Press release

Freedom House Awards Canadian Diplomat Chrystia Freeland the 2019–20 Mark Palmer Prize

Freeland’s enduring defense of human rights sets a remarkable example for leaders around the world.

Freedom House today awarded the 2019–20 Mark Palmer Prize to Canadian deputy prime minister Chrystia Freeland for her tireless work championing democracy through advocacy, journalism, and policymaking.

The Mark Palmer Prize, given in honor of the late US ambassador and foreign policy innovator Mark Palmer, recognizes diplomats and civil servants who have gone beyond their normal course of duties to promote democracy and human rights.

“Mark Palmer was a brilliant diplomat and a relentless, effective, and lifelong advocate for democracy and human rights,” Deputy Prime Minister Freeland said. “I am deeply honored and humbled to accept this award, which I think reaffirms our collective obligation to uphold human rights everywhere and always; and to work hard every day to build a world that is more democratic, more just, and more free.”

Freeland has resolutely condemned authoritarianism and human rights violations, including the Chinese authorities’ violent response to protests in Hong Kong, the persecution of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar, and the abuses of the antidemocratic Maduro regime in Venezuela. In addition, she has personally advocated for the release of sibling activists Raif and Samar Badawi in Saudi Arabia.

“Freeland exemplifies Mark Palmer’s passionate commitment to advancing freedom through her outspokenness against dictatorial regimes, and in support of human rights defenders and activists worldwide,” said Michael J. Abramowitz, president of Freedom House.

“Just as my husband Mark was active on the front lines of supporting democratic transitions, Freeland has time and time again used her position to elevate the causes of people fighting for freedom,” said Sushma Palmer, founder of the Mark Palmer Prize. “Freeland’s courage and integrity are undeniable. She has been targeted with sanctions by Russia and personally rebuked by China, yet remains undeterred in her commitment to human rights.”

Freeland also demonstrated her support for protesters leading up to the 2014 Ukrainian revolution in her position as a member of the Canadian Parliament. Under her leadership as minister of foreign affairs, Canada in 2019 launched updated guidelines for supporting human rights defenders.

Freedom House applauds Freeland’s 2019 appointment as Canadian deputy prime minister as a positive sign for North America’s commitment to human rights.

“We know that Chrystia Freeland will continue to provide excellent leadership in advancing democracy and standing up for those who are persecuted,” Abramowitz said.

About the Palmer Prize:

The Mark Palmer Prize is administered by Freedom House, in partnership with the Community of Democracies. It was established in 2011 to honor diplomats and civil servants whose work has advanced democracy and human rights. The award was inspired by the late US Ambassador to Hungary Mark Palmer, who devoted his life to supporting democratic transitions in Hungary and in closed societies globally. Among his many achievements were persuading the US Congress to enact prodemocracy legislation and multiple US administrations to advance and implement new democracy policies, working directly with authoritarian leaders to facilitate peaceful political transitions, and cofounding NOVA, the media enterprise that spurred the creation of independent television stations across Eastern Europe.

The Mark Palmer Prize is meant to honor individuals working tirelessly to defend democracy, human rights, and civil society, and has been awarded to individuals from all over the world.

Past recipients include:

2017 – Ambassador Maria Leissner (secretary general of Community of Democracies; Swedish ambassador-at-large for democracy)

2016 – Secretary General Luis Almagro (Organization of American States)

2016 – Ambassador Deborah Lyons (Canadian ambassador to Afghanistan)

2015 – Ambassador Petras Vaitiekūnas (Lithuanian minister of foreign affairs)

2015 – Ambassador Charlotta Sparre (Swedish ambassador to Jordan)

2015 – Ambassador Stephen Robert Ford (US ambassador to Syria)

2013 – Ambassador Stefan Eriksson (Swedish ambassador to Belarus)

2013 – Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens (US ambassador to Libya; awarded posthumously)

2013 – Ambassador Suren Badral (Mongolian ambassador-at-large; coordinator for the Mongolian presidency of the Community of Democracies)

2011 – Mariusz Handzlik (Polish diplomat; awarded posthumously)

2011 – Caecilia Wijgers (Dutch deputy ambassador to Cuba)

2011 – Ben Rowswell (founder of Canadian foreign ministry’s Democracy Unit)

2011 – Ambassador James McGee (US ambassador to Zimbabwe)

2011 – Ambassador Ajai Malhotra (deputy permanent representative of India to the United Nations)

2011 – Ambassador Ernesto Pinto-Bazurco Rittler (chargé d’affaires of the Peruvian Embassy in Havana)

2011 – Ambassador Jaroslav Olša Jr. (Czech ambassador to Zimbabwe)