Australia’s former Foreign Minister Alexander Downer received the American Jewish Committee’s (AJC) Ramer Award for Diplomatic Excellence on May 1 in Washington DC at the AJC’s 102nd annual conference.
AJC Executive Director David A. Harris said the organisation’s commitment to advancing the causes of human rights, democracy, and peace, and to opposing global forces of extremism and intolerance, were principles displayed by Mr Downer during his nearly 12 years as Australia’s longest serving foreign minister.
“As foreign minister he demonstrated outstanding friendship toward the US and Israel and unwavering support for American foreign policy and especially the on-going war against terrorism and Islamic extremism,” Mr Harris said.
“He has been refreshingly forthcoming and courageous in dealing with the UN and other international bodies.
He is a great friend of the Jewish people and the Australian Jewish community,” he added.
Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council Executive Director Dr Colin Rubenstein, who attended the conference, praised the decision to award Mr Downer with the annual prize as a “fitting tribute”.
“The partnership of former Australian Prime Minister John Howard and Foreign Minister Alexander Downer brought the relationship between Australia and Israel to new heights,” Dr Rubenstein said.
Dr Rubenstein said Mr Downer’s notable achievements included Australia’s strong advocacy and support for Israel on the international stage, particularly by opposing one-sided anti-Israel resolutions at the United Nations, and by highlighting ongoing Arab rejectionism as the key obstacle to peacemaking.
Dignitaries who shared the podium with Mr Downer at the award ceremony included French Prime Minister Francois Filion and Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the US Joint, Chiefs of Staff.
Previous recipients of the Ramer Award include former German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer, former Spanish Foreign Minister Ana Palacio, and former US Ambassador to the UN John Negroponte.
The AJC annual meeting is considered one of the United States’ pre-eminent international conferences.
The four-day meeting focuses on topics inclulding Middle East peace, interfaith cooperation and the struggle against extremism and intolerance. Hundreds of AJC members and supporters, policymakers, diplomats, members of Congress and Jewish leaders from 45 countries attended.
The list of past headline speakers at AJC annual meetings include US President George W. Bush, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan.