Posts Tagged ‘awards’

Nobel Peace Prize in 2021 for freedom of expression

October 8, 2021

On 8 October 2021 the Norwegian Nobel Committee decided to award the Nobel Peace Prize for 2021 to Maria Ressa and Dmitry Muratov for their efforts to safeguard freedom of expression, which is a precondition for democracy and lasting peace. Ms Ressa and Mr Muratov are receiving the Peace Prize for their courageous fight for freedom of expression in the Philippines and Russia. At the same time, they are representatives of all journalists who stand up for this ideal in a world in which democracy and freedom of the press face increasingly adverse conditions.

Maria Ressa uses freedom of expression to expose abuse of power, use of violence and growing authoritarianism in her native country, the Philippines. In 2012, she co-founded Rappler, a digital media company for investigative journalism, which she still heads. As a journalist and the Rappler’s CEO, Ressa has shown herself to be a fearless defender of freedom of expression. Rappler has focused critical attention on the Duterte regime’s controversial, murderous anti-drug campaign. The number of deaths is so high that the campaign resembles a war waged against the country’s own population. Ms Ressa and Rappler have also documented how social media is being used to spread fake news, harass opponents and manipulate public discourse. Maria Ressa has received earlier recognition with 5 human rights awards [see: https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/laureates/c048da20-ba0f-11ea-a77e-f524f6fc9aaa]

Dmitry Andreyevich Muratov has for decades defended freedom of speech in Russia under increasingly challenging conditions. In 1993, he was one of the founders of the independent newspaper Novaja Gazeta. Since 1995 he has been the newspaper’s editor-in-chief for a total of 24 years. Novaja Gazeta is the most independent newspaper in Russia today, with a fundamentally critical attitude towards power. The newspaper’s fact-based journalism and professional integrity have made it an important source of information on censurable aspects of Russian society rarely mentioned by other media. Since its start-up in 1993, Novaja Gazeta has published critical articles on subjects ranging from corruption, police violence, unlawful arrests, electoral fraud and ”troll factories” to the use of Russian military forces both within and outside Russia.

Novaja Gazeta’s opponents have responded with harassment, threats, violence and murder. Since the newspaper’s start, six of its journalists have been killed, including Anna Politkovskaja who wrote revealing articles on the war in Chechnya. Despite the killings and threats, editor-in-chief Muratov has refused to abandon the newspaper’s independent policy. He has consistently defended the right of journalists to write anything they want about whatever they want, as long as they comply with the professional and ethical standards of journalism.

Muratov dedicated his award to six contributors to his Novaya Gazeta newspaper who had been murdered for their work exposing human rights violations and corruption. “Igor Domnikov, Yuri Shchekochikhin, Anna Politkovskaya, Stas Markelov, Anastasia Baburova, Natasha Estemirova – these are the people who have today won the Nobel Prize,” Muratov said, reciting the names of slain reporters and activists whose portraits hang in the newspaper’s Moscow headquarters.

Free, independent and fact-based journalism serves to protect against abuse of power, lies and war propaganda. The Norwegian Nobel Committee is convinced that freedom of expression and freedom of information help to ensure an informed public. These rights are crucial prerequisites for democracy and protect against war and conflict. The award of the Nobel Peace Prize to Maria Ressa and Dmitry Muratov is intended to underscore the importance of protecting and defending these fundamental rights.

For more on the Nobel Peace Prize and many other awards on freedom of expression see: https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/F8EA8555-BF30-4D39-82C6-6D241CC41B74

https://www.nobelprize.org/prizes/peace/2021/press-release/

https://www.reuters.com/world/philippines-journalist-ressa-russian-journalist-muratov-win-2021-nobel-peace-2021-10-08/

2021 Laureates of the Right Livelihood Award

October 4, 2021

The 2021 Laureates of the Right Livelihood Award were announced in Stockholm on Wednesday, 29 September at Kulturhuset, Stockholm. For more in this award and its laureates, see: https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/97238E26-A05A-4A7C-8A98-0D267FDDAD59

Marthe Wandou, Cameroon

“For building a model of community-based child protection in the face of terrorist insurgency and gender-based violence in the Lake Chad region of Cameroon.”

