Posts Tagged ‘Vaclav Havel’

Finalists for PACE Václav Havel Human Rights Prize announced

August 31, 2017

The Václav Havel Human Rights Prize is awarded each year by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) in partnership with the Václav Havel Library and the Charta 77 Foundation to reward outstanding civil society action in the defence of human rights in Europe and beyond. The Prize is awarded in memory of Václav Havel, enduring symbol of opposition to despotism. The Prize consists of a sum of €60 000.

The finalists for 2017 are:

  • Murat Arslan (Turkey). The nominee, in detention since 2016, is a well-known and reputed judge. President of the now dissolved Association for the Union of Judges and Prosecutors (YARSAV), he has always been a supporter of the independence of the judiciary.
  • Hungarian Helsinki Committee. A non-governmental human rights organisation founded in 1989 and based in Budapest, it carries out a broad range of activities in the area of human rights with a particular focus on access to justice and the rights of asylum seekers, refugees and stateless persons.
  • Father Georg Sporschill (Austria). A Jesuit who has devoted his life to the care of the most vulnerable, notably children. He has set up an association (Elijah) which carries out numerous projects in Austria, Bulgaria, Republic of Moldova and Romania.

Chairing the meeting of the selection panel, Sir Roger Gale, the most senior Vice-President of the Assembly, said: “the jury chose the candidates from among a long and well-qualified list of nominees, fully respecting the spirit and the principles of the Vaclav Havel Human Rights Prize”.The winner of the prize is due to be announced on 9 October 2017. The 2016 Prize went to Yazidi human rights activist Nadia Murad. [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/10/18/yazidi-survivor-nadia-murad-wins-vaclav-havel-human-rights-prize-2016/]

Source: Václav Havel Human Rights Prize

Call for nominations for Front Line and PACE awards 2016

January 16, 2016

Calls of nomination for two major human rights awards are now open:

The Frontline NEWlogos-1 condensed version - croppedFront Line Defenders Award for Human Rights Defenders at Risk was established in 2005. The Award seeks to focus international attention on the human rights defender’s work, thus contributing to the recipient’s personal security, and a cash prize of Euro 15,000 is awarded to the Award recipient and his/her organisation in an effort to support the continuation of this important work. If you would like to nominate a human rights defender for the Twelfth Annual Front Line Defenders Award for Human Rights Defenders at Risk (2016), please click on the following link to access a secure online nomination form: https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/secure/nomination.php (English). Age deadline is Friday 19 February 2016.

The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), in partnership with the Vaclav Havel Library and the Charta 77 Foundation, has today issued a call for nominations for the 2016 Václav Havel Human Rights Prize, which will be awarded on 10 October in Strasbourg. The Prize aims to reward outstanding civil society action in defending human rights in Europe and beyond. Candidates should have made a real difference to the human rights situation of a given group, been instrumental in uncovering systemic violations on a large scale, or have successfully mobilised public opinion or the international community for a given cause. The Václav Havel Human Rights Prize consists of a sum of €60,000. The deadline is 30 April 2016.  More details can be found at http://assembly.coe.int/nw/xml/News/News-View-EN.asp?newsid=5976&lang=2&cat=37.

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For more on these and other awards see True Heroes’ awards Digest:

http://www.brandsaviors.com/thedigest/award/front-line-defenders-award

http://www.brandsaviors.com/thedigest/award/václav-havel-prize-human-rights

Today you can watch the Oslo Freedom Forum via live streaming

May 26, 2015

The 2015 Oslo Freedom Forum (OFF) will be streamed live in high-definition at oslofreedomforum.com on both Tuesday, 26 May and Wednesday, 27 May, beginning at 9:30 CET (3:30am EST, 12:30am PST). The full program can be viewed here.

This year’s theme is “Living in Truth,” in honor of Václav Havel, the great Czech playwright, dissident, and president. “In Oslo, we are honoring the spirit behind Václav Havel’s life and memorializing how he inspired millions to live in truth,” said Human Rights Foundation chairman Garry Kasparov. “Havel demonstrated that peaceful resistance and creative dissent could prevail over dictatorship and violence. We will study and celebrate his achievements in Norway over the next two days.

Speakers, performers, and artists from 35 countries, including Afghanistan, Chile, Gabon, Malaysia, Mexico, North Korea, Russia, Thailand, Turkey, Tunisia, and Ukraine, are uniting in Oslo to share stories of how they are taking action to make the world a more free and open place.

For inquiries, please contact info@oslofreedomforum.com or join the conversation by using #OsloFF.

