U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has singled out Counterpart International for praise in their civil society work in Armenia.

“I want to acknowledge the governments and organizations here today, the OSCE, the European Union, the British Embassy, and the NGO Counterpart International – all steadfast partners in the effort to protect and promote human rights worldwide,” Clinton said at the 2012 Universal Rights Awards Ceremony at the U.S. Embassy in Yerevan, Armenia.

The June 4 gathering highlighted the importance of civic activism and government accountability.

The honorees were 11 Armenian activists and reformers. They were praised for dedication and advocacy in bringing about change and greater partnership between state institutions and citizens to make their government more responsive.

Fighting for answers

Tsovinar Nazaryan received the Woman of Courage Award for advocating reform in the armed forces after the unsolved death of her brother, who was in the military.

In presenting the award, Counterpart’s Alex Sardar commended Nazaryan’s efforts “to fight so that no other family would experience such tragedy and grief.” He said her personal struggle for change produces a greater good because “reforms reinforce readiness for a variety of challenges.”

Artur Sakunts received the Freedom Defender Award for his work on behalf of Armenian minorities. Deputy Police Chief Artur Osikyan received the Government Reformer Award.

The editors of Epress.am were honored for their coverage of human rights, and five environmentalists received the Civic Activism Award.

“The United States knows from long experience that if you want to have a stable, prosperous society, you need an accountable, effective government, you need a dynamic, free economy, and you need a civil society that supports the rights and dignity of all people,” Clinton said.

Partnerships for change

Counterpart joined the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the U.S. Embassy along with diplomatic representatives of the United Kingdom, the European Union and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe in organizing the event.

More than 250 political leaders and representatives of government and the international community assembled to recognize the contributions of the award recipients in advancing difficult reforms and in representing the interests of the most vulnerable in Armenian society.

U.S. Ambassador to Armenia John Heffern said the event “clearly demonstrates the importance of partnership and values to the U.S.-Armenia relationship.… We are here pushing for changed based on shared values.”