Read more

Vladimir Slivyak, Russia

“For his defence of the environment and for helping to ignite grassroots opposition to the coal and nuclear industries in Russia.”

Read more

Freda Huson of the Wet’suwet’en people, Canada

“For her fearless dedication to reclaiming her people’s culture and defending their land against disastrous pipeline projects.”

Read more

Legal Initiative for Forest and Environment, India

“For their innovative legal work empowering communities to protect their resources in the pursuit of environmental democracy in India.”

Read more

For last year’s winners, see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/10/01/four-well-known-human-rights-defenders-are-the-2020-right-livelihood-laureates/

https://rightlivelihood.org/2021-announcement/

Call for Nominations for Courage to Think award 2021

June 23, 2021

Scholars at Risk is seeking nominations for the 2021 Courage to Think Award, which will be presented during an award ceremony at its annual Free to Think event in November 2021. Please submit a nomination by July 31, 2021, here.

The Courage to Think Award recognizes individuals, groups, or institutions that have demonstrated an exemplary commitment to protecting scholars and promoting academic freedom, whether through their professional work, private or community service, or by facing personal risk. For more of this award and its laureates, see: https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/165B4CC5-0BC2-4A77-B3B4-E26937BA553C

Juergen Habermas’ rejection of the Sheikh Zayed Award

May 10, 2021

After at first agreeing to accept the grand prize as “Cultural Personality of the Year” in the Sheikh Zayed Book Award, Juergen Habermas then decided to decline the honour. An interesting commentary by Reinhard Schulze sheds light on the wisdom of accepting such awards:

The rejection of the prize awarded by the United Arab Emirates has sparked quite a controversy and even been linked to the debate on “cancel culture”.

Some argue that it is wrong to decline the award because this indicates a failure to recognise the Emirates’ reform efforts; because such a rejection pretends to a freedom from the double standards that characterise political cooperation; because even reforms introduced by absolutist rulers can have positive effects; because Arabs have just as much right to read the works of Juergen Habermas as those in the West; because prizes always connote self-praise by their sponsor; because other famous personalities have also accepted prizes from the Gulf States; and because dialogue is more important than the self-righteous “cancel culture” of the West. [see e.g.; https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2021/02/22/zayed-award-for-human-fraternity-to-latifa-ibn-ziaten-and-uns-antonio-guterres/]

Who is honouring whom?

The first argument concerns the political context behind the Zayed Award. Some say that the UAE’s foreign, cultural and anti-Islamism policies betray signs of cautious reforms and opening in the principalities. This raises the question: who is honouring whom here? Does the prize honour the laureate, or does the laureate honour the sponsor’s reform policies by accepting?

In reality, the current politics in the UAE are anything but reformist. The interventions in Libya and Yemen, for example, are far more than just military adventures. They instead underpin a foreign policy strategy aimed at establishing a new Arab security architecture against Iran and Turkey, in which the Emirates are setting the tone together with Saudi Arabia. [see e.g.: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2015/04/29/the-emirates-not-a-paradise-for-human-rights-defenders/]…

The award in the context of neo-nationalist cultural policy

However, the Emirates’ cultural policy is clearly heading in a different direction. It combines the aspiration to make the Emirates the embodiment of a global culture on the one hand with a sentimental and nostalgic Arabism on the other. The Emirates want to give shape and expression to this Arabism and yet at the same time take on the status of patron of global culture. It is therefore no coincidence that the Zayed Award always selects as its “cultural personality of the year” someone who represents this global culture, this time in the form of Juergen Habermas, who was henceforward to be protected and promoted by the Emirates. See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/10/26/celebrity-endorsements-and-the-dubai-expo-on-the-one-hand-and-the-other/

The Emirates see as their greatest adversaries all organisations and groups that view Islam as a secular order, chief among them of course the Muslim Brotherhood. Such groups are ridiculed as relics of bygone times and at the same time furiously opposed. Promoted instead is an Islamic orthodoxy, provided it renounces any political pretensions. This Islamic orthodoxy is seen as part of the new nostalgic Arabism and reduced to the function of a symbolic cultural system of the Emirati “nation” represented by the princes.