Czechs set example: an activist human rights foreign policy

January 23, 2015

Vaclav Havel. Picture: EPA

Vaclav Havel. Picture: EPA
In an opinion piece in BDLive of 22 January 2015, John Stremlau, discusses the outcome of an International Conference “Foreign Policy on Human Rights for the 21st Century” held in Prague, Czech Republic, and draws lessons for other countries , especially South Africa. Although the article implicitly overstates the human rights credentials of the BRICS nations, it makes interesting weekend reading:

“SOUTH Africans are not the only ones debating the role of human rights in foreign policy. Twenty-five years after Czechs achieved their peaceful democratic revolution, they too are debating whether their foreign policy is contrary to the ideals of Vaclav Havel and the others who risked their lives to secure freedom at home and influence abroad as a human rights leader.

To air these issues, the Czech foreign ministry recently convened an international conference, titled Foreign Policy on Human Rights for the 21st Century. Several hundred Czechs attended and there was extensive national media coverage. Eighteen foreign human rights activists and practitioners were invited as panellists, from the US, European Union, Africa, Latin America and Asia.

In his opening address, the foreign minister suggested there could be alternative and attractive ways to frame Czechs’ post-Havel human rights foreign policy — one, he said, that would be less identified with US selective use of force to secure human rights. As an alternative, he suggested closer alignment with Brics nations, which he suggested were wisely emphasising social and economic over political and civil rights.

Overall, the proceedings revealed no disagreement over the enduring universality of basic human rights, with political and civil rights as necessary preconditions for realising all other rights and frequent references to the importance of the Czech example as an inspiration to others and the basis for its international influence and leadership.

Surprisingly little was said about the advantages or dangers for human rights of Chinese autocratic capitalism. The sharpest criticisms were of the threats to Czech national security from Russia, including abetting of human rights abuses in nearby former Soviet republics.

The controversial role of human rights in US foreign policy, however, got the most attention.

Several speakers complained about US “double standards” in human rights interventions; an over-reliance on military means; the disregard for human rights in the use of torture, drones, and detention without trial in combating terrorism; and a culture of impunity that allows even those found guilty to avoid punishment.

On this, too, Czech and South African foreign policies converge.

South African participants would have likely found the final panel most relevant, especially the views of former struggle veterans, who showed dismay over the present government’s less assertive defence of human rights defenders, in China and elsewhere.

SA does not, of course, face a security threat comparable to the one the Czechs face from Russia, but the panellists still hold that a more activist human rights foreign policy is a better political defence than accommodation.

With the US absorbed with overcoming the consequences of its past misadventures in Iraq and the Middle East, the Czechs seek partners beyond Western Europe.

The Czech foreign ministry may have envisioned a different outcome, but most Czech speakers appear to be seeking, above all, compatible and reliable democratic partners, whose human rights foreign policies are more in line with those of the human rights heroes who once risked their lives to transform the then Czechoslovakia. Such partnerships would be valuable in shoring up national commitments to human rights in domestic and foreign policy. But it was argued that government policies in support of human rights lacked sufficient coherence at home and abroad.

SA and the Czech Republic may have different national interests but they do share vital values and are facing challenges in adapting them to conditions at home and abroad.

Perhaps the Department of International Relations and Co-operation should consult the Czech foreign ministry about convening in Pretoria a 2015 sequel to the international conference just held in Prague, and with a similar agenda, although instead of focusing on a dialogue between Europe and the US, SA might include a topic on the Brics in human rights dialogue.

The Czechs set a good example by adopting a broad agenda and inviting a diverse array of opinions, and allowing a free-wheeling debate, attributes South Africans appreciate and which might advance a debate here of the importance of foreign policy on human rights.”

John Stremlau is visiting professor in the Department of International Relations at Wits University.

Czechs set example for SA on human rights | Opinion & Analysis | BDlive.

Radio Prague: interesting interview with People In Need Director Simon Panek

March 28, 2014

Since its foundation in the early 1990s, Prague-based People in Need [Člověk v tísni] has become one of the biggest NGOs in Central Europe. Founding member Šimon Pánek has for many years been the organisation’s director, and Ian Willoughby of Radio Prague did an lengthy interview with him on 24 March 2014. The conversation touched on targeting of aid, politics, international perception and plans for the future. It has become a most interesting interview that shows how in two decades a NGO in Central Europe can develop into a serious and mature organisation, still mostly local but with international potential. The transcript of the interview follows below:

I first asked Pánek what for him had been its standout projects of the last 20 years-plus “What was important was one of the very first projects, SOS Sarajevo, a big fund-raising campaign in the Czech Republic and relatively massive humanitarian aid into the besieged city of Sarajevo during the war. That was a formative period for us, for sure.

