In a world of rapid political and social change, mounting inequality and conflict, the need for progressive politics to ensure social justice and global solidarity is greater than ever. The 2016 edition of the SOLIDAR Silver Rose Awards took place on Tuesday evening, 14 June 2016, in the European Parliament bringing together civil society, trade unions and politicians to honour the four awardees.
Francisca Sauquillo, SOLIDAR President, opened the evening underlining the importance of such a gathering, at which we can take inspiration from courageous individuals and organisations, at which alliances come together, and at which the undeniable impact of civil society organisations takes centre stage.
MEP Marju Lauristin, Vice-President of the S&D Group and Member of the Silver Rose Jury stated “I would compare Silver Rose to the Nobel Peace prize, as it’s given to people who didn’t do anything to be famous or rich, but to people who want those around them to live in a better world. People are helping others to act together instead of being helpless or scared. We give our attention and admiration to them today.” When the President of the Party of European Socialists (PES), Sergei Stanishev, took the floor he emphasised the importance of solidarity and freedom, “All freedoms, social rights, dignity are becoming more suppressed. Silver Rose winners get our respect for taking risks to defend those freedoms”.
The first award of the evening for the category of ‘Together for Social Europe’ was presented to the Dutch organisation FairWork that fights and prevents modern slavery in the Netherlands and provides assistance to its victims. Sandra Claassen, their director, was in Brussels to receive the award from MEP Agnes Jongerius. She is driven by the strength of the people they help escape exploitative situations. She had brought a picture of one of them, Cora: “Cora is my hero – a Filipino woman exploited by the ambassador of Saudi Arabia for many years”. Cora is now working for FairWork to help other Filipino women get out of the awful situation they find themselves in.
The significance of the Silver Rose Awards was summed up by the winner of the award in the “Organising International Solidarity – Human Rights” category, Dr. Nagham Nawzat Hasan, an Ezidi activist and gynaecologist from Iraq who was awarded for her outstanding commitment to gender equality and combating gender-based violence. “This Silver Rose Award gives me the energy to work more and more to help victims, as they need a lot of support.” MEP Evely Regner who came to present the Award to Dr. Hasan thanked the Silver Rose Awards for allowing the work done by Dr. Hasan to be in the spotlight it deserves and urgently needs. “Sexual violence should be seen as a war crime – and we are going to advocate for it.”
The need to secure freedom was mentioned multiple times throughout the ceremony, and the third Award of the evening recognised exactly that. For their efforts to seek the enforcement of the fundamental right to freedom of association the Silver Rose Jury selected the Journalist Union of Turkey (TGS) to receive the ‘Organising International Solidarity – Fundamental Rights Award’. TGS Director Ugur Guc was in the European Parliament to receive the award from Peter Scherrer, Deputy Secretary General of the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC), who together with the European Federation of Journalists was responsible for nominating TGS. Guc responded after receiving the Award that “this is a prize for all journalists. If you will make independent news you will most probably be arrested and end up in jail. We receive a lot of support from the European and International Federation of Journalists, but more supported is needed.”
The last Award of the evening went to one of the biggest member organisations of SOLIDAR for their 150 year existence, over which they have come to represent over 2.2 million citizens in 32,000 local organisations aiming to advance the emancipation of both the individual and the collective – La Ligue de l’enseigment. Jean-Michel Ducomte, President of La Ligue, was on stage, while accompanied by many colleagues in the room, to accept the ‘Building Learning Societies’ Award from MEP Julie Ward. Ducomte called upon the policy makers in the audience to “remember that you are elected by people. You represent people, do not organise yourself into a class. You need to have confidence in the citizens, and support the participatory democracy we so urgently need.” This statement was echoed in the closing speech of the evening by SOLIDAR Secretary General, Conny Reuter with a last urgent call: “Defending democracy needs a lot of energy. The Silver Rose awardees inspire us to continue to contribute to change, to social progress.”
The SOLIDAR Silver Rose Awards was held under the patronage of the European Parliament and made possible thanks to the support of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats and the Party of European Socialists (PES) and the media support of EurActiv.