All posts by jfanton

The Case for an International Anti Corruption Court 

Jonathan Fanton 


It is an honor to be part of the Mroz Institute World Affair Series and to serve on the Institute’s Steering Committee. Thank you Max Kovalov and Dean Johnson for the invitation. I greatly admire the work of the Institute and am enjoying conversations with faculty and students. And I always love coming to the beautiful and vibrant campus of the College of Charleston. 

While I had long admired the work of John Mroz and the East West Institute, I only came to know it deeply when I was asked by the Board to help with its transition from an independent NGO to an affiliate of the other institutions. The active track 2 programs were placed at the Stimson Center while the archives and training activities came to the College of Charleston. 

Hilton Smith, who is here tonight, first proposed the partnership in recognition of John Mroz’s role advising the creation of the School of Languages, Cultures and World Affairs in 2006. John Mroz was here for a conference on diplomacy and transatlantic partnership. We considered several possible homes for the EWl legacy but made the right choice in the College of Charleston. So thank you Hilton. And thank you Karen Mroz for your leadership in keeping John’s vision and accomplishments vibrant, an inspiration for a new generation. 

John Mroz established the East West Institute in 1981 and led it until his death in 2014. Track 2 diplomacy has played a critical role in preventing and containing conflict. It developed the concept of track 2 diplomacy, sometimes called backchannel diplomacy. It is the practice of informal, unofficial contacts between private citizens or groups of individuals on different sides of actual or potential conflicts. It often draws on former political and military leaders who have ties to people currently in power. Differences can be narrowed in those informed backchannel conversations, misunderstandings clarified, incremental steps to build bridges identified. By creating a safe space for high ranking officials- past and present of adversarial powers to talk about contentious topics EWI has contributed to a safer world.  

As Vladimir Ivanov, Director of EWI’s Russia program has said, “John’s favorite undertaking was ad hoc, high level task force meetings including open minded political, military and private sector leaders, sometimes followed by policy reports and public debates, sometimes helping establish sincere unofficial communications between critical decision makers.”

Here are a few examples of what EWI accomplished with Track 2 dialogues. 

  • The Task force on New Soviet Thinking helped build confidence for US policy makers in Gorbachev’s reforms
  • In The Bratislava Process, EWI hosted Serbian opposition parties in 1999- 2001 to help Serbs develop principles for a broad coalition to defeat Milosevic at the polls. 
  • EWI conducted shuttle diplomacy between the 2 main Kurdish parties in Syria 
  • It built trust between a core group of Saudi and Iranian experts and developed ideas for cooperation in areas like climate change and people to people exchange. 
  • Current work includes dialogue between political parties in the US and China and between military leaders.
  • It is also sponsoring worldwide talks on cyber security.

As EWI Fellow Greg Austin said, “Mroz saw collaboration between opposing parties as the only pathway to solving successfully intractable conflicts. If collaboration was not possible, dialogue was essential.” 

I only wish John Mroz were with us today and could turn his attention to the Ukrainian crisis. 

The College of Charleston is now the home of the noble heritage of John Mroz and the East West Institute. Through the Mroz Leadership Institute and LCWA it will train a new generation of leaders committed to Track 2 diplomacy while scholars here explore the impact of this undervalued agent for avoiding and limiting conflict. 

EWI resonates with me personally and its values are central to my life’s work,  

my volunteer work as chair of Human Rights Watch and a member of the Board of the World Refugee and Migration Council, but also my work as President of the New School for Social Research and the MacArthur Foundation. MacArthur makes grants in 60 countries on projects related to conservation and the environment, women’s health, peace and security and human rights and international justice, a set of concerns that over laps with the subjects of your World Affairs series. During my time there, I became close to Kofi Annan and responded to his request to create a commission that developed the norm of The Responsibility to Protect. And I was happy to provide startup funds for the International Criminal Court before state party’s funding was sufficient. 

`Later, I had the honor of serving as President of The American Academy of Arts and Sciences. The Academy was founded in 1780 by John Adams, John Hancock, with George Washington and Thomas Jefferson as early members. 

The Academy’s mission, then as now, was to give good advice to the leaders of our country in building and preserving a strong democracy in pursuit of a more just and humane world at peace. During my time as President, we worked on issues central to the UN’s agenda, including the new nuclear age and gender equality. In our project on New Dilemmas in Ethics Technology and War, and later in our project on Civil Wars, Violence, and International Responses, we partnered with the UN Department of Peace Operations and the UN Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs. We also included UN representatives in early discussions about the need for an International Anti-Corruption Court. That is the topic I want to discuss with you today.

Festering at the root of many of the global challenges is the problem of grand corruption. We define grand corruption as the abuse of public office for personal gain by a nation’s leaders. We only need to read the newspaper to see its effects. The COVID-19 pandemic provides an object lesson of how corrupt leaders in many countries are able to enrich themselves by diverting public funds from supporting critical public goods and services, including healthcare, education, and infrastructure.

In his Our Common Agenda report submitted to the UN General Assembly in September 2021, Secretary General Antonio Guterres observed that “There is a growing disconnect between people and the institutions that serve them, with many feeling left behind and no longer confident that the system is working for them, an increase in social movements and protests and an ever deeper crisis of trust fomented by a loss of shared truth and understanding.”

Around the world, corrupt high-level public officials, known as kleptocrats, and their co-conspirators have drawn public ire. Several corrupt governments have collapsed. But in other countries such as Venezuela and Lebanon, mass protests against corrupt regimes have been quelled by state violence, and the brutality of kleptocratic rulers has triggered mass exodus, exacerbating an already serious refugee crisis.

In too many countries, kleptocrats are able to use their influence in a variety of ways to suppress police investigations and the prosecution of anti-corruption cases. In some countries kleptocrats even control the judiciary and operate with impunity. 

It is no wonder that Secretary General Guterres has identified the erosion of public trust as a core issue that needs to be addressed to facilitate efforts to tackle the increasingly complex and interconnected problems facing the international community.

In the Our Common Agenda report, he says that “We will examine how our rule of law assistance can support States, communities and people in rebuilding their social contract as a foundation for sustaining peace. In this vein, it will also be important to accelerate action to tackle corruption, in line with the United Nations Convention against Corruption.”

This is undoubtedly the proper strategy, and we should do everything in our power to support the UN in its efforts. However, grand corruption is particularly difficult to address. Although its effects are often localized, grand corruption depends upon an international network of accomplices and accessories who help kleptocrats launder, hide, and enjoy their stolen assets.

