UNITED NATIONS: One of Pakistan’s leading human rights defenders, Asma Jahangir, was Tuesday named as this year’s winner of a UN award that recognizes outstanding individual contribution to promoting a culture of human rights around the world. The Director-General of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), Irina Bokova, nominated Ms. Jahangir as laureate of this year’s Bilbao Prize for the Promotion of a Culture of Human Rights in recognition of her work in Pakistan’s Supreme Court where she championed the rights of religious minorities, women and children, according to a UN press release issued at UN Headquarters in New York. Ms. Jahangir is the president of the Supreme Court Bar Association of Pakistan, a founding member of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan and served as its Secretary-General and chairperson.(APP)
According to the ‘UNESCO’ Press release:
UNESCO’s Director-General, Irina Bokova, has nominated Asma Jahangir from Pakistan as laureate of the 2010 UNESCO/Bilbao Prize for the Promotion of a Culture of Human Rights. Asma Jahangir was selected by the Prize’s International Jury in recognition of her exceptional and courageous contribution to building a universal culture of human rights. The Director-General will award the Prize – the monetary award of US$25,000, the diploma and the bronze trophy by Toshimi Ishii, at the ceremony that will take place in the presence of the Mayor of Bilbao Iñaki Azkuna on Human Rights Day – 10 December – in Bilbao, Spain.
Awarding of the UNESCO/Bilbao Prize to Asma Jahangir recognizes her excellent record as a human rights defender, notably the outstanding work she has carried out as a renowned lawyer and advocate of the Supreme Court of Pakistan particularly for the rights of religious minorities, women and children. On a national level, Asma Jahangir is President of the Supreme Court Bar Association of Pakistan. She is the founding member of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan and has served as its Secretary-General and Chairperson. She is also founding member of the Women’s Action Forum. Asma Jahangir’s work extends internationally through her roles as the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief, and the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions. The announcement of the award of the Prize to Asma Jahangir on 16 November – International Day for Tolerance – honours her commitment and important contribution to fostering interreligious and intercultural dialogue, tolerance, mutual understanding and cooperation for peace. Asma Jahangir is a determined advocate of using education as a means to eliminate the root causes of intolerance and discrimination.
UNESCO’s Director-General has also decided to award three Honourable Mentions to four non-governmental organizations in recognition of the importance of the contribution of civil society to building a universal culture of human rights: Corporation Villa Grimaldi Peace Park (Corporación Parque por la Paz Villa Grimaldi) (Chile); Foundation for a Culture of Peace (Fundación Cultura de Paz) (Spain); and a joint mention to “France Land of Asylum” (France terre d’asile) & International Federation Music Hope (Fédération internationale Musique Espérance).
The biennial UNESCO/Bilbao Prize for the Promotion of a Culture of Human Rights was established in 2008 thanks to a generous endowment from the City of Bilbao and enlarges the scope of the UNESCO Prize for Human Rights Education (1978-2006). The Prize rewards the outstanding contributions made by organizations and individuals to the cause of human rights through the means of education and research. The Prize serves to raising awareness of human rights, particularly among decision-makers and the general public.
French human rights advocate Stéphane Hessel is the first laureate of the UNESCO/Bilbao Prize, awarded two years ago in Paris. Laureates of the UNESCO Prize for Human Rights Education include: the Centre for Human Rights at the University of Pretoria in South Africa; Vitit Muntarbhorn, human rights expert from Thailand; Academia Mexicana de Derechos Humanos in Mexico; City of Nuremberg in Germany; Arab Institute of Human Rights in Tunisia; and Václav Havel, former President of the Czech Republic.