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Tribute to David M. Evans

  • Hon. Steny H. Hoyer
    US












House of Representative

106th Congress, Second Session

Mr. Speaker, on October 4, a man of great knowledge, talent and dignity passed away. David Meredith Evans was an officer in the Foreign Service, serving his country in that capacity from 1963 until 1995. He was 64 years of age. I came to know him during his last assignment before retiring, when he served as the Senior Adviser on the staff of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, better known to us as the Helsinki Commission.

I was Chairman of the Helsinki Commission at the time and relied heavily on his expertise in the early 1990s, when the former Soviet Union and the countries of East-Central Europe were in a state of transition and, in some cases, turmoil. With the Cold War coming to a close, it was a challenge for many foreign policy experts to understand the new world into which we were heading. David, however, had a keen sense of where things were heading, both in terms of the wonderful possibilities and of the dangerous obstacles that stood in the way. Thanks in large part to him, the Helsinki Commission played a prominent role during that period: observing the first multi-party elections countries from the Warsaw Pact held in at least four decades; organizing congressional delegations to these countries to learn firsthand what was happening; attending meetings of what is now the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OCSE) to raise concerns about human rights violations in particular; and overseeing the drafting of Commission reports which helped educate policy-makers about what needed to be done.

David Evans had a strong background in Soviet and East European affairs going back to his education at Harvard University and his tours at the U.S. embassies in Moscow, Belgrade and Warsaw. He had focused considerably on economic and trade issues, and he understood early on that the entrepreneurial spirit and free market, not the collectivism and central planning of communism, were what the people in these countries needed. He further understood that this could not happen without the development of democracy, and he became a committed human rights advocate. Indeed, the Commission’s first encounters with David Evans were during OSCE negotiations on economic, scientific and environmental questions. Rather than pushing generic ‘international cooperation’ in these areas, he pushed for improved human contacts through developing the tourist industry; he criticized the Soviets for taking action against scientists like Andrei Sakharov who expressed independent political views; he promoted the right of environmental activists in the Soviet Union and East-Central Europe to raise their concerns without being punished by the state.

David also had a particular expertise on Yugoslav affairs, and while the violent demise of Yugoslavia beginning in 1991 had a strong affect on all of us, it brought him a personal anguish. He spoke the language fluently, traveled there frequently with the Commission staff and worked tirelessly to make us aware of what was happening and why. He was in Sarajevo in March 1992, when the city was first surrounded by Serb militants, and got a glimpse of the nightmare that Bosnia and its capital would have to endure one month later and the more than three years thereafter.

I worked mostly with David, however, in dealing with the break-up of the Soviet Union and the emergence of new countries about which we knew little. I can remember mostly his seriousness of purpose combined with a good sense of humor. Among other things, he introduced us all to the word `gefuffle,’ his description of a scene of chaotic confrontation where people are shouting at each other. And, as I said, he was a man of great dignity. He was, for example, generally conservative and formal in his attire. Still, he would travel to some of the muddiest, dustiest, dilapidated places in Europe without hesitation in order to carry out the Helsinki Commission’s mandate.

In the five years he was with the Helsinki Commission, the staff truly appreciated his presence and sense of purpose. They could rely on him to provide the direction and judgment needed to carry out their tasks. They could also count on his support for their efforts to promote human rights when those from other branches of government or countries sought to minimize human rights in international relations. Many of the same staff are still at the Commission, and kept in touch with him in his retirement. Indeed, he continued his activism during this period, working to preserve country estates and museums throughout Russia. Along with his wonderful family, friends, fellow foreign service officers and Commission staff, I will miss David Evans and will always remember and value his advice and presence while at the Helsinki Commission. He was, Mr. Speaker, an American who dedicated his life to representing his country and the ideals on which it is based, and I am grateful to have known him.

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Publications

HELSINKI COMMISSION DIGITAL DIGEST JUNE 2022

Jun 30, 2022

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Hearings

European Energy Security Post-Russia

Jun 07, 2022

Russia is weaponizing energy to prolong its unlawful invasion of Ukraine. Unfortunately, the sanctions that Europe and the United States have put in place have not been enough to curb Russian aggression thus far and the European Union pays Russia almost a billion euros a day for energy resources—mostly gas— that fund the Russian war […]

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Press Releases

European Energy Security Focus of Upcoming Helsinki ...

