An interview with Conny Reuter, SOLIDAR Secretary General
Since the year 2000, SOLIDAR annually organises its Silver Rose Awards in the European Parliament, in cooperation with the social-democratic family. The award goes to Civil Society Organisations and individuals, who dedicate their work to social justice, human rights and global solidarity. This year’s event will take place on the 14th June at the European Parliament. Is it yet another prize – one out of many? By no means! Read how SOLIDAR’s Secretary General Conny Reuter describes it:
Mr Reuter: What makes the Silver Rose Awards so specific?
Reuter: For us, the overall priority is to promote social justice with this prize – in Europe and elsewhere in the world. We consider it to be a very political and progressive award – not meant to honour charity but distinctive political engagement.
How is that reflected by the awardees that you chose?
Reuter: Our choices are equally progressive and political – and often vanguard. In 2001 for instance, we dedicated a Silver Rose to Morgan Tsvangirai, at the time opposition leader in Zimbabwe and opponent of President Robert Mugabe. The award was given to him for his outstanding activities to bring about a fairer and more just society – regardless of the many threats, arrests and attacks he had to face. Eight years later, Tsvanigirai became Prime Minister on the basis of the historical power-sharing agreement with Mugabe - and contributed a lot to the shift of his country towards more democracy and justice. Another example is The Parents Circle - Families Forum (PCFF), a joint Palestinian Israeli organisation, to which we gave a Silver Rose Award in 2007. The organisation gathers over 600 families, all of whom have lost a close family member as a result of the prolonged conflict. With its joint activities, the Parents Circle shows that reconciliation between individuals and nations is possible.
How would you characterise the choices for the 2016 edition of Silver Rose Awards?
Reuter: Our edition this year comes along with four highly political and sensitive choices – each one of them dealing with some of the most prevailing topics in these times: Press Freedom, Decent Work, Women’s Rights in a highly conflictive region and worldwide Access to Education for All. Thus, the jury has decided to give our Silver Rose Award for Fundamental Rights to the Journalist Union of Turkey (Türkiye Gazeticiler Sendikasi, TGS). TGS supports jailed journalists and promotes solidarity between journalists in Turkey and abroad – in times, where journalists in Turkey face severe threats and are actually arrested and condemned to several years of prison, just for doing their work. It recently happened to the two journalists of the leading newspaper Cumhuriyet, Can Dündar and Erdem Gül.
The second choice is also highly political. At the same time it proofs that our Silver Rose Awards is much more than a single moment of celebration. We often have a longer history of joint engagement with our awardees, and their topics have been ours for a long time too. This has been the case with regard to FairWork, a Dutch organisation, fighting for just and decent work conditions, which gets our second Silver Rose this year. It is due to their and our activities, e.g. the campaign “Decent Work for Decent Life” launched at the World Social Forum 2005 in Porto Alegre, Brazil, that the 7th October became the annual “World Day of Decent Work”.
What about the two remaining winners, would you consider these choices to be equally progressive?
Reuter: Absolutely. Our Silver Rose for Human Rights this year goes to Dr. Nagham Nawzat Hasan, an activist and gynecologist from Iraq. Ms Hasan provides psychological counseling and health screenings to Yezidi (Ezidi) girls and women, who were enslaved in subsequence of the attacks on the Iraqi city of Sinjar (Shingal), committed by the so called Islamic State (DAESH). This is an extremely important, yet dangerous and risky work. So we are awarding a civil rights activist here, who is highly exposed and works under very difficult circumstances – another aim of the Silver Rose Awards throughout its history.
Our last Silver Rose this year will be dedicated to La ligue de l’enseignement, a French Member of SOLIDAR, which celebrates its 150 years of existence in 2016. We honour La Ligue’s engagement for universal access to education and culture – whether it is in Europe or elsewhere in the world. The motto of one of La ligue’s founders, the politician and journalist Jean Macé, has always been: “Our duty is not to educate voters, but to educate citizens”. We, as SOLIDAR, agree very much with this approach. And we appreciate the exceptional long-standing educational work and European engagement of La ligue.
Apart from this you have strong personal connections with La ligue de l’enseignement…
Reuter: Yes. I worked in the 80s as volunteer and later as a professional for La ligue, thus becoming familiar with French-German cooperation in general. It was my entrance door to France through their ethics and their concept of Laïcité. Through them, I later also had the chance to work in Paris for some time. Still, as Secretary General of SOLIDAR, I am not the secretary of the jury and of course not influencing the choice, but I warmly welcome it!
Now, in the run-up to the Silver Rose Awards 2016 edition – what are your whishes with regard to this year’s ceremony?
Reuter: First of all, of course, I want to see a lot of people attending and celebrating with us this manifestation of social justice and global solidarity. At the same time, it should be crystal-clear that we are not merely aiming at spending a nice evening – but at pushing long-term engagement on the topics chosen and to convince more activists, politicians and decision-makers to center their policies around them. We remain convinced that in this time of multiple crises a policy change is needed! Thereby, our prize aims at enhancing social justice and providing a better life – whether it is for journalists in Turkey, for women in Iraq or anyone else in the world, who suffers from unfair, unjust and undemocratic conditions.