On 22 April, The Hague Institute for Global Justice and the Roosevelt Foundation organized a unique Roosevelt Awards laureates’ event entitled ‘Roosevelt in The Hague’. The morning ceremony at the Peace Palace gave the Laureates, who each received an award at the Four Freedoms Awards ceremony the day before in Middelburg, the opportunity to present their extraordinary work. Unfortunately, German Chancelor Angela Merkel, who was awarded the International Four Freedoms Medal, and Dr. Denis Mukwege, award winner for the ‘freedom from want’, were not able to join us. The morning session was attended by prominent guests such as HRH Prince Constantijn, who also moderated the panel discussion, descendants of the Roosevelt family and members of the corps diplomatique.
Mr. Jozias van Aartsen, Mayor of The Hague, and Mr. Eric de Baedts, director of the Peace Palace both emphasized that the city of the Hague, where so many people are committed to working for a better world in one of the many international organizations, feels closely connected to the ideas of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Over a century ago, the international peace movement initiated two World Peace Conferences, which both took place in the city of The Hague. In fact, it was Baruch Spinoza, the great philosopher from The Hague, who convincingly pointed the way to a peaceful and free society back in the seventeenth century. Nurturing and maintaining the four freedoms is therefore a responsibility of us all. The King’s Commissioner of Zeeland, Mr. Han Polman, added that it was President Roosevelt’s widow, Eleanor Roosevelt, who carried this torch forward by chairing the Commission that ensured that the four freedoms were laid down in a Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Archbishop Nzapalainga, Imam Layama, and The Rev. Guérékoyame-Gbangou from the Central African Republic, received the ‘freedom of worship’ award for their dedication to bring peace among the different religious groups in their country. Under the Interfaith Peace Platform they created, the three religious leaders travel through the Central African Republic to promote peace and reconciliation between Muslims, Protestants and Catholics. They emphasized the importance of mediation and awareness-raising on every level of the community, including women and youth.
Bruno Stagno-Ugarte, Deputy Executive Director of Human Rights Watch received the ‘freedom from fear’ award for its organization, who are known for carrying out impartial and thorough research to promote and protect human rights across the globe. He stressed the current refugee crisis, the deal between the EU and Turkey, and how EU politicians need to put reason and rights at the center-stage of the debate, instead of inflaming it by portraying new refugees as a possible terrorist threat. He called upon leaders to finally recommit to international human rights law and to give new life to the one fear that we should not take exception to: the fear of accountability. A podcast interview with Bruno Stagno-Ugarte is available here:
The ‘freedom of speech’ award was granted to Mr. Mazen Darwish for his effort to promote human rights and the freedom of speech in Syria, despite the dangerous situation in his country. While foreign journalists were banned from Syria, he played a key role in sharing information and developments of the Syrian war such as violations by police and security forces, together with his wife and fellow journalists. In this interview, he shares his view on the role of education in peacebuilding.
In the afternoon, Dr. Abi Williams, President of The Hague Institute, welcomed a group of approximately 80 participants taking part in one of four working group sessions. Each working group was devoted to one of the Four Freedoms and the work of the Laureate, facilitated by an expert on the topic. Among the participants were politicians, policymakers, practitioners and students who all contributed by sharing their knowledge and experiences. After the working group discussion, the facilitators identified three priority needs for policy, practice, and/or research related to the freedom they chaired. The fruitful afternoon session was concluded by Prof. Barbara Oomen, Dean of University College Roosevelt, who shared her view on the importance of continuing to promote the four freedoms and by quoting Roosevelt: “there are many ways of going forward, but only one way of standing still.”
Video by Studio Haak & Visser.