Posts Tagged ‘conflict resolution’

Uyghur Human Rights Defender Ilham Tohti wins also Weimar Human Rights Prize

July 5, 2017

Photo Courtesy of WUC

Uyghur scientist and human rights activist Ilham Tohti – laureate of the 2016 Martin Ennals Award – was awarded the Weimar Human Rights Prize by the Weimar city council for his commitments to the rights of Uyghurs in the Xinjang autonomous region of China. On 30 June 2017, the City Council made the decision following to the recommendation of the Advisory Committee on the Award of the Weimar Human Rights Award, which had voted for a proposal from the Ilham Tohti Initiative and the Society for Threatened Peoples of Germany. The justification of the City Council states: “As a renowned professor of economic and social issues at the Central Nationalities University of Beijing, Ilham Tohti has been tirelessly trying to point out to a broad public the serious economic and social dilemmas of the Uyghurs in Xinjiang. He has always advocated a peaceful coexistence between the ethnic groups of the Uyghurs and Han Chinese, as well as other minorities, and has only observed compliance with the existing autonomy law by the Chinese government. In September 2014, the ethnic bridge builder and inconvenient advisor, who always claimed that Xinjiang Autonomous Province remained an integral part of the People’s Republic of China, was sentenced to life imprisonment by the Urumchi Middle People’s Court for separatism. The City Council hopes that the award will spread Tohti’s message of peace and dialogue and the efforts for his release.

The award ceremony will take place on 10 December 2017 on the occasion of the International Day of Human Rights.

Source: UNPO: Uyghur Human Rights Activist Ilham Tohti Has Received Weimar 2017 Human Rights Prize

Geneva Call: even armed groups can adhere to humanitarian standards

September 17, 2015

In this short video produced by True Heroes Films (THF) spokespeople for armed non-state actors explain why they feel they have to adhere to humanitarian standards. The definition of human rights defenders excludes those who advocate or use violence but the importance of them respecting basic standards is a crucial, long-term issue.

This Geneva Call short video features 13 high-level representatives of armed non-State actors (ANSAs) from 10 countries, including Syria, Burma/Myanmar and Sudan. In it, they explain why they think it is so important to enter into a dialogue with Geneva Call on humanitarian norms and the protection of civilian populations.  Although ANSAs are responsible for violations of humanitarian norms in many conflicts, it is possible to engage them in a dialogue about respecting those norms.

It is in ANSAs’ interests to respect humanitarian norms, not only to gain support from populations in the areas they control but also to maintain a good reputation. Complying with humanitarian norms often sits well with the political or religious values that are at the root of their struggle, and compliance can make them more credible interlocutors when peace negotiations take place.

These statements were filmed at Geneva Call’s Third Meeting of Signatories in November 2014. This meeting in Geneva brought together 70 high-level representatives of 36 ANSAs from 14 different countries.

see also:

Sergio Vieira de Mello Prize 2015 goes to CAR Interfaith Peace Platform

July 28, 2015

The 2015 Sergio Vieira de Mello Prize goes to the Interfaith Peace Platform for the work achieved to reconcile religious groups in the hope of reaching a lasting peace in Central African Republic (CAR), a country devastated by a war between fractions.

The award [see:] was established in Sergio Vieira de Mello’s memory, who was killed in the UN compound bombing in Bagdad on 19 August 2003.

The Interfaith Platform promotes dialogue as a preventive measure against religious violence and a means to pursue peace across CAR. It was established in 2013 by representatives of the three most important religions in the country, the Catholic Archbishop of Bangui, Mgr. Dieudonné Nzapalainga, the President of the Islamic Council in CAR, Imam Oumar Kobine Layama and by the President of the Evangelical Alliance, Pastor Nicolas Guérékoyaméné-Gbangou. Read the rest of this entry »

Nominations for the 2015 Sergio Vieira de Mello Award open

September 24, 2014

The Sergio Vieira de Mello Foundation was created in 2007 by family and friends of Sergio Vieira de Mello, the former High Commissioner for Human Rights. One of the aims of the Foundation is to award an Annual Prize in Sergio’s name once a year to individuals, institutions or communities in recognition of outstanding and unique work for peaceful reconciliation.

Criteria for Selecting Candidates include:

  • The candidates are authentic verifiable community-based entities operating in areas of conflict and as such could be refugees, internally displaced persons or persons affected by conflict.
  •  Achievements for which candidates are selected are innovative and unique, and affect the lives and well-being of a substantive segment of the community positively.
  •  A high probability that the initiative can be sustained and replicated in similar communities elsewhere.
  •  Reconciliation and Co-existence resulting from the initiative is measurable, verifiable and sustainable.

