Tony Blair has received the 2010 Liberty Medal for his global human rights work and commitment to international conflict resolution.
Former US president Bill Clinton gave former prime minister Blair the medal today at the National Constitution Centre in Philadelphia, which presents the annual award to those striving to bring liberty to people worldwide.
Blair was chosen for his work promoting religious tolerance, improving African governance, securing a peace accord in Northern Ireland and working toward Middle East peace.
A publicity tour for Blair’s memoir has seen protests by opponents of the Iraq war. There were no protests at the Philadelphia ceremony, which featured a performance by The Irish Tenors and a video tribute from U2 lead singer Bono, a 2007 recipient.
Blair received a warm reception in Philadelphia from the friendly crowd of about 1,250 people.
“It is the serious, sustained involvement of ordinary citizens that makes the difference between poverty and promise, between despair and democracy, between hopelessness and hope,” said David Eisner, the centre’s president and CEO.
Clinton, the centre’s chairman, praised Blair at the ceremony for being a “wonderful world citizen” and “living a life worthy of this award”.
“His Faith Foundation is promoting religion as a powerful force for good and reconciliation,” Clinton said. “Tony Blair believes that people of faith can be people of peace.”
Blair said liberty was the result of “ordinary human beings doing extraordinary things in the midst of Earth-changing events”.
“Liberty is not acquired by accident,” Blair said. “It’s won by endeavour.”
Bono praised Blair for his work securing the Good Friday accord in 1998 to end sectarian violence in the North.
“Tony Blair understands the word ’compromise’ better than most,” Bono said.
The medal, first given in 1989, comes with a €100,000 (€775,000) cash prize. Blair will donate the money to his Faith Foundation and African Governance Initiative, which works in Rwanda, Sierra Leone and Liberia to improve the quality of life and political leadership.
Previous winners have included filmmaker Steven Spielberg, former South African president Nelson Mandela and former US president Jimmy Carter. Six winners have subsequently received the Nobel Peace Prize.
The ceremony kicks off nearly a week of events leading to Constitution Day on Friday. The US Constitution was adopted in Philadelphia on September 17, 1787.