Carl Bertelsmann Prize awarded to Polish and Bolivian personalities
After terrorist attack on U.S. Bertelsmann Foundation cancels festive framework of awarding ceremony and commemorates victims of disaster
On the very day of his taking office as Poland’s first democratic prime minister, 12 years later Tadeusz Mazowiecki was awarded the Carl Bertelsmann Prize for his achievement in terms of political integration. The unostentatious ceremony, which abstained from any festive framework, stood completely under the impression of the terrorist attacks on the U.S.A. After a brief address by the Chairman and CEO of the Bertelsmann AG, Thomas Middelhoff, the guests commemorated the victims of the disaster in a one-minute’s silence.
Middelhoff said, “We reject any form of violence in the political and social discussion and condemn in the strongest possible terms the harm the terrorist attacks in the United States have obviously inflicted on the peaceful coexistence of people.”
The topic for this year’s prize, which is endowed with 300,000 German marks, was “Shaping change – Strategies of transformation.” In awarding the prize to Poland and Bolivia, the Bertelsmann Stiftung recognized five individuals who decisively contributed to transformation and development in their respective countries. Joining Mazowiecki on the podium were Leszek Balcerowicz, former minister of finance and now president of the National Bank of Poland, and Adam Michnik, editor in chief of the Gazeta Wyborcza. They received the Carl Bertelsmann Prize for “successful transformation processes” from Bertelsmann Stiftung founder Reinhard Mohn. In the category of “exceptional developmental achievements,” the prize was awarded to Bolivia’s former minister of justice René Blattmann and the ombudswoman Ana María Romero de Campero.
“With this year’s Carl Bertelsmann Prize, we honor one of the most demanding and impressive goals a state can achieve: the peaceful transformation from authoritarian government to a democratic market economy,” said Dr. Werner Weidenfeld, member of the Bertelsmann Stiftung Executive Board. “Given the adverse initial conditions in 1989, Poland has gained the most ground.” In Bolivia, the jury was particularly impressed by the country’s enormous achievement in bringing about political stabilization. “No other country has had to endure more military coups, but since the mid-1980s Bolivia has been on the way towards a stable democracy with a culture of dialogue that is exemplary for developing states,” Weidenfeld stated.
In the difficult starting phase of the transformation process, Tadeusz Mazowiecki steered Polish politics towards democracy. Skillfully marshalling political forces, he paved the way for far-reaching political and economic reforms. After his term in office, he continued to play an important role in shaping the Polish transformation process. As chair of the Sejm’s constitution committee, Mazowiecki contributed significantly to developing the new constitution.
The second winner from Poland, Leszek Balcerowicz, was minister of finance in Mazowiecki’s government from 1997 to 2000. He is currently president of the Polish National Bank. With his economic shock therapy, the Balcerowicz Plan, he launched Poland’s transformation to a market economy and established a solid foundation for further reform.
The third Polish honoree, Adam Michnik, embodies the development of civil society. As an intellectual and a commentator on public affairs, the former dissident against the Communist regime demonstrated remarkable civil courage in fighting for democracy and human rights. Cofounder and editor of the Gazeta Wyborcza, Michnik “exposes shortcomings of the transformation process and helps to build societal bridges.” Poland’s most widely distributed newspaper has come to symbolize the new democratic Poland.
Bolivia’s outstanding development achievement is closely connected with its establishment of the rule of law and civic participation. Through comprehensive judicial reforms, René Blattmann, the nonpartisan minister of justice from 1994 to 1997, firmly anchored the rule of law in Bolivia. This improved safeguards for human rights and expanded structures for civic participation. Even after leaving office, Blattmann continued his commitment to civic codetermination as head of a citizens’ movement.
The Bolivian Ombudsman’s Office (Defensoría del Pueblo), established in 1998, has become an important advocate for the interests of the people. As head of the institution, Defensora Ana María Romero de Campero is responsible for monitoring law observance and promoting civic participation. Her promotion of participatory mechanisms such as dialogue programs and conflict mediation and her steadfast commitment to human rights have won the ombudswoman high regard among the people of Bolivia.
As part of an international research project, the Bertelsmann Stiftung worked with leading experts to develop a framework of criteria that a working committee then applied to evaluate a total of 56 countries. “This voluminous database could form the basis for a follow-up project, a regularly updated index of ground gained in transformation to democracy and a market economy,” Werner Weidenfeld noted. The Bertelsmann Stiftung has awarded the Carl Bertelsmann Prize annually since 1988. One special feature of the award is its international orientation. Last year’s prize recognized Switzerland and the Netherlands for their outstanding achievements healthcare reforms.