Acceptance Speech by Foreign Minister Jiri Diensthier for Václav Havel


Acceptance Speech by Foreign Minister Jiri Diensthier for Václav Havel


Democracy--Europe, Eastern
Human Rights and Democracy Awards


Jiri Diensthier



National Endowment for Democracy




Václav Havel


(1 p.) : PDF file






Acceptance Speech by Foreign Minister Jiri Diensthier for Vaclav Havel

It is my pleasant task to have the honor of receiving, on behalf of Mr. Vaclav Havel, the President of the Czech and Slovak Federal Republic, your 1991 Democracy Award. Both the pleasure and the honor are even greater since you have decided that my President should share this award with Madame Violeta Chamorro, the President of Nicaragua.

The National Endowment for Democracy has for several years been engaged in efforts to assist democratic movements and strengthen democratic institutions around the world. In so doing it represents the broad and profound commitment to democracy common to all people of the United States, a commitment deeply rooted in the history and tradition of this country.

I do not think I need to stress to this audience that promoting democracy is hard and never ending work that requires the full engagement of committed peoples the world over. I would like to express my belief that in choosing this year's recipients of its Democracy Award, the Endowment has made a positive symbolic act. In choosing the bearers of the highest offices in two countries that have only recently emerged in the family of democratic nations, the Endowment has reminded people in democratic movements around the world who are struggling for what the free world considers to be essential and inalienable human rights that their efforts are not in vain, that no situation is hopeless. and that no defeat is so definite that it cannot be turned into victory. Who would have believed a few years ago that Nicaragua would soon have a democratically-elected administration. that the debilitating civil war, costly in terms of human life, would be over, and representatives of the righting sides would be working in a common effort for the reconstruction of the country. Not even many within the small group of Charter 77 would have thought that the fall of 1989 would mean the fall of communism in Eastern Europe or that in the spring of 1991 I would be accepting the Democracy Award on behalf of Vaclav Havel, the playwright President. Indeed it must have taken a true master of the absurd to create such a drama in the realm of the real world.

This award is recognition of the efforts our people have made. It's also an obligation that puts great responsibility upon our shoulders. It simply takes much longer than the year and a half that has passed since our revolution to create a true democratic revolution in the minds of people who have had no practical experience with democracy for some half a century. However, in the process of gradually ridding our society of the heritage of 50 years of totalitarian rule, we have already taken some first steps. In preparing the framework for democratic reforms, we have formulated a constitution with a list of basic rights and freedoms - indeed the first of its kind in the history of our country, passed by our parliament early this year. Internationally we have found new friends within the community of democratic nations and are positively and actively re-evaluating our relations with former allies and neighbors. We are in the process of preparing bilateral treaties with our neighbors and are gradually dismantling the organizations of the Warsaw Pact. In the Eastern and Central Europe security venue we are trying to satisfy our needs by putting our eggs into as many baskets as possible. Good working relations with the North Atlantic Alliance and its member states, further development of the CSCE process, our association with the institutions of the European community, as well as strong and friendly relations with the U.S. are the most important among those efforts.

This is not the occasion for a broad outline of our policies. I've only tried to mention some of our achievements and plans and in so doing to show you that the honor that you have bestowed on President Havel with this Democracy Award has not been completely undeserved.

I am proud to represent my President and my country and thank you on behalf of Mr. Havel for the award.

I would also like to assure you of my belief, which I share with the government and people of Czechoslovakia, that with your continued help we shall overcome the problems Czechoslovakia is facing and find our permanent place within the steadily growing family of democratic nations.




Jiri Diensthier, “Acceptance Speech by Foreign Minister Jiri Diensthier for Václav Havel,” NED Multimedia, accessed August 19, 2022,