Irish charity chosen as one of four winners of prestigious United Human Rights Prize

Irish charity chosen as one of four winners of prestigious United Human Rights Prize
Front Line Defenders. Picture: @FrontLineHRD

Irish charity Front Line Defenders has been chosen as one of the four winners of the prestigious United Human Rights Prize.

The prize, awarded every five years, recognises the organisation's work in providing supports and protections to human rights defenders working in some of the most dangerous and oppressive countries in the world.

United Nations General Assembly president, Maria Fernando Espinosa Garcés, made the announcement in New York where she described the winners as "an inspiration to us all".

Front Line Defenders dedicated the award to all human rights defenders at risk around the world. "Front Line Defenders has worked with incredibly brave and resilient activists who inspire and shine a light in often dark places," it said.

Andrew Anderson, executive director, said they are hugely honoured to receive the prize.

We must redouble our efforts to protect those who risk their lives in the pursuit of justice and dignity. This recognition will help Front Line Defenders bring attention to the important work human rights defenders undertake at great personal risk.

Minister for Foreign Affairs, Simon Coveney, congratulated the organisation: "Proud to see them honoured as they work to protect human rights defenders in the most dangerous and challenging parts of the world."

Irish Aid is a supporter of the organisation, grant-aiding it by €500,000 a year in recent years.

The UN award is non-monetary but is greatly valued for the attention it brings to human rights abuses and the individuals and organisations who work to overcome them. Prize-winners are selected by the current and previous presidents of the UN General Assembly and by the chairs of various UN bodies such as the Commissions on Human Rights and the Status of Women.

Other winners this year include the late Asma Jahangir, a human rights lawyer and social activist who co-founded the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan and fought for the rights of women and minorities and for free speech. She died earlier this year and will receive her award posthumously in a ceremony on December 10.

Tanzanian lawyer, Rebeca Gyumi, will also be honoured for her work to overturn the law allowing child marriage in her country and for her ongoing efforts as founder and director of the Msichana Initiative which supports girls to attend school and campaigns to remove obstacles to education for girls.

Another lawyer, Joenia Wapichana from Brazil, is the fourth of the winners. She is Brazil's first ever native lawyer and also the first indigenous woman to hold a seat in the Brazilian Congress.

She has fought to protect the land rights of Brazil's indigenous peoples against the forcible encroachment of large-scale agribusiness.

Front Line Defenders was founded in 2001 by former head of the Irish section of Amnesty International, Mary Lawlor, who set it up with financial support from businessman Denis O'Brien who remains a trustee and chairman of the board of directors.

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