Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, once said a “genuine leader is not a searcher for consensus but a molder of consensus.” Those words, so powerful during the United States Civil Rights Movement, still ring true today. It is an honor to gather here with you today to celebrate Dr. King’s legacy, and to honor a Ghanaian citizen, Dr. Emmanuel O. Akwetey, whose work exemplifies Dr. King’s message on leadership as he strives to promote peace and constructive dialogue throughout Ghana.
The Martin Luther King, Jr. Award for Peace and Social Justice recognizes Ghanaians who personify the philosophy and actions of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., by working to build a culture of peacemaking, dialogue, and conflict resolution.
This award honors activists who promote social justice, stability, human rights, and peace through nonviolent means. Past recipients include distinguished Ghanaian citizens who are promoting peace and security in their local communities and throughout the region, providing health services to underserved populations, and advocating for victims of human trafficking. Although they have committed their lives to different issues in various parts of the country, all of the recipients of this award have one thing in common – they are striving to strengthen Ghanaian institutions and empower and inspire its citizens. They carry on Dr. King’s work through their words, their actions, and their aspirations. For this, we thank them for their courage and their commitment to change.
Dr. King’s message of peace and conflict resolution through dialogue and non-violent interaction still resonates today in the United States, in Ghana, and around the world. I believe that the efforts initiated by Dr. Akwetey exemplify the principles for which Dr. King fought so hard. Therefore, it gives me great pleasure to present this award to Dr. Emmanuel O. Akwetey.
Dr. Emmanuel O. Akwetey is a political scientist with a doctorate in International Politics and Development from the University of Stockholm, Sweden, where he taught for several years before returning to Ghana in 1999. He is the founding Executive Director of the Institute for Democratic Governance (IDEG), one of Ghana’s leading independent policy research and advocacy organizations. He applies his expertise to democratic governance and the management of elections and democratic institutions.
He focuses his work and analysis on topics such as development policy, aid effectiveness, international development cooperation, international politics, human and institutional capacity development, constitutional and decentralization reforms, and the interaction of civil society and NGOs with governments and international organizations concerning development and African integration matters. He obviously keeps a full plate.
Dr. Akewetey’s work has had a significant impact on Ghana’s elections and governance agenda. His efforts included promoting voter education, building sustaining credible electoral systems, ensuring peaceful elections, and building a climate of peaceful election adjudication. In 2012 and 2013, he played a key role in Ghana’s pre- and post-election environment, when he helped persuade the leaders of the major political parties and other stakeholders to initiate a dialogue.
The results were impressive: at the IDEG-organized Kumasi High-Level Forum and at an Accra Peace Summit, presidential contestants committed themselves to protecting the peace in the country, condemning political violence and impunity.
In addition, Dr. Akwetey has committed himself to battling corruption within the government. While meeting with political and media leaders, he has repeatedly called for the strengthening of anti-corruption agencies. Looking ahead to the 2016 elections, he has emphasized the essential role that the nation’s leaders play in maintaining the stability of Ghana. At a workshop this past November, Dr. Akwetey stated that “democracy is a serious business which requires discipline, sacrifices and neutrality.”
As he promotes those values in Ghanaian leadership, Dr. Akwetey himself leads the Multi-Party Governance Forum to promote broad and inclusive participation in the constitutional amendment process, especially in regards to the decentralization of government power.
Decentralized power—what we call “federalism” in the U.S. —with the national government sharing local authority at the regional level, has worked well in the United States for over 200 years. We have seen it foster local responsibility. It helps us breed new generations of leaders tested on a smaller scale before they take on national leadership roles. It uncovers leaders on the municipal, state or regional level who are directly connected to the local citizens who choose them, increasing citizen identification with and trust of local government.
Dr. Akwetey’s work is commendable, and essential. I dare say that if he were alive today, Martin Luther King, Jr. would again be inspired by the work of our honoree.
Dr. King once said, “An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity.” This sentiment rings true for Dr. Akwetey’s involvement in Ghana’s political environment. Because of his contributions to Ghana’s peace and stability and his leadership in encouraging improved community and social justice, Dr. Emmanuel Akwetey is presented with this year’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Award.
It is now my honor to call Dr. Emmanuel O. Akwetey to join me and receive the 2015 Martin Luther King, Jr. Award for Peace and Social Justice.