There is no autonomous, discursively self-administering civic sphere, and journalistic freedom is to a large degree restricted. Emirati journalist Ahmad Mansoor, who won the Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders in 2015, has been in prison again since 2017, serving a 10-year sentence for allegedly using social media platforms to threaten public order and publish false and misleading information. See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/04/24/martin-ennals-award-laureates-rally-to-demand-freedom-for-their-imprisoned-fellow-award-winners/

Current policies in the Emirates thus largely rule out any opening up within society or social change. Only 10% of the population in the seven principalities are considered citizens, while 90% are foreigners or stateless persons (bidun). And only 7% are deemed to be Arab members of the titular nation.

The award and the weak legitimacy of the princes

Like most awards, the Zayed Award is also a mark of distinction for its sponsor. There is nothing inherently dishonourable about that. Things become problematic, however, when, as in Abu Dhabi, such self-adulation serves primarily to enhance the legitimacy of the ruling order through external recognition. Since only a very small minority of people in the country have any function at all as subjects that can legitimise the rule of the princes, a large portion of the population is politically and culturally functionless.

The legitimacy of the princes thus rests on very weak shoulders, which is why they strive to compensate for the lack of an internal basis of legitimacy through increased acknowledgement from the outside. And, as with the numerous principalities in the age of European absolutism, the princes on the Arabian Peninsula can also get ahead in the competition to secure legitimacy from the outside by obtaining prestigious objects. In Abu Dhabi, this includes the “Arab Louvre” and also the Zayed Award, which spotlights the “book” as the route to legitimacy.

Many have already been honoured with this award. In 2003, for example, the 8th President of FIFA, Sepp Blatter, received this highest state award in the Emirates. Zayed Award winners in the “cultural personality” category include the French-Lebanese writer Amin Maalouf (2016), Moroccan historian Abdallah Laroui (2017), Arabists Yaroslav and Suzanne Stetkevych (2019), and Palestinian author Salma Khadra Al Jayyusi (2020).
Abu Dhabi is emerging from Saudi Arabia’s shadow: since the Arab Spring of 2011, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have been pursuing an increasingly active foreign and security policy and have emerged as a leading regional power. The rise of the UAE to a regional power has made the country a more important and simultaneously a more problematic policy partner for Germany and Europe, argues Guido Steinberg in his study on “Regional Power United Arab Emirates”

Enlightened absolutism in the Gulf?

All of the award-winners to date have had a direct connection to the Arab world. With Juergen Habermas, however, a personality has been chosen for this year’s prize who has a pronounced legitimising function. To a certain extent, this has made the award more international, a move that corresponds quite closely to the efforts of the royal house of Abu Dhabi to gain the broadest possible worldwide recognition. Juergen Habermas’s oeuvre would seem to be ideally suited for this purpose. One might ask, though, why potentates would choose a personality whose work entails a radical critique of discourses of power, when their own actions as rulers run counter to precisely what the honouree has deemed necessary for the success of a society.

Do the princes want to show that they have now become advocates of an “enlightened absolutism”, endeavouring to reform the Leviathan of the state to such an extent that it becomes a beacon for Arab enlightenment? Are they trying to shift the weight of their project onto the shoulders of giants?

But an enlightened absolutism 2.0 would require broad legitimacy that goes far beyond a public sphere controlled by the royal court. This legitimacy, the princes realise, can only be obtained internationally. And if international recognition is tantamount to support for their foreign and security policy strategy, then that is certainly worth the prize money.