The landmark Panama Papers investigation in 2016, and subsequent reports, have helped shine a light on the shadowy world of transnational money laundering networks that support grand corruption. Kleptocrats prefer to hide their money in countries with strong rule of law, stable institutions, and reliable financial systems. They are attracted to luxury real estate markets where their families and friends can enjoy opulent lifestyles and where their children can attend prestigious educational institutions. 

They hide in plain sight.

The only way to address this state of affairs effectively is to build a coordinated multinational effort, one that responds to instances of grand corruption at home but also has an international reach.

One important proposal, and one that I support wholeheartedly, is the creation of an International Anti-Corruption Court. The IACC was first proposed by US District Court Judge Mark Wolf and is supported by Integrity Initiatives International, an NGO on whose board I serve. Judge Wolf is providing strong and effective leadership to build an international movement behind the IACC. I am delighted he is with us today on zoom and will join me in the discussion that follows my remarks.

When the UN Convention against Corruption was adopted by the General Assembly in 2003, it was a landmark progressive instrument that advanced our understanding of the problem and the need for greater accountability.

The Convention requires the 189 parties that have now ratified it to criminalize the bribery of public officials, the embezzlement and misappropriation of public funds, money laundering, and the obstruction of justice. The Convention also calls on member states to enhance transparency, increase international cooperation, and recover and return the proceeds of transnational crimes of corruption. The Convention has a review mechanism which will complete its second oversight cycle in 2024.

But we already know there is a crucial gap in the international legal framework for combatting corruption: in countries where kleptocrats control the courts and the police, there is no international mechanism for bringing them to justice.

That is why the proposal for an IACC is so important. As a court of last resort, existing outside of local and domestic politics, it would be able to investigate and prosecute anti-corruption cases when national governments are unable or unwilling to do so. 

An IACC would be complementary to the UN Convention against Corruption, the development of national anti-corruption institutions such as the High Anti-Corruption Court in Ukraine, and hybrid national-international institutions like the now-defunct UN Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala IACC is urgently needed for effective implementation of the UN convention. 

The IACC can also help strengthen the capacity of national anti-corruption institutions in a number of other ways. Triple I’s partners who have worked for Indonesia’s Corruption and Eradication Commission and as anti-corruption prosecutors in Nigeria have told story after story of times when they were able to discover evidence they needed through communications with their law enforcement counterparts in places such as the United States. But the formal processes required to obtain and share evidence between countries are too slow and ineffective. By creating more effective mutual legal assistance systems with its member states, as well as with other key nations, the IACC could serve a coordinating function to help national anti-corruption investigators and prosecutors obtain the evidence they need in a more timely manner. 

The Court would be able to work with investigative journalists, whistleblowers, and private investigation firms often employed to trace funds from looted banks and other sources. And it would have the power to prosecute private parties who pay bribes to officials, and not just the officials themselves—an important step in the effort to gather evidence against kleptocrats. Once they have such evidence, the IACC and willing public servants around the world would have greater opportunities to build the capacity to fight corruption. 

An IACC would be especially helpful to nations like Moldova, where democratic change provides a window of opportunity for principled governance. Such countries may have the political will but not the capacity, at least initially, to hold corrupt actors accountable. For assistance, they could turn to the IACC. 

And it would provide an opportunity to improve existing asset recovery and return structures. The Court would have the power to trace stolen funds and recover the proceeds of grand corruption. And its judges would have the power to order either the return or the repurposing of stolen assets in ways that directly benefit victims, including refugees.

There will be a cost to creating an IACC but it need not be great. In any event, the global cost of grand corruption is estimated in the trillions. Global Financial Integrity estimates that developing countries lose ten times as much to corruption as they receive in foreign aid. Compared with the scale of the problem worldwide, the cost of operating an international court can only be considered a valuable long-term cost-saving institution by safeguarding investment, helping to make sure that investment reaches its intended recipients, and streamlining international prosecutions.

The good news is that we have learned a great deal from the experiences of the international courts and tribunals that have been established in recent decades, including hundreds of recommendations provided by the Independent Review of the International Criminal Court, which was chaired by Triple I’s Vice Chair Justice Richard Goldstone of South Africa. The IACC initiative is not meant to replicate pre-existing models of international justice, but rather to improve upon them.

The community of interest in the IACC has grown significantly in the past year. A Declaration of Support for the Creation of the IACC organized by my colleagues at Triple I now has nearly 300 signatories from more than 80 countries. They include over 40 former presidents and prime ministers, more than 30 Nobel laureates, high court judges, cabinet officials, and leaders of civil society, faith, and business communities. Since December 2021, both Canada and the Netherlands have made official foreign policy commitments to work with international partners to create the IACC. Ecuador has more recently joined them in making its support for the IACC public. On African Union Anti-Corruption Day in July 2022, the President of Nigeria said that the fight against corruption has been difficult and that an IACC is needed. Additionally, each of the past two Presidents of Colombia endorsed the IACC and the current President of Timor Leste has as well. Triple I is collaborating with Canada and the Netherlands to identify and recruit a cross-regional group of countries that will commit to working towards the Court’s establishment.

In November 2022, Canada, Ecuador, and the Netherlands hosted ministers from fourteen countries in The Hague to discuss gaps in the international legal framework for combatting corruption and potential solutions, including the IACC. The majority of the ministers present signaled their support for or interest in the IACC. Through Triple I’s advocacy, additional countries are eager to engage with the Canadian and Dutch governments on the IACC initiative. Triple I is also facilitating a growing network of young people and civil society organizations, primarily from countries that struggle with the most acute crises of grand corruption, to call for the Court’s urgent establishment.

If the 189 parties that have ratified the UN Convention against Corruption are, as the Convention’s preamble states, “Concerned about the seriousness of problems and threats posed by corruption to the stability and security of societies, undermining the institutions and values of democracy, ethical values and justice and jeopardizing sustainable development and the rule of law,” then they should welcome the creation of an IACC that can play a key role in the global tapestry of anti-corruption institutions.

The momentum for creating an IACC is building and I hope there will be an international convention on the model of the Rome convention that gave rise to the treaty establishing the International Criminal Court. A group led by Richard Goldstone is preparing a draft of the treaty. I hope that organizations in the US and around the globe will lend their vocal support to the creation of an International Anti-Corruption Court.

