13 December 2012
South Africa’s Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu was this week awarded the prestigious Unesco/Bilbao Prize for the Promotion of a Culture of Human Rights.
The prize was awarded at Unesco’s Paris headquarters on Monday, international Human Rights Day, in the presence of the Mayor of Bilbao, Inaki Azkuna. Tutu was 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 … which became a model for other post-conflict societies,” Unesco (the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) said in a statement.
The prize recognized Tutu’s “courageous activism, particularly with young people, to promote non-violence and oppose all forms of discrimination and injustice”.
The biennial prize, which comes with a a US$30 000 cheque, was established in 2008 thanks to a generous endowment from the City of Bilbao.
French human rights activist Stephane Hessel was the first laureate, followed by Pakistani human rights campaigner Asma Jahangir in 2010.
South African President Jacob Zuma on Tuesday congratulated Tutu, saying he had been “a tireless and visible ambassador of our country all over the world, promoting human rights and justice.
“Even in his retirement he continues to be a beacon of hope, an elder statesman who is highly regarded by the South African people,” Zuma said in a statement.
“He has never veered away from his mission of building a better society. We extend our sincere congratulations on behalf of government.”