Daniel Bekele Wins Schuman EU Awards

Daniel Bekele has become the first Ethiopian recipient of the Schuman EU Awards, an honor recognizing individuals for their contributions to democracy, the rule of law, human rights, tolerance, and equality. Established in Myanmar in 2017 to celebrate the European Union’s 60th anniversary, the Schuman Awards aim to inspire and communicate through innovative diplomacy.

At the award ceremony, Ambassador Roland Kobia emphasized the EU’s commitment to human rights, acknowledging both its achievements and ongoing efforts to improve and promote these values globally. He stated that human rights are central to the EU’s unity and highlighted the EU’s desire to integrate human rights into all its programs to empower people worldwide.

The awards are named after Robert Schuman (1886-1963), a French statesman and one of the founding figures of postwar European and trans-Atlantic institutions, including the European Communities, the Council of Europe, and NATO. The Schuman Awards honor individuals who demonstrate exceptional dedication to promoting tolerance and freedom, often despite facing resistance and criticism.

In presenting the award to Dr. Daniel Bekele, Ambassador Kobia praised his leadership in elevating the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) to an A Status National Human Rights Institution (NHRI), recognizing this as a significant achievement. He noted that the EHRC continues to be a strong voice for human rights despite challenges.

The ceremony was attended by human rights defenders from Ethiopia, representatives of national and non-government organizations, members of the diplomatic community, and local and international media. Other recipients of the 2024 Schuman EU Awards included:

  • Gaari Ismail Yusuf, leader of the Hormuud Women Association
  • Getu Saketa, founder of the Human Rights League of the Horn of Africa
  • Melaku Belay, founder of Fendika Cultural Center
  • Melkamu Ogo, chairperson of Defend the Environment
  • Ethiopian Women Lawyers Association (EWLA)
  • Yared HaileMariam, executive director of the Ethiopian Human Rights Defenders Center

The ceremony also recognized Ethiopian human rights defenders who could not attend due to imprisonment or exile for their work.

In his acceptance speech, Dr. Daniel Bekele congratulated the other award recipients and accepted the award as a recognition of the EHRC’s efforts to fulfill its mandate as the national human rights institution. He stressed the importance of continuing human rights work despite challenges, viewing the award as a tribute to all those in Ethiopia who strive to uphold human rights values daily.

EHRC Deputy Chief Commissioner Rakeb Messele, speaking on behalf of Commissioners Dr. Abdi Jibril and Rigbe Gebrehawaria, as well as the entire Commission’s staff, conveyed heartfelt congratulations to Dr. Daniel Bekele.

It is noteworthy that Dr. Bekele previously received the German Africa Award in 2021 for his lifelong fight for human rights, along with other recognitions from national and international organizations, including the Alison des Forges Human Rights Award for Extraordinary Activism.

By ethionegari@gmail.com

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