It is now my pleasure to invite Judge Wolf to join me as we open the meeting to your questions and comments. He was appointed to the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts in 1985, served as its Chief Judge from 2006 through 2012, and is now a Senior Judge. Prior to his appointment in 1985, he served as a Special Assistant to the Attorney General of the United States after Watergate and as the Deputy United States Attorney for the District of Massachusetts. After our conversation we will open the floor to your comments and questions.

Duncan Rice Memorial Feb 28, 2023   

Thank you Susan for the honor of speaking at Duncan’s Memorial. Looking out at you, James, Beady and Sam- and their families- ignites the love I feel for Duncan and all of you. I first met Duncan and Susan over a half century ago when they came to Yale University. 

Duncan was an assistant professor of history in 1970 and soon became resident Dean of Saybrook College, a position he and Susan held for 8 years. I was chief of staff for the President and Associate Provost in those years. We became close friends as Duncan and I played squash every week and had vigorous conversations over scotch before delicious dinners in the Dean’s apartment. I keep on my dresser at home a picture of Duncan and James on Nantucket where I vacationed so I think of them every morning. 

When Duncan became Dean of Hamilton College and Susan Dean of Students at nearby Colgate College in upstate New York I would visit with them frequently. 

In 1982 I became president of the New School for Social Research in New York’s Greenwich Village. I was thrilled when Duncan became Dean of Arts and Sciences at neighboring NYU. They soon bought a weekend house in Fairfield Connecticut five minutes from our house. My wife Cynthia and I enjoyed family dinners at Thanksgiving and Christmas in their rustic but beautiful barn house. We were family and I enjoyed watching the children grow, all smart sensitive, trusting with ambitions to make this a better world. 

Duncan and Susan had earlier introduced me to Aberdeen. I remember the long summer days as we worked in the beautiful garden at Cheverton. And later Cynthia and I came to the Isle of Harris every other summer, one of our favorite places in the world. It was a special treat to meet Duncan’s sister Alison and her husband Andrew.I well recall our boat excursions and Duncan’s love of fishing. 

Duncan and Susan were our closest friends and we share the deep sense of loss with Duncan’s death. But also celebrate his life. 

He came to Yale as a Professor. His book, The Rise and Fall of Black Slavery, was of particular interest in that period as the US civil rights movement gained momentum and Yale began to diversify its student body. Duncan was one of the best Deans of Yale’s twelve residential colleges. He and Susan cared about the whole student, both academic and personal lives. They welcomed students to their apartment and built a real sense of community. His colleagues described Duncan as personable, bright, good natured. In my years in the President and Provost office, I turned to Duncan to take the pulse of the student body during protests over social issues or strikes of Yale employees. He was a bridge between the undergraduates and the administration, trusted by all as he worked to build understanding and facilitate dialogue.

He was an outstanding, well respected and loved teacher. He had a laser focus on important moments in history but always placed them in the arch of history. That skill of putting present issues in context helped me and the students appreciate the need to talk, be flexible, open to compromise. To this day I credit Duncan with teaching me to see how factors that appear to be unrelated are actually connected- or can be- for good or bad. Skills and perspectives I learned from him at Yale- and over a lifetime- have made possible all I have accomplished in my various jobs and as chair of Human Rights Watch. 

Moving to Hamilton and Colgate was an adjustment for Duncan and Susan. Hamilton is a high quality but small liberal arts college that had recently merged with Kirkland, a small women’s college.

Duncan immediately set his sights on raising the quality of the faculty and setting the standard for what should be expected of a first rate college. He met some resistance from the faculty but marshalled his diplomatic skills to make some outstanding appointments. The former provost told me “Duncan was one of the most talented and likable academics that I knew- the best dean during my time.” Hamilton was good preparation for Duncan’s next challenge at New York University. 

I was thrilled when Duncan and Susan came to New York with his appointment as Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at NYU. 

In 1985 I was in my third year as President of The New School which included Parsons School of Design and the Graduate Faculty begun in the 1930s with exiles from Germany. Over the years we added an undergraduate college and an urban management school built on the adult education program begun in 1919 when the New School was founded. 

Even though NYU and The New School were blocks away they were not competitors. We even shared their library. I was taken with the vision of NYU President John Brademas who wanted to make NYU one of the best universities in the country. And that’s why he hired Duncan Rice. He gave Duncan the mandate and resources to add 88 new chairs to the Arts and Sciences. As Duncan said, “At major universities anywhere in the world, Arts and Sciences has to be at the center. The reason is that great theoretical questions which inform every discipline, including the professional disciplines, are the ones that get thrashed out in Arts and Sciences Departments.” 

So it was an extraordinary period in which NYU became the place to go as Duncan recruited young scholars from Yale, Princeton, Stanford and beyond. And not just in the humanities he knew so well. He understood the sciences were critical. But also expensive. So he focused on a few emerging areas, for example Brain Science by creating a Center for Neural Science which brought together molecular, cellular, developmental, cognitive, behavioral and computational approaches to understanding the brain. 

The Director of the Center Anthony Movshon worked closely with Duncan and deeply admired him. And understood his strengths as a Dean. “Duncan knew when to listen and when to speak, when to trust and when to be skeptical, when to act and when to wait.” 

As I think about Duncan the letter C comes to mind, competent, committed, collegial, cosmopolitan, creative, courageous and caring. 

Duncan lead a 5 year planning exercise at NYU. In conveying the plan to President Brademas, Duncan wrote: “An essential intangible is our sense of optimism about the faculty’s capacity to achieve the ambitious leaps in quality this report envisages.” 

Optimism is a quality that I associate with Duncan. A realistic optimist I would say. He saw the world as it is, flaws, challenges, the dark side. But he never lost hope and always turned his attention and energy to positive possibilities. He had a deep faith in our ability to come together and build a more just humane world at peace. 

And his optimism- and positive vision- excited donors. Duncan was a masterful fund raiser by attracting donors to the substance of the cause. He made friends with potential donors who trusted him as he gave meaning to their lives through the generosity they invested in his positive vision of the university. But also how the university’s research and teaching could improve our country and also build respect for other countries and cultures. 

In his time SAT scores at NYU moved from 1100 to 1200 in 5 years as NYU’s student body moved from just 18% outside New York to 73% outside New York. What a transformation, reflecting Duncan’s cosmopolitan vision. 

So Aberdeen made the right choice in inviting Duncan home. We have heard that inspiring story. 