“The second important period I regard as when we were approached by students from Belarus and Cuban immigrants in the second half of the 1990s with a simple question: did you forget that we are not free yet?

“They said, you got your freedom, you got rid of the Communist regime, but we still have Lukashenko, we still have Castro – it’s a bit unfair to forget that we are in a bad situation.

Šimon Pánek, photo: Štěpánka Budková

(Šimon Pánek, photo: Štěpánka Budková)

“At that time we basically established the second department of People in Need, dealing with human rights, or supporting human rights defenders.

“The third pillar was established again at the end of the 1990s when in the North Bohemian city of Ústí nad Labem the mayor started to build a wall between a Roma settlement and the majority…”

This was the notorious Matiční Street.

“Yes, Matiční Street. And we were shamed. We were sitting around the table – I still remember the day – and one of my colleagues said, if we are able to operate in Chechnya, if we are able to do illegal work and support dissidents in Cuba, Burma, Belarus, we should be able to try to do at least something in such a shameful situation in our own country.

“So we started with social work at that time, and now we are running 10 offices around the Czech Republic with almost 200 employees working in 60 localities, dealing with social exclusion and all other connected things.”

Could we get back to the political activities of People in Need? You were saying that you support the opposition in countries like Cuba, Burma – do you have a kind of neo-conservative approach, where you’re trying to in a sense export democracy to these countries? Neoconservativism has been largely discredited politically, I would say.

“Yes, I absolutely agree that the word democracy was discredited, mainly through the Bush era.

“The push for more democracy with a really very simple approach – the more money I pour on the one side, the more democracy will appear the other – we never shared. We’ve never tried to push or export things.

“What we do is we try to support the people who are there in their activities, their interests.

“We do basically the same thing that same things that were done from Sweden, Britain, France, Germany – to a certain extent from the US as well, but mainly from European countries – during communism for [Czechoslovak] writers, intellectuals, dissidents.

“And I think to say ‘opposition’, it means we are supporting the political opposition – in the vast majority of situations that’s not true. We are supporting student groups that want to discuss the economy…”

But they want regime change.

“Some of them. Or regime improvement. They want to get freedom to travel, they want free access to the internet.

“Of course from the point of view of dictatorships or authoritarian regimes we are breaking some of their laws. But is the law legitimate if it deprives people of free access to the internet in the 21st century? I don’t think so.

“We are basically helping people to get very basic things that you and I can have here on any corner.

“What’s important is that if any change is going to happen and to be sustainable, it’s the destiny of the people there. If they can’t read books by Václav Havel or about the economy, or get access to the internet or even publish what they write, I think it’s unfair.

“We are basically helping them to overcome the obstacles and oppression which, in our opinion, illegitimate, undemocratic regimes are imposing on their own people.”

You mentioned Václav Havel. He was a great supporter of People in Need and of you personally – at one point he said that you could follow him as president some day. What did his backing mean to People in Need, especially internationally in terms of creating your profile?

Václav Havel, photo: Filip Jandourek

Václav Havel, photo: Filip Jandourek

“Well, of course it was very important to have a person like Václav Havel here. We did not cooperate directly as much as it might appear – it was more of a convergence of the same principles, values and ideas.

“On the other hand, in some cases yes, we were carrying messages from Václav Havel to people in Burma, Cuba, East Timor, Chechnya.

“It was very important for the people to hear that we are coming from the Czech Republic and that Václav Havel is sending his greetings, whatever.

“Because his life was kind of a fairy tale for people living in unfree countries. And a big hope that if a powerless writer can win over a very strong regime, sooner or later freedom will come even to their countries.

“Internationally, yes it helped, probably. On the other hand, I think 20 years of work without any major mistakes or problems, high credibility among people, a few tens of thousands of stable supporters, I mean financial supporters which we have in the Czech Republic – these are important factors as well, of course.”

There are so many crises around the world and there are always fresh ones it seems – how do you decide which ones to target with aid?

“It’s a very good question, but of course it brings us back to the ultimate question – does this really make sense?

“We try to sit around the table and estimate critically if we are able to really make some change, if it’s reasonable in terms of the size of the crisis and in terms of the resources and capacities which we are able to generate here in the Czech Republic.

“If not, we often cooperate with our colleagues from Alliance 2015, which is eight organisations from Europe.

