UNESCO Director-General, Irina Bokova, has designated Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu from South Africa as laureate of the 2012 UNESCO/Bilbao Prize for the Promotion of a Culture of Human Rights. Archbishop Desmond Tutu was selected by an International Jury in recognition of his exceptional contribution to building a universal culture of human rights at the national, regional and international levels.
The Director-General will award the Prize at UNESCO’s Paris Headquarters on 10 December, Human Rights Day, at 5.30 p.m (Room I) in the presence of the Mayor of Bilbao, Iñaki Azkuna. Archbishop Tutu will be represented by his eldest daughter Thandeka Tutu-Gxashe.
In selecting Desmond Tutu, the jury recognized the outstanding role he played in building the new democratic, non-racial South Africa and his invaluable contribution as Chairperson of South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, to national reconstruction which became a model for other post-conflict societies. Furthermore, the Prize recognizes his courageous activism, particularly with young people, to promote of non-violence and oppose all forms of discrimination and injustice.
The jury also stressed the outstanding contribution of Archbishop Tutu to the work of the United Nations and UNESCO on various human rights issues, including the promotion of a culture of human rights.
The 80 singers of all ages of the Choir Invisible, Desmond and Leah Tutu Choir for Peace, U.K., will perform a capella compositions inspired by South African Gospel and soul music to lyrics by Archbishop Tutu at the award ceremony.
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. The Prize includes a US$30,000 cheque, a diploma and a bronze trophy designed by Japanese artist Toshimi Ishii. It rewards outstanding contributions made by organizations and individuals to the cause of human rights through education and research. The Prize also serves to raise awareness of human rights, particularly among decision-makers. French human rights activist Stéphane Hessel was the first laureate of the Prize. In 2010, the Prize was given to eminent Pakistani human rights campaigner Asma Jahangir.
The award ceremony closes the programme at Headquarters for Human Rights Day. It will follow a high-level event aimed at mobilizing deeper commitment for girls’ education and celebrating the courage of those struggling for this cause, like the young Pakistani student Malala Yousafzai, who was shot on 9 October because of her outspoken defense of her right to go to school.