Refusing to condone such a strategy is by no means an expression of “cancel culture”. There are often good reasons for honourees to turn down awards. This was the case in 2008, for example, when literary critic Marcel Reich-Ranicki refused to accept the honorary prize of the German Television Award, and in 2011, when Juan Goytisolo from Spain refused to accept the Al-Gaddafi International Prize for Human Rights. Jean-Paul Sartre seems to have had less cogent reasons for turning down the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1964. But in any case, the reasons that lead someone to decline an award should be appreciated and respected. It harms no one, unless you regard the awardee as a sovereign subject of the prize sponsor. So let’s wait and see if Juergen Habermas takes the opportunity to explain his motives.

The Islamic scholar Reinhard Schulze works at the University of Bern. Since 2018, he has been the director of FINO, the "Forum Islam and Middle East", at the University (photo: private)

The argument that culture cannot be kept free of the double standards of politics, which is willing to prioritise economic interests over the demand for human rights, may seem disturbing. In the final analysis, this means that awards such as the aforementioned Al-Gaddafi Prize for Human Rights would also have to be recognised. I believe that the awards culture in particular poses a major challenge, as it can quickly be exploited in an almost extortionate manner to gain legitimacy and recognition. This was evident in some of the reactions to Juergen Habermas’s refusal of the award. The Catholic Bishop for the Apostolic Vicariate of Southern Arabia, Paul Hinder, described the rejection of the invitation to accept the prize as an “insult” to its sponsor. This makes one wonder whether, as an award winner, one automatically has some sort of obligation towards the donor?

It is precisely because international relations are so rife with double standards that it is necessary to create cultural and scientific realms in which the claim can be made to address human rights violations, freedom of the press and freedom of religion on an equal footing and based on an equal rationale. When someone like Juergen Habermas calls for this so urgently, relying on the power of words, then we can rightly expect that receiving an award will also be evaluated from this standpoint.

Not a case of arrogance

Therefore, it is not arrogance on the part of the West to reject this prize, if only because Juergen Habermas is not the West and the prize is not the Arab world. We should keep our feet firmly planted on the ground and not speak here of a new culture war. An honouree has exercised his right to ask who is honouring him and then decide whether to accept that honour.

His rejection of the award is in keeping with the work of Juergen Habermas. Social media reactions coming from Arab countries indicate that the majority welcomes Habermas’s decision; some have even expressed relief because the refusal to accept the award accomplishes two things at once: for one thing, the awards committee has recognised and manifested the prize-worthiness of Juergen Habermas’s work for the Arab world. Arabic editions of his works will surely become more widespread. Secondly, Habermas himself has shown that, despite the honour, he has stood by his critical principles and arrived at a decision that is consistent for him, and he has done so in a political environment where every honour is subject to the suspicion of being corrupt.

© Journal21/Reinhard Schulze/Qantara.de 2021

Translated from the German by Jennifer Taylor

https://en.qantara.de/content/a-triumph-for-discourse-juergen-habermas-rejection-of-the-sheikh-zayed-book-award

https://en.qantara.de/content/sheikh-zayed-book-award-why-has-juergen-habermas-rejected-a-prize-from-the-uae

2021 Aurora Humanitarians Announced

May 6, 2021

On 24 April 2021 the Aurora Humanitarian Initiative has revealed the names of five 2021 Aurora Humanitarians, chosen by the Aurora Prize Selection Committee for their courage, commitment and impact. The announcement was made today at the Matenadaran, the national repository of ancient manuscripts located in Yerevan, Armenia. During this special event, the attendees also paid tribute to the great scholar and philanthropist Vartan Gregorian, Co-Founder of the Aurora Humanitarian Initiative and member of the Aurora Prize Selection Committee, who passed away a few days ago. In accordance with the tradition, the names of the 2021 Aurora Humanitarians have been inscribed in the Chronicles of Aurora, a unique 21st century manuscript containing the depictions of the Aurora Humanitarian Initiative activities. For 2020 see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/09/17/fartuun-adan-and-ilwad-elman-from-somalia-named-2020-aurora-prize-winners/