“If we are able to get together a few hundred thousand euros for a crisis, if it’s in one of the countries where the partner organisations are working, we just channel the money through them. Because there is no sense in spending the money on extra offices, cars, flight tickets.

“What we really don’t want to have is more flags on the map. Often less is more. To be focused and to really be able to achieve more and to go deeper in addressing the needs of the people and the causes of the crisis is more important than how many countries we are active in.”

Does the fact that People in Need comes from the Czech Republic influence how you are seen in different parts of the world?

“Absolutely. Coming from a small Central and Eastern European country has some advantages, but also some disadvantages. The disadvantages are that we really had to work hard to get on the mental map of big institutional international donors.

“The advantage is that we are not seen as having any other agenda. Still people coming from the US and strong Western European countries are… seen with greater suspicion.

“We come from a very small state without imperial ambitions, without really big influence. Basically people welcome us and I think they tend to trust us more quickly than NGOs coming from very strong countries with support from very strong governments.”

How would you like to see People in Need develop into the future?

“The last 20 years were interesting in one regard – we never made any plan as to how big we wanted People in Need to be, or how much money we wanted to turn over every year.

“We were always responding to needs which came from outside, humanitarian needs or the big floods in the Czech Republic, or issues connected with social exclusion, mainly of Roma people.

“It’s slightly changing, because we are too big to just respond. We are discussing more and more some new fields.

“The staff is getting older, including us in the management, which is probably good for the stability of the organisation.

“What I’ve seen during the last few years and what I think is extremely interesting and extremely important is that we are kind of materialising into systemic objectives our experience and cumulative knowledge from concrete work with beneficiaries in humanitarian development, social work, education.

“So while continuing with direct work we are more and more dealing with governments, inter-governmental bodies, coming with different suggestions, procedures.

“We are trying in different fields, like debt issues among the socially weak part of the population in the Czech Republic, to bring in education, some system improvements.

“This is a new ambition – not just to help people do concrete things which are making some change, but trying to address the causes, not just the symptoms but the causes of different problems.

“This is mainly in the Czech Republic, because you can hardly address the causes of the wars in Africa from our level. But in the Czech Republic our systemic work, policy work often, is more and more important. We are basically trying to improve how the state, how the system works.” 

Radio Prague – Work with human rights activists abroad like Western support for dissidents under communism, says PiN chief Pánek.

Belarus Ales Byalyatski wins Vaclav Havel Human Rights Prize of Council of Europe

September 30, 2013

 

Ales Byalyatski wins Vaclav Havel Human Rights Prize

Imprisoned Belarus human rights defender Ales Byalyatski has been awarded the Vaclav Havel Human Rights Prize of the  Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly.  Read the rest of this entry »

Václav Havel Prize for Creative Dissent Awarded to Ali Ferzat, Park Sang Hak and the Ladies in White

May 13, 2013

The New York based Human Rights Foundation today announced the recipients of the Václav Havel Prize for Creative Dissent 2013 laureates Syrian cartoonist Ali Ferzat, North Korean democracy activist Park Sang Hak, and Cuban civil society group the Ladies in White. They will be honored at a ceremony during the 2013 Oslo Freedom Forum in Norway on 15 May  (broadcast live online at www.oslofreedomforum.com beginning at 4:00pm Central European Time). 

The Havel Prize for Creative Dissent was founded with the endorsement of Dagmar Havlová, widow of the late poet, playwright, and statesman Václav Havel. The inaugural laureates in 2012 were Chinese artist Ai Weiwei, Saudi women’s rights advocate Manal al-Sharif, and Burmese opposition leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. The laureates will share a prize of 350,000 Norwegian Kroner.

Human Rights Awards can get it really wrong

July 16, 2011

As chair of a human rights award I report this event mostly because I want to remember to be careful. No glee!

The Werkstatt Deutschland organisation had planned to give Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin the private Quadriga Award that recognises “role models for enlightenment, dedication and the public good.” Under immense pressure the Quadriga Panel has now revoked its decision. The Quadriga panel voiced “great regret” that it is was forced to retract the prize, but said “the growing pressure was becoming increasingly unsustainable and risked escalating further”. According to  AFP, former Czech president Vaclav Havel, who received the same award in 2009, welcomed the German panel’s decision: “The award should be given to people like Anna Politkovskaya or Sergei Kovalov or Liu Xiaobo — people who devoted their lives to protection of human rights and freedoms and promoting democracy”.  The prize has been awarded every year since 2003 on October 3, the anniversary of German unification.