rights abuses, and has helped ensure the imposition of Global Magnitsky sanctions on corrupt leaders. He also called for the terms of Liberia’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) report to be adhered to, specifically the establishment of a war and economic crimes court for Liberia, and organized US ambassador for war crimes Beth van Schaak’s visit to the country.
“Through his continuous support and engagement with civil society, media, and traditional and religious communities, Ambassador McCarthy has helped enhance civic engagement in Liberia and provided a platform for key stakeholders to debate and address issues that directly affect them,” said Sushma Palmer, Freedom House trustee and chair of the Mark Palmer Prize Committee, “We are proud to award Ambassador McCarthy with this year’s Mark Palmer prize.”
Ambassador McCarthy has served as the US Ambassador to Liberia since January 2021. His earlier assignments include service as the Management Officer at the US Consulate General in Frankfurt, Germany; the US Embassy in New Delhi, India; and the US Embassy in Asmara, Eritrea. Previously, he served as Consul General of the US Consulate General in Johannesburg, South Africa. He has also served as the Director of the Office of Retirement in the Bureau of Human Resources in the State Department and as the Deputy Chief of Mission for the US Embassy in Juba, South Sudan.
The Mark Palmer Prize is made possible through the generosity of the Mark and Sushma Palmer Legacy Fund, established by Sushma Palmer in loving memory of her late husband Ambassador Mark Palmer.
Freedom House is now soliciting nominations for the 2024 Mark Palmer Prize. Nominations must be submitted via the nomination webpage here by October 1, 2023.
Freedom House is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that works to create a world where all are free. We inform the world about threats to freedom, mobilize global action, and support democracy’s defenders.