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25 October 2018

Front Line Defenders Named Winner of 2018 United Nations Human Rights Prize

Front Line Defenders is profoundly honoured to be recognized by the United Nations in being named one of the four winners of the 2018 United Nations Human Rights Prize as announced by President of the General Assembly today in New York. Front Line Defenders congratulates the other three winners, Ms. Rebeca Gyumi (Tanzania), Ms. Joênia Wapichana (Joênia Batista de Carvalho) (Brazil) and the family of Ms. Asma Jahangir (Pakistan), who passed away earlier this year.

On 18 December, Front Line Defenders was presented with the Prize at the United Nations headquarters in New York. President of the UN General Assembly, María Fernanda Espinosa of Ecuador, presented the Prize to Maryam Al-Khawaja, daughter of Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, Front Line Defenders former MENA Protection Coordinator (now imprisoned), who represented the organisation onstage.

To give profile to the Prize winners, the Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights profiled Front Line Defenders, and featured an interview with Executive Director, Andrew Anderson:

The evening before the ceremony, Front Line Defenders hosted a reception at The Times Center in midtown Manhattan, to thank its supporters, celebrate the work and courage of human rights defenders and remember HRDs facing long term imprisonment. Banners featuring photos and names of HRDs featuring in the new report, Set Them Free, adorned the room.

HRDs Maryam Al-Khawaja (Bahrain), Mudawi Ibrahim Adam (Sudan), Nurcan Baysal (Turkey) and Hina Jilani (Pakistan) spoke about their experiences as HRDs and the significance of the Prize for them. The Permanent Representative of Ireland to the United Nations, Ambassador Geraldine Byrne Nason, welcomed the audience and reflected on Ireland's role in the world advocating for HRDs, while UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Michel Forst, spoke to the important role Front Line Defenders plays in advancing his mandate. Kerry Kennedy, founder of Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights was a special guest and offered her insights into why Front Line Defenders is an important ally and keystone organization of the human rights movement. Finally, Chairman of the Front Line Defenders Board of Directors, Denis O'Brien, closed the event by thanking the organisation's supporters and expressing the gratitude of the organisation for the recongition bestowed by the United Nations in presenting Front Line Defenders with the UN Prize in the Field of Human Rights.




Read the Press Release by the
President of the UN General Assembly

Front Line Defenders dedicates this Prize to human rights defenders at risk (HRDs) around the world, who struggle every day to advance and defend the rights for their communities. In its work in providing resources for the protection and security of HRDs, Front Line Defenders has worked with incredibly brave and resilient activists, who inspire and shine a light in often dark places.

“We are hugely honoured to receive this prize,” said Andrew Anderson, Executive Director of Front Line Defenders. “As we approach the 20th anniversary of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, 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.”

In particular, Front Line Defenders is grateful to Ms. Hina Jilani for her nomination of the organization for the Prize. Ms. Jilani is the sister of fellow Prize winner Ms. Jahangir, thus making this moment even more poignant. Ms. Jilani is herself a courageous, dedicated and determined human rights defender who served as the first Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General on Human Rights Defenders (2000-2008). To receive this prize, which also serves as an important and fitting memorial to Ms. Jahangir, is humbling to Front Line Defenders. The work of Ms. Guyumi to advance the rights of women and girls in Tanzania and that of Ms. Wapichana to defend the rights of indigenous peoples in Brazil is inspiring.

Simon Coveney, Ireland’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, said (via Twitter), “Proud to see [Front Line Defenders] honored as they work to protect human rights defenders in the most dangerous & challenging parts of the world.”

Front Line Defenders was founded in 2001 to provide rapid and practical support for the security and protection for human rights defenders at risk, including protection grants; training and capacity building in physical and digital security and strategic communications/visibility; international advocacy; rest and respite; emergency hotline for HRDs in imminent danger; and campaigning. Each year, Front Line Defenders provides support to over 2,000 HRDs at risk around the world.

Download the Front Line Defenders
Press Release

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Adam Shapiro
Head of Communications & Visibility

Erin Kilbride
Media Coordinator