Press release

The Mark Palmer Prize: Awarded to OAS Secretary General and former Canadian Envoy to Afghanistan

 The 2016 Mark Palmer Prize has been awarded to the Organization of American States Secretary General Luis Almagro, and Ambassador Deborah Lyons, former Canadian ambassador to Afghanistan.


In response to Freedom House awarding the 2016 Mark Palmer Prize to Organization of American States Secretary General Luis Almagro and Ambassador Deborah Lyons, former Canadian ambassador to Afghanistan, Freedom House issued the following statement:

“Luis Almagro and Deborah Lyons exemplify the late Mark Palmer's passionate commitment to advancing freedom by their courage in defending democracy, protecting human rights, and supporting civil society in difficult environments,” said Robert Herman, vice president for international programs. “Secretary General Almagro’s condemnation of repressive measures by the Venezuelan government sparked dialogue within the OAS and among neighboring South American states. His call to invoke the Inter-American Democratic Charter underscores his conviction that leaders who fail to abide by the Charter’s provisions should be held to account.”

“During her posting in Kabul, Ambassador Lyons demonstrated valor under dangerous circumstances in assisting civil society and supporting democratic rule,” Herman said. “She skillfully made women’s empowerment and gender equality key priorities in a country that offers few opportunities for women to make their voices heard in the policymaking process.”


The Mark Palmer Prize was established by the Community of Democracies to honor diplomats and international civil servants who have acted outside of their regular duties to advance democracy and human rights and engage civil society in ongoing dialogue. The award is given in honor of the late Mark Palmer, who as U.S. Ambassador to Hungary in 1989 lent his unequivocal support to the demand of civil society and the democratic opposition for an end to authoritarian rule. Ambassador Palmer later devoted himself to supporting and promoting democratic transitions around the world.

The Mark Palmer Prize has been awarded to 13 individuals since 2011. Now administered by Freedom House, it will be awarded to Secretary General Almagro and Ambassador Deborah Lyons on September 22, 2016 in New York, at the meeting of the Governing Council of the Community of Democracies.