In Spain today, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan accepted the first Seville Node between Cultures Award, and immediately pledged to donate the accompanying monetary prize to a project helping Congolese women traumatized by sexual violence.
“There is a need to unlearn our collective prejudices,” Mr. Annan said as he received the Seville Nodo Foundation’s award, which recognizes an individual’s contribution to cross-cultural understanding among Christians, Jews and Muslims.
“Instead, we must all promote a continuing dialogue, based on the premise that diversity – in thought, in belief, and in action – is a precious gift, not a threat,” he stressed.
The Secretary-General also called for education “to go beyond stereotypes of the other, and to avoid simplistic categorizations that exacerbate misunderstandings and prevent real problems being tackled.”
Toward that end, he praised the initiative of Spain, which, together with Turkey, launched an Alliance of Civilizations at the UN aimed at overcoming prejudices, misconceptions, and polarizations which potentially threaten world peace.
At the Secretary-General’s request, the €30,000 monetary portion of the award will be directed to a UN Population Fund (UNFPA) project combating sexual violence against women and children in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
“My wife, Nane, recently visited this project, and met with survivors. Her experience is difficult to convey, but both Nane and I strongly believe that such projects bring to life, at the local level, our broader efforts to promote equality and human dignity worldwide,” Mr. Annan said.
“We very much welcome the Secretary-General’s generous contribution to this valuable project. This highlights his belief in the value of protecting the health and basic human rights of women and girls,” UNFPA Spokesman Abubakar Dungus told the UN News Service.
“The Award underscores the need for cultural understanding, and UNFPA is also an organization that believes in working in a culturally sensitive way to promote and protect the basic human rights and health of women, especially in poor countries all over the world,” he added.
The UNFPA-led project aims to reduce and prevent the incidence of sexual violence against women, adolescents and children in DRC through sensitization of the military and communities in three provinces, Orientale, Maniema and Equateur.
It also provides medical, psychosocial and legal assistance, as well as family support and community reintegration, for some 25,000 survivors of sexual violence.
At the same time, the project is helping to rehabilitate health centres and to reinforce community networks and lawyers associations through training and sensitization, while also helping to draft laws on sexual violence and to support the administration of justice.