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United Nations Prize in the Field of Human Rights

2003 Awardees

The special selection committee established in accordance with a resolution of the United Nations General Assembly has selected the following awardees for the 2003 United Nations Prize in the Field of Human Rights:

Ms. Enriqueta Estela Barnes de Carlotto – Argentina

Ms. Enriqueta Estela Barnes de Carlotto is the President of the Asociación Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo [Association of Plaza de Mayo Grandmothers]. This organization was established in 1977 in response to the forced or involuntary disappearance of hundreds of children following the military coup in Argentina in 1976 when hundreds of children were either abducted with their parents, or born in clandestine detention centers for young pregnant women. Ms. Barnes de Carlotto joined the Associaiton in 1978 in her search to locate her own daughter, Laura Estela, who disappeared in 1977, and her grandson who was born in detention in 1978. Since then, Ms. Barnes de Carlotto and the Association have located missing and kidnapped children and restored them to their rightful families. It is also helping to ensure, by demanding the punishment of the culprits and advocating the rights of the child at both the national and international levels, that these abhorrent violations of children’s rights will not be repeated.

In carrying out her humanitarian work, Ms. Barnes de Carlotto personifies the admirable actions and efforts of the grandmothers of more than 400 abducted children whose fate is not yet known. Her leadership has contributed to the international reputation of the Asociación Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo as a dedicated defender and champion of children’s human rights. Ms. Barnes de Carlotto also chairs the Argentine Committee on Follow-up and Implementation of the International Convention on the Rights of the Child and has written widely on the subject of the ‘disappeared’ children of Argentina.

Mano River Women’s Peace Network (MARWOPNET) – West Africa Manu River Region

This network of women’s organizations from Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea was established in May 2000 in response to the deteriorating security situation in the West African Region. The network has brought an effective multi-dimensional, coordinated and regional approach to the struggle for human rights to restore peace and to ensure that women’s voices are included at all levels of the decision-making process. This is critical given that it is predominantly the rights of women and children that are violated as a consequence of armed conflict. It is therefore no surprise that the Network has won warm praise from the UN Secretary-General, the Economic Community of West African States and the Organisation of African Unity, among others.

The Mano River Women’s Peace Network has been active at the grass roots level, initiating projects for the demobilization and reintegration of child soldiers; organizing peace marches and public demonstrations; visiting refugee camps to distribute basic provisions and advocate for their special needs; and participating in programmes to destroy small arms. At the same time, the Network has also been an effective advocate at the highest levels of government, successfully bringing the Heads of State of their three countries back to the negotiating table in 2001, and as a delegate, mediator and signatory to the Liberian peace talks in August 2003. Its work to ensure gender equality in all spheres of national building, and to teach conflict resolution and negotiation techniques is likely to pay long-term dividends to future generations in the Mano River Region.

Family Protection Project Management Team – Jordan

The Project is a groundbreaking initiative in Jordanian society that has helped to lift the taboo on the subject of domestic violence, and promote open debate on issues of human rights, equity and gender. A team of seven men and five women, representing both governmental and non-governmental organizations, has been responsible for the development and implementation of the project, which takes a truly holistic, preventative and inclusive approach to tackling the root causes of domestic violence. The Team has also developed a social justice partnership model to address domestic violence in other Arab and Islamic countries, and may provide a useful learning experience for other countries around the world.

Through relentless advocacy and lobbying, the Team secured policy support for the introduction of specialized services for both the victims and perpetrators of domestic violence, including: a specialized health center for victims of violence and abuse; training for school counsellors to detect and address early signs of abuse; incorporation of child rights and safety concepts at all levels in the school curriculum; national awareness raising programmes for professional groups including the judiciary, doctors and police; comprehensive counselling services for women victims and the perpetrators of violence; and the establishment of a specialized court to deal with family violence cases.

Mr. Pufang Deng - China

Mr. Deng is the founder and director of the China Disabled Persons’ Federation, which he established in 1988 to act as an international advocate for the rights of persons with disabilities. Disabled by a spinal injury in 1968, Mr. Deng earned a reputation during the ensuing years as an advocate of disabled people in China and around the world. His many years of tireless effort to promote the human rights of the disabled in China through legislation, programmes and activities, is exemplary.

As a result of his initiatives and advocacy, the living standards and status of persons with disabilities in China has significantly improved in recent decades. His most significant achievements include the establishment of the China Welfare Fund for the Handicapped in 1984, which now assists over 15 million disabled people on low incomes, and the enactment of China’s first law aimed at the protection and promotion of the human rights of persons with disabilities. The latter has led to significant improvements in access for disabled people to education, employment and health services, as well as their general participation and empowerment. Mr. Deng has also been instrumental in bringing international attention to the rights of the disabled through his participation in several United Nations conferences on this issue, and as a strong supporter of the elaboration of an international convention on the rights of persons with disabilities.

Ms. Shulamith Koenig - USA

Ms. Koenig is the Executive Director of the People’s Movement for Human Rights Education, which she founded in 1988 with the goal of creating a global human rights culture. This non-profit organization now has offices in each of the five geographic regions, and is working with educators, social justice groups, human rights experts, and the media to make education in human rights and democracy an on-going activity in all areas of learning and at all levels of society.

Through her work, Ms. Koenig has been a strong advocate of global action for societal change through human rights education. Her vision has been to create a worldwide corps of human rights educators who will serve as role models and catalysts for human rights learning in their communities. To this end, Ms. Koenig has worked tirelessly to support the United Nations Decade of Human Rights Education, organising consultations and workshops with educators, human rights advocates and community leaders in more than 60 countries. Most recently Ms. Koenig has initiated the ‘Human Rights Cities’ project, which is supported by the United Nations Development Programme as a three-year Global Program to be implemented in 30 cities and train 500 young community leaders in strengthening human rights, civil society and democracy. Its goal is to develop a new vocation of ‘human rights educators for social and economic transformation’, thereby ensuring a new generation of political leadership that will protect and promote the goal of human rights for all peoples.

A special posthumous award is given to the late UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mr. Sergio Vieira de Mello of Brazil. He held many other high level positions within the United Nations, including most recently, Special Representative of the Secretary-General in Iraq. He served the UN cause relentlessly for more than thirty years, and was killed on duty in Iraq along with 21 of his UN colleagues, on 19 August 2003.