And I am so happy that Susan’s career has flourished here. Senior positions in the Bank of Scotland, Lloyds, chair of Scottish Water, trustee of Sainsbury and more. Susan has been a loving and supportive partner for Duncan at every step of his career. And he returned her love and support and was proud of her accomplishments. How many people do we know where both spouses have become leaders in their fields? And at the same time nurtured a close family of 3 wonderful and successful children. 

Let me close with a reflection from Yale’s Chaplin William Sloane Coffin: 

“The one true freedom in life is to come to terms with death, and as early as possible, for death is an event that embraces all our lives. And the only way to have a good death is to lead a good life. Lead a good one, full of curiosity, generosity, and compassion, and there’s no need at the close of the day to rage against the dying of the light. We can go gentle into that good night.”

Duncan lived a good life and now has gone gently into that good night. 

In memory of Drew Days

Below are the remarks I gave at the Memorial Service for my dear friend.

Drew Days: A life well lived

April 24th, 2022

Drew and I first interacted when he was Director of the Orville Schell Center for Human Rights, and I was chair of the Human Rights Watch Committee for Europe and Central Asia. Drew served on several important boards including Hamilton College, The Edna McConnell Clark Foundation, and the Bank Street College. But we came to know each other at the MacArthur Foundation. During my time as President, Drew was one of the trustees I most valued for thoughtful comments and honest advice on opportunities and challenges. 

He chaired our committee on Human and Community Development and took the lead in crafting MacArthur’s juvenile justice program, affordable housing initiative and neighborhood improvement work. But he was also a lead trustee in MacArthur’s international initiative in Human Rights, conservation, women’s health, and peace and security. He and Ann traveled with me to Russia, Nigeria, India, Australia, Fiji, Bhutan, Mexico, and more. On those trips we forged a relationship which brightened my life for years to come and continues in my friendship with Ann. 

He saw more of MacArthur’s work firsthand than any other trustee. He talked with local human rights activist in provincial cities in Russia, with indigenous conservationists in Fiji, women’s health workers in Northern Nigeria and Mexico. He always listened, showed empathy and respect, built bridges across cultures, made constructive suggestions about how to advance our common goals.

And he brought his perceptive insights about our work back to the MacArthur board room in Chicago. Our chair Sara Lawrence Lightfoot described his importance to his colleagues. “Drew’s voice was one of restraint, listening attentively, using a language of precision and understatement … offering deft and probing analysis, bringing to bear the weight of judgement and critique when we considered programs…”

I recall a conversation he had with Sara about her book, “Exit the Endings that Set Us Free”. He said, “when I exit, I just don’t want to feel celebrated and admired for what I did I want to feel known for who I am”. When I think about Drew, the letter c comes to mind. He was courageous, compassionate, curious, collegial, congenial, complex, and comprehensive about his views for the world. 

I am reminded of a conversation we had smoking a cigar under the moonlight in Havana after a hard day’s work looking at MacArthur’s Conservation work. He talked about the complexity of working in Castro’s Cuba, the ethical dilemmas, the openness of some high-ranking officials to our values, the conflict between our conservation work and the rights of people living on the land and fishing the sea. And where we stood in the arch of history and why it was important to conserve biodiversity before Cuba opened up. I learned a lot from Drew that evening, not so much from answers he was giving but questions he was asking that stimulated me to think more deeply and appreciate the complexity of our work.

I last visited Drew at Mariner’s Point just before the Covid shutdown. We talked about our time together at the American Academy for Arts and Sciences where he helped me think through our project on Access to Justice. Alas, the conversation was not easy, but we were connected, and I felt the warmth, love, and respect that we shared. As I left, we locked eyes, he smiled, and we said what I felt would be our last goodbyes. As I walked to my car, I thought of a reflection from Yale Chaplain, William Sloane Coffin. 

“The one true freedom in life is to come to terms with death, and as early as possible, for death is an event that embraces all our lives. And the only way to have a good death is to live a good life. Lead a good one, full of curiosity, generosity, and compassion, and there’s no need at the close of the day to rage against the dying of the light. We can go gentle into that good night.”

Drew lived a good life and has gone gently into the good night. But his life will continue to inspire us to fight for a more just and humane world at peace. 

International Anti-Corruption Court

Momentum is building to support the creation of an international anti-corruption court, led by Integrity Initiatives International (III), of which I am a board member. Please share the declaration, linked below, with your networks. It has a impressive list of signatories supporting the effort.

Declaration in Support of the Creation of an International Anti-Corruption Court

Please also see the accompanying press release, copied below.

30 Nobel Laureates Join Calls for An International Anti-Corruption Court

April 20, 2022 05:48 AM Eastern Daylight Time

BOSTON–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Integrity Initiatives International (III) announced today that 30 additional Nobel laureates have signed the Declaration calling for the creation of an International Anti-Corruption Court (IACC).

The Declaration, first released in June 2021 with the signatures of more than 100 world leaders from 45 countries, has now been signed by over 200 eminent persons from more than 60 countries. Since June 2021, working with international partners to establish the International Anti-Corruption Court has become official foreign policy in both Canada and the Netherlands.

Earlier this month, Dutch Foreign Minister Wopke Hoekstra asked his European Union counterparts to work with the Netherlands to establish the IACC. He said, “Corruption among public officials isn’t just a financial problem; it also undermines democracy and the rule of law in a country and exacerbates inequality among its people. And of course, it’s a form of criminality. Not only does the country itself suffer, but other countries’ interests are harmed too.”

Foreign Minister Hoeksta continued: “By establishing an anti-corruption court, the Netherlands aims to strengthen the international legal order. But to make this happen, we will need the support of many other countries.”

To obtain that support, the Netherlands, Canada, Ecuador, and other partners will hold a conference of ministers from many countries later this year on international efforts to tackle corruption, with particular focus on the International Anti-Corruption Court.

The Declaration advocates for a new international court to punish and deter grand corruption – the abuse of public power for private gain by a nation’s leaders (kleptocrats) – which thrives in many countries and has devastating consequences for climate change, human rights, human health, and international peace and security, as has been made tragically evident by the war in Ukraine. New signatories to the Declaration being announced today include:

  • Jody Williams, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate from the U.S. and founding Coordinator of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines
  • José Ramos-Horta, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and former President and former Prime Minister of Timor-Leste
  • Leymah Roberta Gbowee, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate from Liberia
  • Tawakkol Karman, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate from Yemen
  • Rigoberta Menchú Tum, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate from Guatemala
  • Muhammad Yunus, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate from Bangladesh, founder of the Grameen Bank, and recipient of the U.S. Presidential Medal of Freedom

The Declaration and full list of signatories can be found here.

