For 3rd time, a Filipino wins Franco-German rights prize

Boccoz (from left), Palabay and Reiffenstuel

THE 2021 Franco-German Prize for Human Rights and the Rule of Law was recently bestowed to Cristina Palabay.

The secretary-general of Karapatan Alliance Philippines was jointly nominated by the French and German Embassies in Manila, in recognition of her dedication to promoting human rights in the Philippines and globally—particularly, through her advocacy work in protecting minorities, empowering women, upholding labor rights, defending freedom of the press and expression, calling for respect of international humanitarian law, as well as supporting actions to protect and safeguard human-rights workers all over the world.

In her capacity, Palabay has led efforts in providing legal and material assistance to political prisoners, as well as families of torture victims, harassment, displacement, and enforced disappearances in the country. She is among the Gabriela Women’s Party’s cofounders who advocate for women’s rights, and has worked to implement laws protecting women against violence and human trafficking, among others.

“Honoring a human-rights defender from the Philippines for her courageous work to protect human rights…underlines the dire situation of human rights… [including] challenges and the risks human-rights defenders and advocates are confronted with in the Philippines,” said Ambassador Anke Reiffenstuel of Germany at the awarding ceremonies on December 15. “There cannot be sustainable peace and stability if human rights are violated. The safeguarding and respect of human rights is an essential precondition for development, progress and prosperity.”

“This recognition…is not only for me; it is for each and every person who believes in defending and advancing people’s rights,” Palabay remarked during her acceptance speech. “I enjoin everyone to continue to protect and defend human-rights defenders, to hold the line as what Nobel Peace Prize laureate Maria Ressa said, and to recreate a world [and] a country where genuine respect, protection and solidarity for human and people’s rights exist.”

“Three [Filipinas have received this award, which is truly impressive, as it shows the force of the human-rights movement in this country and its commitment in protecting] the most vulnerable—including against harassment and violence,” stated Ambassador Michèle Boccoz of France. “The [worldwide protection and promotion of human rights and the rule of law…remain top priorities for France and Germany’s] foreign policies, as we strive toward achieving a world built on peace, equality, and justice.”

Palabay is the third Filipina to receive the award since its creation five years ago. In 2017 Rosemarie Trajano—then secretary-general of the Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates—was cited for dedicating over 30 years of her work in the defense and protection of human rights in the Philippines; while Mary Aileen Bacalso, as secretary-general of the Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances, was honored in 2019 for her work in lobbying for greater national and international action against enforced disappearances, as well as providing aid to victims of such and their families.

Yearly since 2016 the prize has been awarded to individuals or organizations that have made exceptional contributions to the protection and promotion of human rights and the rule of law in their country and at the global level. According to the European countries’ embassies, the prize reaffirms their constant commitment to human rights and the rule of law, and helps strengthen their linkage in this area.

On December 10, Human Rights Day, the French Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs, as well as Germany’s Federal Foreign Office, announced the 15 recipients of the 2021 Franco-German Prize for Human Rights and the Rule of Law. Joining Palabay as this year’s awardees are: Monika Borgmann (Lebanon), Narges Mohammadi (Iran), Nebahat Akkoç (Turkey), Erika Aifán (Guatemala), May Sabe Phyu (Myanmar), Noelah Godfrey Msuya (Tanzania), Tabelo Timse (South Africa), Shaharzad Akbar (Afghanistan), Chang Wei-ping (China), Jacques Létang (Haiti), Alexandrine Victoire Saizonou (Benin), Ajna Jusic (Bosnia & Herzegovina), Jake Epelle (Nigeria), and Rafael Uzcátegui (Venezuela).


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