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UN to honour grassroots leaders in fight against drug abuse, crime, terrorism

UN to honour grassroots leaders in fight against drug abuse, crime, terrorism

A human rights activist and an anti-drug advocate are among the four winners of the United Nations Vienna Civil Society Award for their outstanding contributions to the global campaign against drug abuse, crime and terrorism.

The UN Office at Vienna (UNOV) will honour the three individuals and one non-governmental organization (NGO) on Wednesday evening at a Vienna City Hall ceremony. Austrian Foreign Minister Benita Ferrero-Waldner, Vienna Mayor Michael Häupl and UNOV Director-General Pino Arlacchi are among those expected to attend.

"In the fields of drug abuse and crime prevention the UN cannot depend solely on the actions of governments," Mr. Arlacchi said. "To turn around the hearts and minds of all the world's citizens, we are counting on local organizations and dedicated grassroots leaders to be involved in their communities. The Civil Society Award focuses world attention on those who have found successful ways to reach their fellow human beings."

This year's winners include Saida Benhabyles of Algeria, who has focussed her civil society efforts on human rights, women's rights and working with victims of terrorism. Despite continuous death threats from Algerian terrorist groups, she was the driving force behind the Federation of Associations of Victims of Terrorism.

After witnessing the effects of war on children in Burundi, Athanase Rwamo founded two NGOs to protect children from hunger, exploitation and the effects of drug abuse and AIDS. Through Mr. Rwamo's initiative, 400 children have been integrated into stable family structures, nearly 300 housed in shelters and more than 200 have found employment.

Meanwhile, Veronica Colondam of Indonesia joined forces with several other individuals to set up Yayasab Cinta Amak Bangsa, which means "loving the nation's children." Using a UN-sponsored theme, "Turn on music, turn off drugs," the group's band, Youth Against Drug Abuse, has spread the message to schools in Sumatra, Java and Bali.

Instituto Mundo Libre, a Peruvian NGO, assists the nation's youth - particularly street children - to escape drug abuse. The programme has an 89 per cent success rate and has rehabilitated more than 700 street children. It has also trained some 65,000 people in 14 Peruvian cities on the prevention and treatment of drug abuse.

The award was established in 1999 by the Austrian Government, the City of Vienna and the UN Office and comes with a $100,000 prize, which will be shared by all four recipients. Each one will also receive a medal and a certificate.