The new signatories have voiced their support for the IACC because they recognize that the global community needs innovative tools to combat corruption.

“Tackling corruption is fundamental to bolstering democracy around the world. New international institutions are also critical elements of strengthening multilateralism and the rule of law which have been under attack in recent years,” said Jody Williams.

“I am impressed by the quality of world leaders who have expressed their support for this initiative, reflecting growing awareness of the extent to which corruption undermines human progress and democracy. I am confident that we can find the political will to make this happen,” said Augusto Lopez-Claros, former Chief Economist at the World Economic Forum and current Executive Director of the Global Governance Forum. Lopez-Claros now serves as a Co-Chair of the newly formed International Coordinating Committee for the IACC campaign.

The Declaration in support of the IACC and the broader campaign for the IACC have been organized by Integrity Initiatives International (III), a non-profit with the mission of strengthening the enforcement of criminal laws against kleptocrats.

United States District Judge Mark L. Wolf, the Chair of III and a Co-Chair of the International Coordinating Committee for the IACC, stated that, “III has long focused on Vladimir Putin as epitomizing the kleptocrats who are the worst abusers of human rights yet enjoy impunity for their crimes in the countries that they rule. Tragically, as former UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown recently wrote, ‘Every day Putin continues to hold power, the case for an International Anti- Corruption Court grows.’ If the IACC had been established years ago, it is more likely that Putin would now be in prison, rather than criminally killing Ukrainians.”


Below is a statement from World Refugee and Migration Council of which I am a member.

World Refugee & Migration Council Calls for UN Peacekeepers to Protect Humanitarian Corridors in Ukraine
The World Refugee & Migration Council is appalled by Russian barbarism in violation of international humanitarian law and human rights in Ukraine, which is causing the worst refugee crisis in modern European history. Russia has shown a total disregard for Ukraine’s sovereignty and independence, and its leadership must be held accountable for the crime of aggression.
Adhere to Humanitarian Principles
The parties to the conflict in Ukraine must adhere to international humanitarian law by ensuring the protection of the civilian population and detainees and refraining from unlawful attacks. Weapons such as cluster bombs and thermobaric munitions should not be used because of their indiscriminate effects. The critical infrastructure necessary for basic human survival, such as water, gas, and electricity, should not be targeted by kinetic or non-kinetic, i.e., cyber, means. Humanitarian and aid workers should be protected so that they can assist civilians in dire circumstances.

Well-recognized humanitarian principles also dictate that assistance should be distributed impartially based on need. Since women-headed households with children represent the majority of the displaced, humanitarian relief and efforts must pay close attention to their particular needs and vulnerabilities and ensure that children are not exploited but afforded proper protection.

Because the United Nations’ relief agencies and other organizations with global reach are already strained by humanitarian operations in other parts of the world, it is vital that the critical needs of refugees and displaced persons there are not ignored as attention focuses on Europe.
Deploy UN Peacekeepers to Safeguard Humanitarian Corridors
A Uniting for Peace resolution should be passed by the UN General Assembly, providing for the deployment of a UN peacekeeping force to safeguard humanitarian corridors in Ukraine.
Repurpose Frozen Assets to Help Ukrainians through a Global Trust Fund
Accountability begins by confiscating the funds of Russia’s leadership that are held overseas and placing them in a global trust fund to help the Ukrainian people. The Frozen Assets Repurposing Act (FARA) before the Parliament of Canada is a valuable model for other countries to emulate. NATO countries and other democracies should convene a meeting of their foreign ministers to collaborate on creating such a fund.

As the plight of Ukrainians inside the country and those forced to flee across Ukraine’s borders worsens by the hour, the international community must greatly intensify its efforts to assist the people of Ukraine and those countries hosting refugee populations.
Responsibility Sharing
Responsibility sharing principles in the UN Refugee Compact must apply to this unprecedented crisis. Assistance must be given on equal terms to all those forcibly displaced regardless of their nationality. There must be an effective degree of harmonization of relief and resettlement programs.

We applaud the generosity of Ukraine’s neighbours in keeping their borders open for Ukrainians and third-country nationals so they can find a safe haven. We also applaud the European Union’s decision to invoke the Temporary Protection Directive to enable Ukrainians to remain and work in the EU for three years and provide third-country nationals time to relocate.

The international community must ensure that Ukraine’s neighbours, especially Poland, receive the assistance they need to help the refugees and local communities hosting them.
A Global Conference & Action Plan on Food and Health Security
We are seeing the ripple effects of this conflict on other countries worldwide. Many developing countries are destined to experience critical food shortages as Russia and Ukraine’s production and other grains are affected by this conflict. Food shortages in North Africa and the Middle East can be expected to contribute to further flights of people from this region to Europe. Accordingly, we urge the United Nations’ World Food Program (WFP) and the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) to convene a conference of all major food producers immediately and develop a concrete plan to assist those countries suffering from food shortages.

As a new strain of COVID emerges in Europe, the impact on the health requirements of refugees and their host communities should also be central to humanitarian relief and resettlement efforts.
Ending the War in Ukraine
The top priority for the United Nations, Ukraine and Russia, and other members of the international community must be the immediate resolution of this conflict. We urge the Secretary-General to use his good offices to press Russia to withdraw from Ukraine and engage in good faith efforts to resolve the crisis.
About the World Refugee & Migration Council
The World Refugee & Migration Council was formed in May 2017, initially as the World Refugee Council, under the leadership of former Canadian Foreign Minister Lloyd Axworthy and with the support of the Government of Canada. The Council is an independent global body composed of more than 20 political leaders, policy advisers, academic experts, a Nobel prize winner, civil society actors, and human rights activists worldwide. In its major report, A Call to Action: Transforming the Global Refugee System, the Council seeks to strengthen the global response beyond the United Nations and its Global Compacts on refugees and migration.

Farewell to a Democratic Opening in Myanmar

This trip report, written February 2020, reflects the challenges and the aspirations for a democratic Myanmar. There was no forewarning of the military takeover that would come within months of our visit. I remain committed to supporting the courageous civil society leaders with whom I met.

