Posts Tagged ‘Deutsche Welle’

Right Livelihood Award 2019 lauds ‘practical visionaries’

September 26, 2019

On its 40th anniversary, the Right Livelihood Award is honoring the efforts of an activist, a lawyer, a rainforest protector and Greta Thunberg. Deutsche Welle takes a closer look at the people who have inspired others.

German-Swedish writer Jakob von Uexküll thought there weren’t enough Nobel Prize categories to truly address the challenges faced by humanity. So in 1980, he founded the Right Livelihood Award [see:]

This year, the recipients hail from Western Sahara, China, Sweden and Brazil. “With the 40th Right Livelihood Awards we honor four people whose leadership inspires millions of people to defend their rights and fight for a livable future on planet Earth,” said Ole von Uexküll, Jakob von Uexküll’s nephew and the current executive director of the Right Livelihood Foundation.

Aminatou Haidar speaks at a podium (Right Livelihood Foundation)

Aminatou Haidar spent four years in a secret prison, isolated from the outside world

By the time she was a teenager, Aminatou Haidar was already an activist. She has continued to campaign peacefully for the independence of her home country, Western Sahara, ever since. Haidar has become the face of a movement that is committed to Sahrawi self-determination, and fights for their fundamental human rights to be respected. She is also co-founder and president of the Collective of Sahrawi Human Rights Defenders (CODESA) humanitarian organization. Haidar has organized demonstrations, documented torture and gone on a hunger strike to draw attention to the plight of her people. These actions are often not tolerated by Moroccan authorities: Haidar has been imprisoned without being charged or tried many times. She even spent four years in a secret prison isolated from the outside world. Yet in the face of harassment, attacks and death threats — including against her children — she continues to fight tirelessly for a solution to the long-standing conflict in Western Sahara. Her enduring stamina and nonviolent protests earned her the moniker “Gandhi of Western Sahara.” The jury said she was chosen to for her “steadfast nonviolent action, despite imprisonment and torture, in pursuit of justice and self-determination for the people of Western Sahara.” [see also:].


Guo Juanmei (Right Livelihood Foundation)

Guo Juanmei has been working for women’s rights in China for 25 years

It wasn’t until 2014, when official figures were released, that it became known just how endemic domestic violence is in China: one in four married Chinese women is beaten by their husbands. It was a topic that had long been hushed up. Two years later, the Chinese government passed a law against domestic violence, an achievement owing to the tireless efforts of women’s rights activists like Guo Jianmei. Guo is one of China’s most prominent women’s rights lawyers. Over the past 25 years, she and her team have provided free legal advice to 120,000 women. She is the first lawyer in the country to work full-time in non-profit legal assistance. Guo supports campaigns on issues such as unequal pay, sexual harassment and widespread employment contracts that prohibit pregnancy across the country. In rural areas, Guo helps women who are denied land rights where patriarchal systems leave women dependent on their husbands. She founded an association of more than 600 lawyers that handles cases in the country’s most remote regions. Guo received this year’s award “for her pioneering and persistent work in securing women’s rights in China.”


Davi Kopenawa Yanomami (Right Livelihood Foundation)

Davi Kopenawa Yanomami has long been committed to protecting indigenous rights and land

The Amazon is burning, and the world is worried about the effects the burning rainforest will have on the climate. But local inhabitants are feeling the immediate impact. The award organizers wanted to draw attention to the plight of the indigenous people of Brazil by jointly recognizing Davi Kopenawa Yanomami, one of Brazil’s most respected advocates for the indigenous peoples, and the Hutukara Yanomami Association, which he founded in 2015. Kopenawa belongs to the Yanomami tribe, one of Brazil’s most populous indigenous tribes with some 35,000 members. The well-known Hutukara Yanomami Association is committed to protecting the rights, culture and lands of the indigenous people of the Amazon region. Increasing destruction and deforestation for agricultural purposes poses a threat to the environment, but also to the livelihood of the indigenous people. In the 1980s and 1990s, gold miners destroyed villages, shot people and spread diseases. Now such attacks are on the increase again. In 1992, Kopenawa was instrumental in ensuring that a 96,000 square kilometer (37,000 square mile) area in Brazil became Yanomami protected area. He also plays a crucial role in bringing different indigenous groups together to protect themselves from exploitation. It was for this purpose that he founded the Hutukara Yanomami Association, which represents different Yanomami communities. Kopenawa and the Yanomami Hutukara Association have been jointly awarded “for their courageous determination to protect the forests and biodiversity of the Amazon, and the lands and culture of its indigenous peoples.”