One of the Humanitarians will become the 2021 Aurora Prize Laureate and will receive an opportunity to continue the cycle of giving by sharing a $1,000,000 award with the organizations that help people in need. The 2021 Aurora Humanitarians are:

  • Grégoire Ahongbonon (Côte d’Ivoire), founder of the St Camille Association, which helps people in West Africa suffering from mental illness and seeks to end the inhumane local practice of keeping them in chains. Mr. Ahongbonon has nominated three organizations that promote international solidarity and support people with intellectual disabilities and mental illnesses: CRÉDIL (Lanaudière’s Regional Committee on Education for International Development), L’Arche Canada Foundation, and St Camille Association.
  • Ruby Alba Castaño (Colombia), a human rights activist and founder of ASOCATDAME (Meta Association for Peasants, Rural Workers and Defenders of the Environment) who works to protect the rights of thousands of Colombian peasants that are subjected to persecution, forced disappearances and displacement. Ms. Castaño has nominated three organizations that advocate for the rights of the peasant and impoverished communities in Colombia: ASOCATDAME, Claretian Corporation Norman Pérez Bello (CCNPB), and National Federation of Agricultural Unions (FENSUAGRO).
  • Paul Farmer (USA), a medical anthropologist, professor at Harvard Medical School, co-founder and chief strategist of Partners In Health (PIH), an international non-profit organization that brings the benefits of modern medical science to those who need it the most. Dr. Farmer has nominated two organizations that deliver healthcare to the world’s poorest communities and build a global movement of social medicine educators and practitioners: Partners In Health and Equal Health.
  • Julienne Lusenge (Democratic Republic of the Congo), a human rights defender, co-founder of Women’s Solidarity for Inclusive Peace and Development (SOFEPADI) and Fund for Congolese Women (FFC), who has been helping the victims of wartime sexual violence for years. Ms. Lusenge has nominated three organizations that support grassroots women’s organizations, empower survivors of gender-based violence and reintegrate internally displaced persons: Fund for Congolese Women, League for Congolese Solidarity and Association of Mothers for Development and Peace.
  • Ashwaq Moharram (Yemen), a physician who provides life-saving support to the starving population of Hodeida, facing a humanitarian crisis in the aftermath of conflict and blockade. Dr. Moharram has nominated two organizations that protect the future of children and provide free healthcare services to the people affected by the ongoing conflict in Yemen: Save the Children and Doctors Without Borders.

“It is a great honor to have the opportunity to recognize these distinguished men and women from all over the world. The 2021 Aurora Humanitarians are individuals who truly believe in the basic human rights and have dedicated their lives to helping people in areas of adversity. They are also recognized for the huge impact that even one individual can have by helping thousands and, most importantly, inspiring millions at the same time,” said Lord Ara Darzi, Chair of the Aurora Prize Selection Committee.

“The outstanding accomplishments of the 2021 Aurora Humanitarians show their unyielding willingness to act in response to the needs of people around them. Aurora believes deeply in the power of humanity to improve and save lives and has come up with the concept of “Gratitude in Action” that describes the human spirit that can motivate humanitarian activism. The heroes we are honoring today are the role models the world needs now more than ever before,” noted Marguerite Barankitse, founder of Maison Shalom and REMA Hospital and the inaugural Aurora Prize Laureate.