Myanmar January 15-26, 2020


My wife Cynthia and I took an Abercrombie and Kent tour of Myanmar which started in Yangon then on to Bagan, a 2 day trip up the Irrawaddy to Mandalay and finally 2 glorious days on Inle Lake. There, we visited villages and met with local artisans working on silver, weaving, cigar making. Earlier we visited a lacquerware workshop. In Yangon, we visited the Shwedagon Pagoda, the most sacred Buddhist site in Myanmar. In Bagan, we took a balloon ride to see the 2,500 Buddhist pagodas and temples the first of which was built by King Anawrahta in 1044. A special treat was seeing a novitiation ceremony, “a coming of age ritual celebrating an aspiring young monk’s first entry to the monastery.” The trip up the Irrawaddy exposed us to rural villages and the lifeline the river plays in transporting timber and minerals, two keys to the Myanmar economy. Mandalay was the last royal capital of the Burma Kingdom and the cultural center of the country. We visited the ancient Teak Monastery, Shwenandaw, which survived World War II bombings. Our two days on Inle Lake were beautiful and peaceful. We saw real life close up. The floating farms and villages on stilts are amazing. 

On either side of the tour, I arranged visits with civil society groups including Free Expression Myanmar, Equality Myanmar, Athan, Smile, the Institute for Strategy and Policy, and the local HRW representative. Of special interest was our conversation with Thant Myint-U, grandson of former UN Secretary General U-Thant. Thant’s recent book The Hidden History of Burma, is a widely read analysis of the way forward for Myanmar given its complicated history. He has led the restoration of his grandfather’s house into a museum and is a leader in preserving historical buildings in downtown Yangon.  

Myanmar is a country of 51.4 million people, twice the size of Germany but smaller than Texas. It has over 100 ethnic groups, the largest of which are Shan, Karin, Kachin, Kayah, Chin, Mon, and Rakhine. Burmese are 68% of the population. The country is divided in 7 states and 7 regions. Yangon is the largest city with 5 million; Mandalay has 700,000. The capital is a new city Naypyitaw, which feels deserted. 90% of the population are Buddhists, 5% Christian, 4% Islamic. The economy is fueled by timber, tin, copper, jade, ruby, rice and other agricultural products. Most foreign trade is with China (38%), Thailand (25%), India (8%), and Japan (6%). 

The British were in control 1824-1948 followed by a challenging period of independence (1948-62) and then military rule (1962-2011).  


Myanmar is more open than I had expected. Civil society leaders spoke their minds freely. Their organizations are monitoring elections and free expression, have reform agendas on the economy, ethnic relations, social services. Although there is sharp inequality across the country, Myanmar is more modern than I expected: a new airport, construction of new high-rise apartments in Yangon, car dealerships for Volvo, Mercedes, Toyota, technology stores across Yangon. The streets in the places we visited were well paved, electricity widespread, modern hotels and tourist amenities available. 

I felt safe in Myanmar. People of all walks of life are warm and friendly. I think of our boat ride through villages in Inle Lake and the young children sitting in the windows of the stilted houses smiling and waving as we passed by. I am not naive about the poverty, inequality, and still controlled society. But the people impressed me with their resilience, hard work, and openness. I have an instinct of affection for Myanmar that I have not felt so strongly in most places around the world I have visited for the first time. 

With that said, the intellectuals and activists with whom we spoke are to a person disappointed with State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi. They recognize she faces a daunting challenge of leading a new era when the military is still all-powerful. A constitutional provision prevents someone married to a foreigner from holding the Presidency thus she has de facto leadership though this special position. 

Yet people who supported her in her period of house arrest report she is not accessible to them. And she did not continue staffing key agencies with experts brought in by the last military leader, Thein Sein. Instead, she has turned to old guard bureaucrats who do not challenge her. She is criticized for being narcissistic, even dictatorial, in her interactions with people around her. According to people with whom we spoke, she has not articulated a positive vision for the country and has not reached out to ethnic minorities. The peace process with the key groups in the North has stalled. Nor has she taken a progressive stand on the Rohingya issue. That was clear in her defense of the military in the ICJ at the Hague. As one person told us, “she is not building a cohesive nation. She needs to connect to non-privileged groups like the Shan, Muslims, and other ethnic groups”. 

With that said, most everyone expects her party, NLD, to win the 2020 election. And most of her critics will vote for her. Some observers predict the NLD will lose seats in Parliament as the ethnic parties gain traction. Some think it possible the NLD will not have a majority and will need a coalition. Still most with whom we spoke think her continued leadership is the best alternative and real change will happen only after she retires, perhaps 5 years hence. No one could name a list of possible successors except to express the hope it would be a member of the younger generation.  

Among the people with whom we spoke, there is a mature understanding that it takes time to build a healthy and sustainable democracy. Intellectuals and activists are thinking in at least a 10 year horizon focusing on incremental improvements. Not surprising, the younger generation is more optimistic about the future than their elders who suffer from unfilled rising expectations. The growth of civil society organizations is an encouraging sign. 

Athan (voice in Burmese) was founded in January 2018 to promote free expression through research, advocacy and education. It issues periodic reports on the status of Freedom of Expression. It advocates a revision of the Telecommunications Law which criminalizes defamation which is the key tool the government uses to punish journalists it believes too critical. It has issued reports on how Parliament violated freedom of expression, compiled an inventory of 2019 protests (constitutional reform and labor rights are the top 2 issues), and monitors hate speech on Facebook which is the widely used social media platform in Myanmar. Athan has 17 staff (all under 30) and support from the National Endowment for Democracy and the Netherlands. It is central to a network of 30 civil society organization working on freedom of expression throughout Myanmar. 

Equality Myanmar involves 65 people (not all full time) and works on human rights training throughout Myanmar and helps build a network of local community based organizations. Among the issues it is focused on are forced relocations, domestic violence, forced labor and child soldiers. It aims to mitigate conflict among ethnic communities. It also advocates policy positions, for example, pushing Myanmar to sign the International Covenant on Human Rights. It will participate in monitoring of the 2020 elections. It has support from NED, Norway, Netherlands, and Open Society. 

Another group, SMILE, promotes freedom of religion and ethnic minorities; it monitors hate speech, including rating 2020 campaigns on hate speech. It has support from USAID and the Polish government and a fund of $500,000 a year for 28 staff. 

Free Expression Myanmar (FEM) has a staff of 10-15, a budget of $110,000 which comes from Sweden, UK, US governments. FEM prioritizes gender. It monitors the fate of journalists posting on Facebook with 50% of journalists saying some content has been taken down. Facebook is a key source of information for people living outside of Yangon and Mandalay where there are few print papers and radio is controlled by the government. 

