“Solidarity is what has kept us going” – The Silver Rose 2020 awardees celebration on Human Rights Day

SOLIDAR and SOLIDAR Foundation held an online celebration of the 2020 Silver Rose awardees on Human Rights´ Day, to demonstrate once again that the fight for Social Justice does not halt – not even in times of a pandemic. With the impossibility to hold the traditional ceremony in the European Parliament with partners S&D Group and PES, the ceremony took the form of a conversation between jury members and laureates. Pairs formed with the rationale of work and struggles they share. You can find the event´s recording online.

As for the event itself, SOLIDAR and SOLIDAR Foundation Secretary General Mikael Leyi welcomed the guests and recalled the link between Human Rights and the field of work of the winners (womens rights, migrants rights, trade unions rights, and right to lifelong learning). 

In her turn, our President Francisca Sauquillo, acknowledged the 20 years of existence of the Silver Rose Awards and reminded the audience of the grim context for HR in some EU countries. Iratxe Garcia MEP, S&D Group President in the European Parliament, congratulated the winners one by one, emphasising that they all work to make a fairer society, doing in all cases “what the State should be doing”.   

The 2020 winner in the category Together for Social Europe DašŠašić Šilović, President of CEE Gender Network, was presented by PES Women President Zita Gurmai, longest-standing member of Silver Rose Jury. Daša reflected upon the past victories in the field of women’s rights and labour rights in Europe, citing also the creation of the social welfare in the 1940s. The discussion emphasized the need to protect the victories, as present times seem to show backwards movements on these issues, and as the right-wing parties also make a strategic use of women being in position of power to appear progressive, while pushing their own agenda. Eventually, Daša reiterated the will and necessity of CEE Gender Network to cooperate with SOLIDAR, S&D, PES Women and the rest of progressive civil society. 

The Jury decided to award the Lifelong Learning and Education Silver Rose to the Creative Communities Group (CCG). The UK-based organisation and its representatives Russell Hogarth and Nigel Farnworth were presented by Julie Ward, MEP UK 2014-2020. Julie recalled her struggles as a teenager, how the education system had failed her and how still she believed in the transformative power of education and channelled that thirst for knowledge into energy for campaigning: “Russel and I both underline how important education is going to be in light going forward after the Covid crisis”. The CCG use creative arts as a tool of empowerment and awareness-raising. Their flagship event, the One Billion Rising, in which they bring the wide community together for a collective artistic expression, is just another example of the incredible transformative power of the arts, especially for the most deprived.  

It’s the well-known maritime rescue NGO SeaWatch who was awarded the Silver Rose for Organising International Solidarity. Evin Incir, MEP from Sweden, had a discussion with Marie Naaß, advocacy representative in the organisation. The exchange highlighted how the NGO’s initiative should be replaced by functioning state programmes, as well as an international institutionalised sea rescue with a clear mandate. Reflecting on the latest EU Commission proposal on asylum and migration, SeaWatch denounced the increased externalization of the migration policy to third parties known for violating migrants’ fundamental rights, as well the hypocrisy of the EU executive and its compassionate narrative. The conversation ended with the mutual acknowledgement of the need of a true solidarity mechanism between Member States, and in the long-term, safe legal passage to the EU. 

Last but not least, the Special Jury Award winner Japhet Moyo from Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions was introduced by his European-level counterpart, ETUC Deputy Secretary General Esther Lynch. Japhet shared gruelling stories on the current situation in Zimbabwe and how the government is silencing and suppressing any form of opposition, especially an organised one – like the trade unions. He was not hesitant to express that the current government is “worse than that of Robert Mugabe”, with its threatening practices and disregard for ILO Conventions or UN Rapporteurs’ findings. The discussion had its culminating point in with the presentation of a Statement signed by the ITUC, the ETUC and SOLIDAR, reiterating support and solidarity with the struggle of the ZCTU to promote social justice, human rights and workers’ rights in the country.  

The ceremony ended with Q&A session hosted by Secretary General Anna Sundström from our member OPIC, with all the winners. It highlighted the need for civil society to find support and build alliances in order to achieve a fairer society, whether the support comes from the local community, like-minded CSOs, or political parties. Even in most straining (and even life-threatening) circumstances, the hopeful words of Japhet Moyo were shared by all the awardees and resonated deeply with the audience: Solidarity is what has kept us going!”.  

SOLIDAR and SOLIDAR Foundation congratulate the winners and hope to meet them next year in Brussels. We also thank attendees, members and partners that have made this virtual event lively and possible!