Posts Tagged ‘Nobel Prize’

Women Nobel Laureates ask to fight fundamentalism in all its guises

May 18, 2017
On 16 May 2017 Jennifer Allsopp reported for 50.50 from the second day of the Nobel Women’s Initiative conference at the historic Kaiser-Friedrich-Halle in Mönchengladbach, Germany. [see also:]

Women human rights defenders meet at the 2017 Nobel Women's Initiative Conference. Credit: author.

Women human rights defenders meet at the 2017 Nobel Women’s Initiative Conference. Credit: author.

Jody Williams, Mairead Maguire, Rigoberta Menchu Tum, Shirini Ebadi and Tawakkol Karman have come to address the 900 attendees about their work fighting totalitarianism and fundamentalism in its many global guises in order to build a more peaceful just and equal world. The public event took place on the final evening of the sixth international conference of the Nobel Women’s Initiative. Over the last three days, more than 50 women human rights defenders have been in Mönchengladbach to discuss the future of the feminist movement in collaboration with Initiativikreis Mönchengladbach.


The global response to refugees has been a key theme of the conference over the past three days and is a concern of all the laureates. One of the reasons the delegates decided to hold the conference in Germany was to come and congratulate Germany for its policies, explained Tawakko Karman, Yemeni human rights activist and 2011 Nobel Peace laureate. Since the beginning of the so-called ‘refugee crisis’ in Europe, Germany has welcomed more than one million refugees, more than any other country in Europe. For 2016 and 2017 alone, the government has set aside 28.7 billioneuros of funding for their accommodation and integration.

….Many of the young people here have been politicised to defend human rights more broadly because of personal experiences of getting to know refugees in Germany. It heartens me because I know this experience will stay with them for life. I saw the same transformation time and time again myself as a national coordinator with the UK NGO Student Action for Refugees which supports students to set up volunteering and campaigning projects in their local communities. But unlike Germany, the UK – and other countries who are now turning their backs on refugees – are training the next generation to look inwards rather than out. They’re turning away from fostering international consciousness among citizens. This Jody Williams, who won the 1997 Nobel Peace prize for her work to ban antipersonnel landmines, has repeated over the last three days, is “the real fake news”.

Germany’s decision to welcome refugees has nevertheless not come without challenges, especially in terms of the far right explains Brigitte Schuster, a German teacher who has come along to hear the Nobel laureates speak. She teaches as part of a network of state funded programmes run by BAMF (the Federal for Migration and Refugees). Despite some “teething problems” in the provision of services, Bridgette insists, people are nevertheless now moving forward with their lives. They are contributing a lot to the community, she explains, including through sharing their stories and fostering consciousness of totalitarianism in other parts of the world.

After the event in the foyer the laureates message appears to have got through. Attendees have been issued a call to action. The laureates have thanked the German people for welcoming refugees but also asked them to keep up the pressure on the totalitarian regimes that they have fled and to fix the gaps in their own democracies. Tawakkol Karman, Yemeni human rights activist has called on those present not to victimise people but to “be close to people’s dreams, their aspirations and their suffering.” And she’s issued an order. “You will fight for a society of equal citizenship for men and women.

Five boys, all aged 15, jump over one another to tell me what they found most inspiring when I ask them in the foyer after the event. They’ve been brought along by their English teacher Meike Barth from the Gymnasium an der Gartenstraße which has around 900 students. They are also curious to learn about human rights struggles other parts of the world and how they can support them, in part because of the new refugee friends they have made at their school.

Ahmet says he was especially touched when Shirin Ebadi, who received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2003 for her efforts to promote human rights in Iran, mentioned the Berlin wall: “She said that that physical wall and the wall Trump wants to build is like the Berlin wall and we can bring it down,” he recounts. But Ahmet’s also struck by her message about breaking down the walls between people ideologically. “It’s not just physical walls but walls in our hearts. People can always find ways to talk across physical walls, but what’s more hard is what she said about solidarity and people, the politicians trying to stop that connection. Actually,” he reflects, “I was thinking of this different metaphor of a different kind of wall we all build together with that hope, like bricks but you also need cement….It’s a metaphor in progress!”

Ahmet is also inspired by Jody William’s work to erase landmines. “There are still landmines in Vietman”, he tells me, “actually I read about that just last week and I was sat there thinking we need to do something about that.” I ask him what he’s going to do: he’s going to organise a local event and write to politicians.

Sebastian meanwhile tells me what stuck with him was the message advanced by Northern Irish peace activist and 1976 Nobel Peace Prize laurate Mairead Maguire to use academic studies to advance the cause of peace, whatever the discipline. He enjoys chemistry, biology and maths and wants to help tackle climate change. “People thing human rights is just a subject but it’s actually about everything, the whole environment. It’s not just politicians saying this and that.” He’s been inspired by the public meeting tonight to organise his own event. Benjamin, another student, wants to get active on social media and says he is going to help him.


Source: Fight fundamentalism in all its guises: a call to action from Yemen to Germany | openDemocracy

Nobel Peace Prize 2016 has strong peace content

October 8, 2016

The Nobel Peace Prize for 2016 is very much a traditional and clear ‘peace’ award. The news can be found in all mainstream media. So for the record, and in the words of the Norwegian Nobel Committee: “The Norwegian Nobel Committee has decided to award the Nobel Peace Prize for 2016 to Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos for his resolute efforts to bring the country’s more than 50-year-long civil war to an end…” That the referendum rejected the proposal does not diminish the serious effort made (and perhaps shows the risk of calling referendums where ‘anger’ of different kinds tends to favor any response that has a NO element in it).

For last year’s see:

Source: The Nobel Peace Prize 2016 – Press Release

Guatemala Genocide Trial Must Resume, Say Woman Human Rights Leaders

May 2, 2013

A coalition of seven female Nobel Prize winners, including Dr. Rigoberta Menchú Tum of Guatemala, called April 25 for the trial of former dictator Efraín Rios Montt to proceed. Montt was indicted in January for genocide and crimes against humanity, including widespread rape. The trial in Guatemala City was suspended last week mere days before observers expected it to conclude when a lower court judge on April 18 unexpectedly issued a ruling on a legal technicality. Guatemala’s attorney general has called the ruling illegal. The trial marks the first time a head of state has been tried for genocide by his own country’s justice system. Rios Montt is accused of ordering the killings of over 1,700 Ixil Maya people in 1982 and 1983, when he was army general and de-facto president of Guatemala. Read 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.