President Lula da Silva awarded Félix Houphouët-Boigny Peace Prize at UNESCO
Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, President of Brazil, was awarded the Félix Houphouët-Boigny Peace Prize by Koïchiro Matsuura, Director-General of UNESCO, at the Organization’s Headquarters on 7 July.
The Prize was awarded in the presence of the President of Senegal Abdoulaye Wade; the President of Cape Verde, Pedro Pires; the Prime Minister of Portugal, José Socrates; the Secretary-General of the Organisation internationale de la Francophonie, Abdou Diouf; former President of the Côte d’Ivoire Henri Konan Bédié; former President of Portugal Mario Soares, who is also the Vice president of the Jury of the Félix Houphouët-Boigny Peace Prize; alongside the President of UNESCO’s General Conference, George N. Anastassopoulos (Greece) and the Chairman of the Organization’s Executive Board Olabiyi Babalola Joseph Yaï (Benin).
During the prize-giving ceremony, Mr Matsuura recalled that President Lula da Silva was being rewarded “in recognition of his action in favour of peace and equality of rights, as well as his initiatives for the eradication of poverty in his country.” The Director-General added: “No choice could illustrate better the philosophy of the Prize and the fundamental principles that inspire UNESCO’s action. President Lula da Silva now takes his place among the peace builders who preceded him on this podium and his name is added to the prestigious roster formed around the Prize over the last 20 years.”
Speaking of the laureate, the Director-General declared, “You have voiced an original approach on questions as essential as international governance, sharing the benefits of growth, the environment, and global warming.”
Speaking at the ceremony, the President of Brazil spoke of peace: “Building it requires perseverance and vigilance. It is not enough to lay down our arms. There will be no real peace as long as we do not address the root causes of conflicts, as long as there is hunger, inequality, unemployment; as long as ethnic, religious, cultural and ideological intolerance holds sway. Peace at home is as important as the absence of war among nations.” After evoking some of the programmes established by his government, the President explained that Brazil still had a long way to go. “Many expectations are yet to be met but are Brazilians are beginning to feel self-confident again, to have hope for the future.”
President Lula da Silva added: “We cannot remain the prisoners of failed paradigms. Exclusion is not an inherent factor of human societies. Nor is it inevitable. The dominant, although not always expressed, idea in recent decades has been that development could only be possible for a small part of the population. […] All efforts to fight poverty and inequality were seen as causing dependency or as populism. […] History is disproving these misguided theories.”
He then pleaded in favour of allowing developing countries a greater role in the management of the global economy: “A world that is more democratic in the process of taking decisions which affect all of us is the best guarantee of our collective security, of the rights of the most vulnerable and the preservation of our planet.” He advocated reforming the Security Council of the United Nations and reorganizing “the global financial architecture, by accruing the resources of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank.”
“Another challenge that we must take on energetically is that of climate change,” added the President. “At Copenhagen, in the end of the year, we will have to seal a global compact that will be both just and ambitious, if we want to bequeath a viable planet to future generations. […] Developing countries will also contribute to the struggle against global warming.” He concluded: “UNESCO has an important part to play in facing the challenge which consists of building a more prosperous, more just and more democratic world. […] It is in the openness that characterizes this Organization that it will be possible to address sensitive issues on the planetary scale. […] It is always possible to opt for peace instead of war. Democracy instead of tyranny. Victory for human rights instead of arbitrariness. Social equality and well-being for all instead of exploitation. These choices require courage, political will and clarity of vision. I hope that these values will not fail humanity.”
The Félix Houphouët-Boigny Peace Prize was created in 1989. It is awarded annually to honour living individuals and active public or private bodies or institutions that have made a significant contribution to promoting, seeking, safeguarding or maintaining peace, in conformity with the Charter of the United Nations and the Constitution of UNESCO.
Previous laureates include Nelson Mandela andt Frederik W. De Klerk; Yitzhak Rabin, Shimon Peres and Yasser Arafat; King Juan Carlos of Spain and former U.S. President Jimmy Carter; Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade and Former President of Finland, Martti Ahtisaari.
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