I was particularly interested in learning about a CSO, Yone Kyi Yai (Belief), which aims to train people to be active citizens in a democracy. It works to bring local community leaders together with local government officials to talk about issues like the conditions of roads and access to safe water. At first, it is a shouting match but eventually both sides learn to talk in a civil fashion. This promising institution needs to expand. 

The Institute for Strategy and Policy has 20 researchers and a budget of $400,000 a year provided by NED, USAID, and Sweden. It has a quarterly journal and a quarterly TV show with 13 million viewers and a project “Myanmar 2050: What is the Vision”. Topics for its journal include: the development of civil society, social justice, electoral system reform, the growing influence of China and the future of federalism, all key issues. 

I have introduced the Institute and several other CSO’s to the New School’s Democracy 2.0 project. During the 1980’s the New School had a network of underground seminars in East and Central Europe, Poland, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, and other locations. When the revolutions of 1989/90 opened a path to democracy for the region, our members were hopeful about the future. Now there is backsliding in most of the countries which raises the question of what went wrong? A new project, Democracy 2.0, will be a network of scholars in these countries plus Turkey and India. I think Myanmar would benefit from participation in the project, which seeks to understand the complex and uneven process of building a healthy and sustainable democracy. The naive notion that an election equals democracy needs to be replaced by a more nuanced understanding of how to build the cultural and political prerequisites of a democracy over time.  

Thant Myint-U’s The Hidden History of Burma ends with an epilogue that calls on Aung San Suu Kyi to articulate a comprehensive vision for the future of Myanmar during the 2020 election campaign. Among the key points is the need to find a middle ground between crony capitalism and the neo-liberal faith in free markets. He makes a powerful case that the future of a sustainable democracy in Myanmar depends on reducing inequality. And reinvigorating the peace process with ethnic minorities. In conversation, Thant mentioned other key issues like the direction of relations with China, the need to repair relations with the West, give Muslims greater access to education and public health, repatriate refugees, and resolve the Rohingya issue. 

I asked all with whom we spoke about their advice to the United States in helping Myanmar to a better future. People recalled with great affection Barack Obama’s visit to Myanmar in 2012 and the support that came from the US government. Most people feel the current US administration is at best indifferent, perhaps hostile to Myanmar. People believe that general sanctions over the years have been counterproductive. One thoughtful scholar urged US help to strengthen the education system, expand student exchange programs, support the development of civil society, increase private investment, and limit sanctions. Several advocated targeted sanctions targeting perhaps 100 individuals by freezing their assets and boycotting companies they control like Myanmar beer. Also, they urge requiring US companies active in Myanmar to adhere to high standards in labor rights and protecting the environment. 

The ruling by the International Court of Justice came out while we were in Myanmar. It requires Myanmar “to take all measures within its power” to prevent any further acts of violence against the Rohingya. Myanmar is required to submit regular reports to the Court within four months and thereafter every 6 months. Myanmar’s own Independent Commission of Enquiry (ICOE) found that crimes against humanity were committed in Rakhine “but did not find” genocidal intent. 

Aung San Suu Kyi responded to the ICJ ruling in a letter to the Financial Times basically saying Myanmar’s own investigation had found evidence of “killing of civilians, disproportionate use of force, looting of property and destruction of abandoned houses of Muslims.” The right course now, she argues, is to give the Myanmar justice system time to bring those responsible to account. “An informed assessment of Myanmar’s ability to address the issue of violations in Rakhine can only be made if adequate time is given for democratic justice to run its course. Justice can help us overcome distrust, fear, prejudice and hate, and end the longstanding cycle of intercommunal violence. This has always been my goal.”

There was little discussion of the ICJ’s ruling among the people we talked to and her statement seemed to have strong support in the country.

Our 10 days in Myanmar were certainly eventful. Chinese President, Xi Jinping also made his first visit to Myanmar while we were in country to inaugurate 2020 the year of Tourism and Culture between China and Myanmar. It is also expected that China will increase its infrastructure investment in Myanmar as part of its belt and road initiative. China is Myanmar’s largest trading partner with exports to China worth $5.5. billion and imports worth $6.2 billion. The withdrawal of Western support and interest has forced Myanmar to be more dependent on China which is not the surest path to the kind of democracy we hope for. I believe this is a critical moment in Myanmar’s history with the possibility, but not certainty, of a positive evolution towards a more democratic future. There is an appetite among many civil society leaders and intellectuals, especially younger people, for interaction with the West. So I will be advocating that universities, foundations, businesses, civil society groups become more active in Myanmar. I say this with a sense of modesty and realism. The US and other Western nations are not the answer, but rather play a supporting role as the drama of Myanmar’s future unfolds. I think of the young man whose novitation we witnessed. At age nine or so he has a long future ahead and I hope it will be in a more democratic, peaceful, and prosperous Myanmar. I care about Myanmar and its people and I want to help them realize their enormous potential.

Academy at Risk: Challenges of the 21st Century

“Academy at Risk: Challenges of the 21st Century”

European Humanities University

Vilnius, Lithuania

January 26, 2018

It is an honor to be back here at EHU, a university I first came to know in 1995 when I visited Minsk in my capacity as President of the New School for Social Research and as Chair of the European division of Human Rights Watch. It was my privilege to support EHU as President of the MacArthur Foundation with substantial grants over the years. Most recently, as Chair of Scholars at Risk, I have continued my support for EHU and scholars facing repression around the world.

I also feel a deep bond to Vilnius. It is a particular pleasure to be here in Vilnius this special year – when Lithuania commemorates a centenary anniversary of the Declaration of Independence. Vilnius plays a special role in the history of many nations; being a capital of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, it has also become a cultural center for generations of Jews, Poles, and—certainly—Belarusians.

As Chair of Helsinki Watch I first visited Vilnius in late January 1991. I saw then the courage and determination of the Lithuanian people. I will never forget coming through the sandbags and volunteer guards that ringed the Parliament to meet with President Landsbergis.  The spirit of freedom was alive in the entrance gallery full of young people singing songs of tradition and liberation.  The President told me, “If we are not crushed completely in a short time, this process of independence will succeed.”  How right he was.