At the event, the Aurora Humanitarian Initiative also officially announced the opening of the nomination period for the 2022 Aurora Prize and encouraged everyone to put forward inspiring modern-day heroes. Earlier that day, Aurora representatives had commemorated the Armenian Genocide by attending a flower-laying ceremony at the Tsitsernakaberd memorial in Yerevan, Armenia, dedicated to the victims of the first genocide of the 20th century.  

https://hetq.am/en/article/130109

Loujain Al-Hathloul wins Europe’s Vaclav Havel Human Rights Prize

April 20, 2021

The Council of Europe has given its annual human rights award to the Saudi Arabian women’s rights activist Loujain al-Hathloul who was released last month after nearly three years in prison

The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) on Monday 19 April 2021 awarded its human rights prize to Loujain Al-Hathloul who is the recipient of several awards, see: https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/laureates/1a6d84c0-b494-11ea-b00d-9db077762c6c

For more on the Vaclac Havel Human Rights prize and its laureates see: https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/7A8B4A4A-0521-AA58-2BF0-DD1B71A25C8D.

https://www.dw.com/en/loujain-al-hathloul-wins-vaclav-havel-human-rights-prize/a-57248168

David William McBride Is Nominated for Four International Human Rights Awards

April 6, 2021

This blog has a special interest in human rights awards and their laureates (see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2021/02/02/digest-of-laureates-ready-this-blog-changes-orientation/)

Still, it is rare to see an item that so openly advances a candidate as in Newsfile Corp. of April 1, 2021. It states that recently, David William McBride was nominated for four international human rights awards: 2021 Distinguished Services to Humanism Award, 2021 FrontLine Defenders Award, 2021 Sydney Peace Prize, and 2021 Václav Havel Human Rights Prize. These four awards have all made outstanding contributions to the development of international human rights and have a good reputation and recognition.

For the “FrontLine Defenders Award”, the “Sydney Peace Prize” and the Václav Havel Human Rights Prize (Council of Europe), see the Digest: https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest

From 2014 to 2016, McBride successively provided the American Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) with information about the war crimes committed by Australian soldiers in Afghanistan, and reported the details in 2017. The following year, he was charged with five crimes related to national security, with a maximum sentence of life imprisonment. He was not guilty of every charge at the preliminary hearing in May 2019 and is still awaiting trial. In the same year, the “Brereton report” was released. The report found that the Australian Special Forces allegedly killed 39 unarmed prisoners and civilians in Afghanistan, and 2 of them were even tortured and killed. Severe condemnation of the incident was issued around the world. After the fact verification was announced, the Australian people and politicians began to call for the revocation of the prosecution against McBride. Previously, McBride stated that my duty is to “stand up and be counted”, and I did it. What has happened from now on is irrelevant in many ways. I did what I thought was necessary. My main enemy is not the command system, or even the police, but myself. When the reporter asked what he thought of the upcoming charges, McBride said, “They keep threatening me to go to jail. If I am afraid of going to jail, why would I become a soldier?”

The winners of the four awards will be announced around April.

https://finance.yahoo.com/news/david-william-mcbride-nominated-four-095700067.html

Nigerien President Issoufou gets 2020 Mo Ibrahim Prize

March 22, 2021

Nigerien President Mahamadou Issoufou, set to step down after two terms in office, was last week awarded the Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership. [see:https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/a4b07020-ced4-11e7-8d59-7dc11e986512 ].

The chair of the Mo Ibrahim Prize Committee, Festus Mogae, a former president of Botswana and himself a recipient of the prize, said that Issoufou had “led his people on a path of progress.” The committee noted that Issoufou had faced “severe political and economic issues.” Niger in the best of times is one of the poorest countries in the world, facing recurrent, severe drought. It has been buffeted by jihadi terrorism, a host of economic issues, and COVID-19. Unlike many other African presidents, Issoufou did not try to remain in office beyond his constitutionally mandated two terms by amending the constitution or pursuing other extralegal means. Since its inception in 2007 the Ibrahim Foundation has granted the award to only seven other presidents. On eight occasions it found no eligible candidate. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/02/12/mo-ibrahim-prize-2017-to-ellen-johnson-sirleaf/]

However, there is some criticism of this choice. e.g. from Sebastian Elischer, Associate Professor of Political Science, University of Florida, who writes that:

During his time in office, his regime has had a heavy-handed reaction to dissent. It also hasn’t upheld the law. In 2017 students protesting for better living and studying conditions were arrested and injured; there were even some deaths. The same is true for broader protests denouncing corruption and calling for improved living conditions. Hundreds of civil society activists found themselves in prison without due process…

In addition, Amnesty International identified a recent surge in human rights violations in Niger. For instance, journalists reporting critically on the government’s war against Boko Haram or on corruption within the state bureaucracy frequently faced expulsion or arbitrary arrest. When Issoufou took office in 2011, the World Press Freedom Index ranked Niger 29th worldwide. In 2020 Niger occupies position 57. This constitutes a significant decline.

https://www.cfr.org/blog/nigers-mahamadou-issoufou-awarded-mo-ibrahim-prize-excellence-african-leadership

https://theconversation.com/why-its-a-big-surprise-that-the-african-leadership-prize-went-to-nigers-issoufou-157291

A new tool to champion human rights defenders

March 2, 2021

Pip Cook published on 2 March 2021 a piece in Geneva Solutions which is hard to ignore for me in view of my own participation in it: the Digest: “A new tool to champion human rights defenders“. [see also:https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2021/02/02/digest-of-laureates-ready-this-blog-changes-orientation/]

From left to right: Neri Colmenares, Abdul Aziz Muhamat, Juwairiya Mohideen, Nemonte Nenquimo and Intisar Al-Amyal. (True Heroes Films)

A new online tool has been launched to champion human rights defenders and bring greater recognition to their work. Launched this month by True Heroes Films, a Geneva-based media organisation which uses digital storytelling to raise the profile of human rights defenders around the world, the Digest of Human Rights Awards includes over 2,800 winners of 220 prestigious awards.

The Digest, while raising awareness about the work of human rights defenders, also  aims to serve as a useful tool for both the media and the human rights world to go beyond the often fleeting publicity that surrounds award ceremonies and ensure their work is not forgotten.

Hans Thoolen, co-founder of True Heroes and the Martin Ennals Award, told Geneva Solutions that the idea for the digest came out of a research project he undertook in 2013 into the value of human rights awards.

Awards help bring greater recognition to a cause, boosting an individual’s profile and granting them greater protection, be it through prize money or the support of NGOs. However, many awards remain relatively unheard of and receive very little publicity, which Thoolen said is “absolutely crucial” to their value.

Journalists are incorporated into the broad human rights movement. Without publicity, human rights defenders would be working mostly for nothing,” said Thoolen. “They need public attention for their cause and what they are trying to change. Without it, nobody would know what they are doing.

In fact, the Digest reveals journalists make up the largest professional group of award recipients, with more than 400 laureates from the media. The database also provides images of the laureates and biographies of their life and work, as well as details of the awards themselves.

Human rights awards generally try to achieve three main objectives,” explained Thoolen. “One is recognition at a psychological level, which should not be underestimated. Many human rights defenders are not very popular in their own society, sometimes not even within their own family, so when they get recognition that can be a very important boost to their mental health.

The value of awards also lies in “concrete support”, be it in the form of prize money or training opportunities, or the chance to connect with others working in the same field. They also provide protection for the laureates, which is another reason publicity is essential – to make it known that the world is watching. Although this publicity can bring with it some risks, Thoolen explains that his long career working in the human rights world has shown him that these are outweighed by the benefits.

The feedback we get from lawyers is always the same: the [human rights defenders] have already taken enormous risks by going public. They are not afraid, and clearly the publicity helps them.

Showcasing the work of thousands of people from all different backgrounds, championing everything from women’s rights to freedom of speech, Thoolen also hopes the Digest will serve as a “hall of fame” for role models to inspire the next generation of human rights defenders.