Jun 02, 2022

WASHINGTON—The Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, also known as the Helsinki Commission, today announced the following hearing: EUROPEAN ENERGY SECURITY POST-RUSSIA Tuesday, June 7, 2022 2:30 p.m. Watch live: www.youtube.com/HelsinkiCommission The United States and European allies have largely cut Russia out of the global economy following its full-scale invasion of Ukraine. However, given […]

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Statements

Chairman Cardin Emphasizes the Importance of the Glo...

Mar 23, 2022

Madam President, reserving the right to object to the request from the Senator from Idaho, it is my understanding that the Senator’s modification would not include provisions that were included in the Housepassed legislation that modifies the global Magnitsky sanction regime. I just would like to speak for a moment, if I might. There is […]

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Press Releases

Helsinki Commission Delegation Advances Priority Iss...

Jul 15, 2021

WASHINGTON—Helsinki Commission Chairman Sen. Ben Cardin (MD) and Ranking Member Sen. Roger Wicker (MS) last week led a U.S. delegation to the 2021 OSCE Parliamentary Assembly (PA) Annual Session in Vienna, Austria. The assembly was the first major gathering with an in-person component since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020. The 2021 […]

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Press Releases

Helsinki Commission Commemorates 45 Years of Advanci...

Jun 03, 2021

WASHINGTON—To commemorate the 45th anniversary of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, also known as the U.S. Helsinki Commission, on June 3, Chairman Sen. Ben Cardin (MD) and commission leaders Sen. Roger Wicker (MS) and Rep. Joe Wilson (SC-02) issued the following statements: “The Helsinki Commission has played a vital role in elevating […]

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Press Releases

Senator Ben Cardin Returns to Lead Helsinki Commission

Mar 24, 2021

WASHINGTON—The Presiding Officer, on behalf of the Vice President, yesterday announced the appointment of Sen. Ben Cardin (MD) as chair of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, also known as the Helsinki Commission, throughout the 117th Congress. “For 45 years, the Helsinki Commission has tirelessly defended human rights and democratic institutions at home […]

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Articles

Retrospective on the 116th Congress

Dec 18, 2020

By Emma Derr, Max Kampelman Fellow “For more than four decades, the Helsinki Commission has championed human rights and democracy across North America, Europe, and Central Asia. While we have worked to keep these concerns on the U.S. agenda, much remains to be accomplished.” ​ Rep. Alcee L. Hastings (FL-20), Chairman, U.S. Helsinki Commission In the […]

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Articles

2020 OSCE Mediterranean Conference

Dec 09, 2020

By Zantana Ephrem, Max Kampelman Fellow and Michelle Ikelau Ngirbabulka, Max Kampelman Fellow In 2020, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) has faced the unprecedented crisis of COVID-19, as well as numerous other challenges. On November 3, the Mediterranean Partners for Cooperation Group gathered to virtually share best practices and discuss areas for […]

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Articles

The OSCE Celebrates 30 Years of the Charter of Paris

Nov 20, 2020

By Emma Derr, Max Kampelman Fellow November 21, 2020, marks the 30th anniversary of the Charter of Paris for a New Europe,  a groundbreaking document of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE). The charter was signed by 34 heads of state and government during a CSCE Summit in the French capital from […]

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In the News

U.S., EU Sanction Belarus in Coordinated Western Action

Oct 02, 2020

Lukashenko government lashes out, saying no ‘self-respecting’ state would agree to demands posed by the West. The U.S. and European Union imposed sanctions against Belarus officials on Friday, part of a coordinated effort by Western allies to censure the authoritarian regime over accusations of political repression and rigging elections. The EU reached an early morning deal […]

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Press Releases

Hastings: Petty Parochialism Denies OSCE Vital Leade...

Jul 14, 2020

WASHINGTON—Following yesterday’s failure of OSCE representatives to renew the mandates of four leadership positions—the OSCE Secretary General, the High Commissioner on National Minorities, the Representative on Freedom of the Media, and the Director of the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights—Helsinki Commission Chairman Rep. Alcee L. Hastings (FL-20) issued the following statement: “We are […]

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