I am proud that MacArthur provided support for the critical relocation of EHU from Minsk to Vilnius. And I was honored to join President Adamkus and Rector Mikhailov at the opening ceremony of the European Humanities University International in June 2005. In my remarks I said:

At today’s occasion, I cannot help but recall that the Graduate Faculty of the New School was founded 72 years ago this month as the University in Exile.  The New School rescued scholars from Germany and elsewhere in Europe, giving them safe haven from Nazi terror.  The faculty adopted as their guiding principle “To the Living Spirit,” words etched on the main building of the University of Heidelberg and defaced by the Nazis.

In the 1980s, when dissident academics in East and Central Europe were subject to persecution, the New School supported their underground seminars, brought forbidden books and journals in, and brought censored manuscripts out for publication in the West. So through the New School tradition, I feel a special kinship to scholars in peril.

MacArthur was drawn to supporting EHU for intellectual and pedagogical reasons: We saw in EHU, the European University of St. Petersburg, the Central European University, and the New Economic School a force for strengthening the Humanities and Social Sciences. We saw a generation of scholars yearning to meet international standards through open inquiry and exchange. And a desire to connect research with policy at a time when we hoped that democracy and wider freedom would take root in the post-Soviet space.

EHU has been a leader in creating research centers, libraries, and institutes. I think of the Center for Gender Studies, the Laboratory of Critical Urbanism, and the Center for Constitutionalism and Human Rights as shining examples, producing research that informs and improves policy.

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Redistricting and Representation

On November 8, 2017, Jonathan Fanton introduced a discussion on “Redistricting and Representation.” The discussion was moderated by the Honorable Patti B. Saris, and featured the following speakers: Moon Duchin, Jamal Greene, and Gary King.

The program served as the 2062nd Stated Meeting of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Good evening.  I am Jonathan Fanton, President of the American Academy. It is my pleasure to welcome you and to call to order the 2062nd Stated Meeting of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Let me begin with a special welcome to those coming to us from the Kennedy School Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation’s program on redistricting reform, which is co-sponsoring this evening’s event. A special thank you to Miles Rapoport, a Senior Fellow at the Ash Center and a member of the Academy’s new Commission on the Practice of Democratic Citizenship for making this collaboration possible. I am also pleased to note that tonight’s event is being live-streamed on the Academy’s website.

The topic of this evening’s program, “Redistricting and Representation” extends back to the earliest days of the Academy, yet remains relevant today. The American Academy was founded in 1780 by 62 scholar-patriots, including John Adams, John Hancock, and James Bowdoin, in the midst of the still-ongoing revolution. They recognized that the new nation they were building would need an institution dedicated to collecting and disseminating knowledge that would “advance the interest, honor, dignity, and happiness of a free, independent, and virtuous people.” The founders hoped that the collection and dissemination of “useful knowledge” would help create the educated citizenry needed to lead the new nation out of revolution into independence and democracy.

Among one of our earliest fellows was a man whose name will be familiar to most everyone in this room: Elbridge Gerry. Inducted into the Academy while serving as a delegate to the Continental Congress in 1781, Mr. Gerry would go on to become a United States Congressman, Governor of Massachusetts, and Vice-President under James Madison. He signed both the Declaration of Independence and the Articles of Confederation, but refused to sign the Constitution in 1787 because it lacked a bill of rights.

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The Resilience of the Human Spirit

Reflections on a Visit to Za’atari Refugee Camp in Jordan
September 17-20, 2017

We traveled to the Za’atari Refugee Camp on Wednesday, an hour’s drive from Amman and 10 miles from the Syrian border. Za’atari hosts 80,000 Syrians—the largest camp in the Middle East and fifth largest in the world. It is run by the Syrian Refugee Affairs Department, but UNHCR is responsible for the management and coordination of humanitarian services. It is divided into twelve communities which hold a meeting every other week with the authorities.

We spent the better part of a day at Za’atari, starting with a briefing from the camp leadership and UNHCR representatives. We visited a Community Center and food market, were hosted to tea by a refugee family in their caravan, and met with a group of community leaders.

Signs everywhere identified the donors: government agencies like the Norwegian Refugee Council and USAID, UN agencies like UNHCR, NGOs like Mercy Corp, Oxfam, Save the Children, and the International Rescue Committee.

As we moved around the camp, it felt more like a real community than a compound. There is an orderly street grid, a string of local shops commonly referred to as the Champs-Élysées, and rows of family houses that resemble metal trailers (called caravans). There are schools, places of worship, and two modern, well-stocked food markets.

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Induction Ceremony

On October 7, 2017, Jonathan Fanton introduced the 2017 Induction Ceremony held at Sanders Theatre in Cambridge, MA. The ceremony featured historical readings by Kenneth Wallach (Central National Gottesman Inc.) and Diane Wood (U.S. Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit), as well as a performance by the Boston Children’s Chorus. It also included presentations by five new members: Ursula Burns (Xerox Corporation), James P. Allison (University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center), Heather Gerken (Yale Law School), Jane Mayer (The New Yorker), and Gerald Chan (Morningside Group).

Let me add my warm welcome to the Class of 2017, and to your families and friends who have joined us to celebrate this special occasion.

The Academy benefits from the wise and dedicated leadership of its Officers, members of the Academy Board, Council, and Trust.  As a result of their efforts, the American Academy is a thriving institution. We are grateful for all that they do, and particularly for the leadership and encouragement of the new Chair of our Board, Nancy Andrews.

I would also like to thank our previous Chair, Don Randel, for his friendship and dedication to this institution over the past four years.

The Academy was founded in 1780, during the American Revolution, by John Adams and 62 other scholar-patriots who understood that the new republic would require new institutions to gather knowledge and advance learning in service to the public good.

Adams dreamed that there would be a scholarly academy in every state.  As in so many initiatives of the Revolutionary period, Massachusetts took the lead, incorporating Adams’s vision into its foundational documents.

The Massachusetts Constitution was drafted in 1780 and remains the oldest functioning written constitution in the world.  Adams and his colleagues included a section called “The Encouragement of Literature, etc.”

“Wisdom and knowledge, as well as virtue, diffused generally among the body of the people, being necessary for the preservation of their rights and liberties…it shall be the duty of legislatures and magistrates, in all future periods of this commonwealth, to cherish the interests of literature and the sciences, and all seminaries of them…to encourage private societies and public institutions…for the promotion of agriculture, arts, sciences, commerce, trades, manufactures, and a natural history of the country; to countenance and inculcate the principles of humanity and general benevolence, public and private charity, industry and frugality, honesty and punctuality in their dealings; sincerity, and good humor, and all social affections and generous sentiments, among the people.”

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