Draw inspiration from human rights advocates worldwide, urges Guterres


UN Secretary-General António Guterres on Friday called on citizens everywhere to draw inspiration from the work of countless rights advocates across the world and defend all human rights and fundamental freedoms.

Speaking at the awards ceremony of the UN Prize in the Field of Human Rights for 2023, Mr. Guterres stressed that rights defenders themselves were in need of greater protection.

“The world needs leaders of countries, corporations, political parties, religious and civil organizations and beyond, to speak out against antisemitism, anti-Muslim bigotry, attacks on minority Christian communities, and all forms of hate and abuse,” he said.

“It needs them to embrace our common norms and values, to act on them, and be guided by the spirit of humanity and dignity embodied by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights – to prevent conflict, protect the planet and heal divides,” he added.

The 2023 awardees

Established by the UN General Assembly in 1966, the UN Prize in the Field of Human Rights recognizes individuals and organizations in recognition of outstanding achievement in human rights.

It was awarded for the first time in December 1968, the twentieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration, and every five years since, except for 1983.

This year, three groups and two individuals were selected for the Prize, out of some 400-plus nominees.

The groups include, Human Rights Center, “Viasna”, based in Belarus; the Amman Center for Human Rights Studies, in Jordan; and a global coalition of civil society organizations, indigenous peoples, social movements and local communities advocating for a clean, healthy and sustainable environment.

The individual winners are Julienne Lusenge of the Democratic Republic of Congo; and Julio Pereyra of Uruguay.

Previous recipients include Malala Yousafzai (2013), Denis Mukwege (2008), former US President Jimmy Carter (1998), Nelson and Winnie Mandela (1988), Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King (posthumously, 1978), and Eleanor Roosevelt (posthumously, 1968).

UN Human Rights Prize Winner: The Amman Center for Human Rights Studies (ACHRS) | United Nations
UN Human Rights Prize Winner: The Global Coalition for the Right to a Healthy Environment

Celebration of values

Volker Türk, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, introduced the winners, highlighting that the Prize celebrates human rights defenders and the enormous value they bring to societies globally.

“Human rights defenders are visionary agents of change. They see a better future for all of us, and they know how to make that future a reality,” he said, adding however that in challenging the status quo, they face themselves a multitude of risks, from harassment, to detention, enforced disappearance, torture and even death.

“For women human rights defenders, the risks they face can be even higher. They are targeted for their work and their gender,” he said. 


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