Deadline 30 November, 2014, either by e-mail at: or by post at: Sergio Vieira de Mello Foundation: 29, Rue des Allobroges, 1227 Carouge, Geneva, Switzerland.  The selection is made by an independent Jury of the Foundation. A form on the website ( will facilitate the nomination process.

see also: and for awards:

José Ramos-Horta delivers 2014 Sergio Vieira de Mello lecture

May 2, 2014

The Sergio Vieira de Mello Foundation, in collaboration with the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, is organising its annual conference on Thursday 15 May 2014 at 18:30. The main speaker is Mr. José Ramos-Horta, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, Special Representative of the UN Secretary General in Guinea Bissau, and Patron of the MEA on the theme of “Preventing conflicts, ending wars, building desirable peace.” The lecture is free and open to everyone at the Maison de la paix, Auditorium Ivan Pictet, Chemin Eugène-Rigot 2, 1202 Geneva.

via 2014 Annual Lecture.

Pakistan: Christians, Muslims HRDs join against human rights violations

August 19, 2013


Joseph DeCaro of Worthy Christian News reports on 19 August 2013 how human rights defenders could play a role in preventing the escalation of religious conflict in PakistanRead the rest of this entry »

Nobel Prize is for Peace not necessarily Human Rights

October 12, 2012

As this is post number 300 in my blog, I decided to write a more substantive piece and the news of the EU getting the Nobel Peace Prize is an excellent trigger:

The awarding of the 2012 Noble Peace Prize to the European Union has at least made clear that it is really a peace award and not a human rights award as is often assumed. With hindsight, it would have been more appropriate if Alfred Nobel had died on 21 September instead of 10 December 1896. Much later, the United Nations declared 10 December to be International Human Rights Day and designated 21 September as the International Day of Peace. The curious result is that the Nobel Peace Prize – intended for contributions to ‘peace’, not necessarily ‘human rights’ – is given every year in Oslo on 10 December, International Human Rights Day. On quite a few occasions the Peace Prize has been awarded to individuals who can safely be said to belong to the category of human rights defenders (HRDs), but in other cases it was awarded ‘merely’ because they stopped violating human rights (think of Kissinger and Le Duc Tho, Begin and Arafat or de Klerk) or to encourage leaders to continue their conflict resolution work (Obama and now the EU).

Awards for Human Rights Defenders are a different matter!

At the international diplomatic level human rights may nowadays receive a lot of attention in a myriad of procedures and mechanisms, but when it comes to the actual implementation at the grassroots level it is still the dedication of individual human beings that counts most. Fortunately, there are many such persons: some lobbying discreetly for improvements, others demonstrating loudly. However, some have to take tremendous personal risks when publicly challenging the powers that be. These heroes often have to sacrifice more than their time and energy, too many having been arrested, tortured and even killed.

Without the individual human rights defender, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other human rights law risks to remain a dead letter. It is for this reason that almost all human rights organisations have some degree of mandate to come to the succour of threatened colleague human rights defenders. Many organisations at both the local and international level have some kind of human rights award. However, ten international human rights organisations, including the most influential, have set their differences aside to join in a common award for such courageous individuals: the Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders (MEA), which next year exists 20 years.

A pertinent question is whether awards are really effective. To answer that, one has to know in which way human rights awards intend to help human rights defenders. In the first place, almost all awards want to give recognition and encouragement at the moral and psychological level. This goal should not be trivialized, as activists often have to work in environments that are not appreciative of their efforts, and the causes they defend can be unpopular even within their own social circles. Secondly, many awards come with a measure of direct financial support, which can be of great importance as even relatively small amounts go far in cash-strapped organisations, often based in developing countries.

Finally, the most ambitious but also the most elusive goal is to provide protection. The latter is not really possible without a fair degree of publicity. The problem is that much of the publicity generated by human rights awards tends to be in the country where the award is given, while from the protection point of view the most crucial publicity is in the country of the human rights activist in question. The award givers may want to see the name of their organisation or sponsor referred to in the media of their own country (usually in the West), but the recipients of the award are better served by attention and recognition in their own countries, often in the South with a low-level of literacy and limited independent press. Hence the importance of the use of the mass media, in particular radio and television and the internet. The freshly-crowned Nobel laureate, the EU, makes a major contribution to the protection of Human Rights Defenders, including a promise to give every year a reception in honor of the MEA laureate in the country of the winner.

The notoriety of the Nobel Peace Prize gives it great impact and we all would like to emulate it but it does not make it a human rights award. The number of human rights prizes can be  confusing, but individually and collectively they do have the potential to bring human rights defenders ‘from the front line to the front page’. contains many stories of HRDs and the links to the websites of the 10 NGOs on the Jury give a lot more information.