Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders

WHAT IS THE MEA IN A FEW WORDS? The Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders (MEA), created in 1993, is granted annually to someone who has demonstrated an exceptional record of combating human rights violations by courageous and innovative means. The award aims at encouraging human rights defenders who are at risk and therefore in need of immediate protection. This protective publicity requires media attention, particularly in the country of origin of the laureate. The prize money of at least 20,000 Swiss Francs is to be used for further work in the field of human rights. The Martin Ennals Foundation is a unique collaboration among ten of the world’s leading human rights NGOs, who form the JURY: Amnesty International; Human Rights Watch; International Federation of Human Rights; World Organisation Against Torture; Front Line; International Commission of Jurists; Human Rights First; International Service for Human Rights; Diakonie Germany; HURIDOCS … (about and FAQs 1/2).

News; Docs; Video; Nomination Form; Winners; Partners; Patrons; Links; Who was M.E.; MEF Financial Information 2009;
Address: The Martin Ennals Foundation, Luis Marreiros, Coordinator, c/o OMCT, P.O. Box 21, CH – 1211 Geneva 8, Switzerland;

About and FAQs 2/2: … ARE HUMAN RIGHTS AWARDS REALLY EFFECTIVE? To answer that, one has to know in which way a human rights award intends to help. In the first place, almost all awards want to give recognition and encouragement at the moral and psychological level. 

This goal should not be trivialized as activists often have to work in environments that are not appreciative of their efforts, and the causes they defend can be unpopular even within their own social circles. Secondly, many awards come with a measure of direct financial support, which can be of great importance as even relatively small amounts go far in cash-strapped organisations, often based in developing countries. Finally, the most important but also the most elusive goal is to provide protection. Unlike the first two goals, the latter is not really possible without a fair degree of publicity.

THERE ARE MANY HUMAN RIGHTS AWARDS; WHAT IS SPECIAL ABOUT THE MEA? Many cities, countries and organisations, national and international, have some kind of human rights award; there exist probably hundreds of them. However, only a few focus specifically on Human Rights Defenders (HRDs), have a 17-year track record and are truly international. The MEA has a Jury composed of ten international human rights organisations, including the most influential. This makes it the award of the whole movement.

WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE WITH THE NOBEL PRIZE? The Nobel Peace Prize is intended for contributions to ‘peace’, not necessarily ‘human rights’. One could even say that on a few occasions in the past, it has been awarded to individuals merely because they stopped violating human rights. Still, many laureates can safely be said to belong to the category of HRDs. In terms of impact, the 100-year old Nobel Prize is a case apart, and it would be wrong to compare other awards only with this special case. But the huge impact of the Nobel Peace prize continues to inspire others.

DOES THE MEA SUCCEED IN GETTING PROTECTIVE PUBLICITY? Yes, and increasingly so, but the modalities keep changing. In the beginning it was mostly through the written press. From 2002-2006 the ceremony was partially or totally broadcast by national and television such as TSR and TV5. International media networks such as Reuters, BBC, Voice of America and Al-Jazeera interview the MEA laureates. Most importantly, these interviews are broadcast in the country/region of origin of the laureates. This was the case of an interview of Aktham Naisse, MEA Laureate 2005, which was extensively broadcast in Syria. Furthermore, as from 2008 the images from the annual ceremony are recorded professionally and broadcast via the internet as well as distributed on DVD, subtitled in several languages including those of the laureates.


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