Presentation of Houphouët-Boigny peace prize to President Xanana Gusmão on June 10Paris The President of the Democratic Republic of Timor Leste, Kay Rala Xanana Gusmão, will receive the 2002 UNESCO Félix Houphouët-Boigny Peace Prize on June 10, from UNESCO Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura.
Former Côte d’Ivoire President Henri Konan Bédié, former Senegalese President Abdou Diouf, who is Secretary-General of the international organization of French-speaking countries, former Portuguese President Mário Soares, a member of the international jury for the Prize, and Amara Essy, the Interim President of the Commission of the African Union, will attend the ceremony (2.30 p.m. in Room I). Ministerial delegations, representatives of heads of state and eminent personalities from several countries are also expected to attend.
Kay Rala Xanana Gusmão (born José Alexandre Gusmão) was awarded the prize in recognition of the struggle he carried out, in the name of his people, to promote human rights, freedom and justice.
A hero of the Timorese resistance, which he led from the 1980s, he was arrested by the Indonesian army in 1992 and imprisoned until 1999. He is the first president of the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste, and has always chosen the path of reconciliation and multi-party democracy. Timor-Leste became the 191st member of the United Nations last September and rejoined UNESCO yesterday, June 5, thus becoming the 189th Member State of the Organization.
The Prize, which includes a cheque for €122,000, a diploma and a gold medal, was set up in 1989 by UNESCO’s General Conference at the proposal of 120 countries, and is awarded each year to people, institutions or organizations that have contributed significantly to the promotion, research, preservation or maintenance of peace, mindful of the UN Charter and UNESCO’s Constitution. It is named after Côte d’Ivoire’s first president, Félix Houphouët-Boigny.
The international jury, chaired by former US Secretary of State and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Henry Kissinger and comprising lawyers, former heads of state and Nobel Peace Prize laureates, awarded the prize in 2000 to the then UN Human Rights Commissioner and former Irish President, Mary Robinson, and in 1999 to the Sant’Egidio Community. In 1998, it went jointly to Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wajed and US Senator George Mitchell, former adviser to US President Bill Clinton on Irish affairs. It was not awarded in 2001, because of the September 11 attacks.
Other past winners include Nelson Mandela and Frederik W. De Klerk (1991), Yitzhak Rabin, Shimon Peres and Yasser Arafat (1993), and Jimmy Carter (1994), all of whom received the Nobel Peace Prize after having been awarded the UNESCO Houphouët-Boigny Peace Prize.
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