Greta Thunberg in the USA (picture-alliance/S. Reynolds)

Greta Thunberg has become the face of a generation fighting climate change

Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg is without a doubt the most well-known of the 2019 laureates. In August 2018, the then 15-year-old started a solitary school strike in front of the parliament building in Stockholm a few weeks before elections. She has since become the face of a generation who view climate change as an enormous threat to their future. Her campaign has pushed for worldwide political action to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 Fahrenheit). See also:

Around the world, millions of young people have joined her in skipping school and taking to the streets for the “Fridays for Future” demonstrations, which culminated in a huge global climate strike last Friday. Thunberg speaks at major conferences and meets with world leaders. Her message is clear: Humanity must acknowledge climate change, the urgency of the crisis and act accordingly. Thunberg has been awarded “for inspiring and amplifying political demands for urgent climate action reflecting scientific facts.” The jury added that she is “the powerful voice of a young generation that will have to bear the consequences of today’s political failure to stop climate change,” and that her efforts have inspired millions of people to take action.”

For last year see:


DW Freedom of Speech Award goes to Turkish ′Hürriyet′ journalist Sedat Ergin

June 10, 2016

The Deutsche Welle (DW) Freedom of Speech Award 2016 goes to Turkish ‘Hürriyet’ journalist Sedat Ergin. The DW prize is awarded annually to journalists who stand out in their fight for human rights and free speech. The award ceremony will on 13 June 2016 at the Global Media Forum in Bonn, Germany. Read the rest of this entry »

Russian human rights defender Tanya Lokshina continues against all odds | Globalization | DW.DE | 12.06.2013

June 12, 2013

In the series Storytellers, Deutsche Welle gives the floor to Tanya Lokshina of HRW who has worked for 15 years in of the most difficult regions: Russia itself and conflict-ridden volatile areas like Chechnya and Dagestan as well as South Ossetia.

At first glance, Tanya Lokshina may not be the kind of person you would expect to travel to some of Russia’s most dangerous areas on a regular basis. But Read the rest of this entry »

Deutsche Welle reflects on Germany’s human rights policy

December 17, 2012

In this piece there are some interesting reflections on Germany’s human rights policy, which the broadcaster says is quite successful, but not very influential.

The program talks to some persons directly involved in the policy making and addresses an interesting question: “Apart from ethical considerations, human rights defenders face another, more practical key question: how to convince politicians in countries with difficult human rights track records to respect them more closely in the future? Put differently, does respecting human rights lead to a concrete political, social, or economic advantage?”

In its policy, Germany feels bound by ethical concerns as well as its free and democratic order, says Markus Löning, the German government special representative for human rights. Germany emphasises the benefits to strengthening human rights, Löning says. Establishing democracy and the rule of law improve a country’s standing in international relations. Germany’s relationship with eastern European countries after 1989 is a good example, Löning says. “Consider the relationship with Poland 25 years ago,” he says. “Today, Poland is one of our closest friends. The fact alone that a country is democratic makes establishing close, trusting relations so much easier.”

Human rights and the economy. First and foremost, human rights are based on ethics, Imke Dierßen, an advisor on Europe for Amnesty International, agrees. But adhering to human rights does have many advantages, she told Deutsche Welle – including better economic ties. Businesses need a reliable framework, so they usually set up in countries that offer these basic requirements, Dierßen says: countries with “sound legal systems and courts.” Both are prerequisites for long-term investment. Hence, Dierßen is convinced, businesses should have an interest in human rights. The West has a vested interest in standing up for human rights, Imke Dierßen from Amnesty International says. When human rights are neglected for a longer period, pressures build up that can erupt in violence. She points to Syria and Egypt, two countries which have yet to be pacified. “Of course, that also affects the EU,” the human rights expert says, pointing out their geographic proximity. “From a security policy and a geostrategic point of view, it is important to take a preventive approach. That’s where human rights play a great role.”

Eberhard Sandschneider, research director at the German Council on Foreign Relations, is convinced that human rights speak for themselves. While the West tends to underestimate the attractiveness of its own values, he says, other countries are closely watching the consequences of adhering to human rights. “If you make clear that human rights policies in Europe resulted in significant political stabilization, human rights acquire a completely new function and weight in the target countries,” he says.

Dierßen is confident that human rights concerns voiced by the German government are in fact taken seriously by governments. They also send encouraging signals to people suffering from human rights abuses. “Dissidents, mainly in China and East Europe, are always telling me how important the criticism is,” Dierßen says. “Again and again, they tell me: it is very good that you clearly address the issues. The fact alone that you make statements benefits and protects us.” Eberhard Sandschneider, however, believes that Germany’s human rights policies face a dilemma: Germany deals with states whose governments take an opposed stance when it comes to human rights. Dealing with these countries requires good diplomatic skill, the political scientist says. Dealings with them can taint Germany’s credibility, but that makes those relationships all the more important, he says. “Whether we want to or not, we have to work with the bad guys,” Sandschneider says. “Without that cooperation, stabilizing certain regions would not be possible.”

Creativity is called for. German special representative Markus Löning notes that people living in “bad guys” regimes have high expectations of Western human rights policies – which can’t always be implemented. These expectations are also voiced in the respective country’s media, Löning says – where they can take on accusatory or polemic forms. Western human rights policies can be influential, but the potential is limited. They can not perform miracles, which makes the challenge even greater to find creative ways to give human rights a better chance of a breakthrough.