Most people get into human rights work when they’re hit by something, but usually it’s not by reading the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” said Thoolen. “What inspires people is seeing and hearing a person: a human rights defender. They are the entry point into the much broader human rights movement.

The piece then gives some recent winners of prestigious human rights awards featured in the Digest:

Abdul Aziz Muhamat – Martin Ennals Award, 2019. 

Juwairiya Mohideen – The Front Line Defenders Award, 2020. 

Nemonte Nenquimo – Goldman Environment Award, 2020.

Mohammad Mosaed – International Press Freedom Awards and Deutsche Welle’s Freedom of Speech, 2020. . 

Rugiati Turay – Theodor Haecker Prize, 2020. 

Intisar Al-Amyal – Per Anger Prize, 2020. 

Zayed Award for Human Fraternity to Latifa ibn Ziaten and UN’s Antonio Guterres.

February 22, 2021
Guterres said he considers the award to be recognition of the work of the UN “to advance peace and human dignity every day and everywhere.” (AFP/File Photo)
French-Moroccan activist Latifa ibn Ziaten was a co-recipients of the this year’s Zayed Award for Human Fraternity, along with UN's Antonio Guterres. (Supplied)

Arab News of 4 February 2021 writes about the Zayed Award for Human Fraternity 2021 which recognises French-Moroccan activist Latifa ibn Ziaten and Antonio Guterres.

The Zayed Award recognizes the institutions and community of people who are spreading the work of human fraternity and coexistence around the world. It was inspired by the Document on Human Fraternity which was signed by His Eminence the Grand Imam Dr. Ahmed El-Tayeb and His Holiness Pope Francis on February 4, 2019 in Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates.

The Document on Human Fraternity, alongside the inspiration of the humanitarian actions and values of the UAE’s founder, the late Sheikh Zayed, is the foundational doctrine that informs the criteria for nominees of the Zayed Award for Human Fraternity (ZAHF). The Higher Committee of Human Fraternity (HCHF) is a non-governmental body, based in Abu Dhabi, and the architect of the Zayed Award for Human Fraternity. Obviously not the most appropriate place for human rights award, see: https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/laureates/074ACCD4-A327-4A21-B056-440C4C378A1A and also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/05/18/uae-emirates-human-rights-defender-nasser-bin-ghaith-ngos-censorship/

HCHF’s mission is to act on the aspirations outlined in the Document on Human Fraternity by meeting with religious leaders, heads of international organizations, and others across the world, to support and spread the values of mutual respect and peaceful coexistence. In addition, the committee provides counsel on a variety of initiatives, including the Abrahamic Family House, which is being built in Abu Dhabi. See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/01/23/emirates-at-the-upr-in-geneva-two-sides-of-the-same-medal/y.

Guterres praised fellow recipient Ibn Ziaten for “her dedicated efforts to support young people and promote mutual understanding, arising out of immense personal tragedy, (that has) won admirers at home and beyond.”[see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/04/08/us-state-department-international-women-of-courage-awards-2016-yulan/
Ibn Ziaten’s son, Imad, was the first person to die at the hands of terrorist Mohamed Merah during a series of shootings in the cities of Toulouse and Montauban in southwestern France between March 11 and 22, 2012. When Ibn Ziaten visited Les Izards in Toulouse, where the Merah had lived, to find out more about the man who took her son’s life she was shocked to find young people there hailing the killer as a hero of Islam. “I had the impression they were killing my son all over again,” she said at the time. This motivated her to found the Imad ibn Ziaten Youth Association for Peace to help young people in deprived areas and promote interreligious dialogue.
Guterres reiterated that discrimination, racism and extremist violence continue to surge around the globe, fueled by the COVID-19 pandemic, an economic recession, a climate emergency and continuing threats to peace and security. Unity is more important now than ever, he added. Guterres said he will donate the $500,000 prize that accompanies the award to the Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees to support its work with “the most vulnerable members of the human family: the forcibly displaced.”

https://www.arabnews.com/node/1803496/world