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High Commissioner for Refugees Guterres wins Gulbenkian Prize


High Commissioner for Refugees Guterres wins Gulbenkian Prize

UNHCR chief António Guterres shares the prestigious Calouste Gulbenkian International Prize with a group of Palestinian and Israeli peace advocates.
21 July 2009
High Commissioner António Guterres receives the Gulbenkian International Award in Lisbon, Portugal.

LISBON, Portugal, July 21 (UNHCR) - UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres and a group of Palestinian and Israeli peace advocates have been awarded the annual Calouste Gulbenkian International Prize.

The prize was presented to Guterres and representatives of the Peace Research Institute in the Middle East (PRIME) at a ceremony in Lisbon on Monday evening. It comes with a cash prize of 100,000 euros, which will be shared by the High Commissioner and PRIME.

The Gulbenkian International Prize is awarded to an individual or institution whose thoughts or actions have made a decisive contribution and significant impact on understanding, defending or fostering universal human values.

It was created in 2007 by the prestigious Lisbon-based Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, named after the Armenian Turk who was a pioneer in the oil industry, an art collector, diplomat and philanthropist. Gulbenkian was born in Istanbul in 1869 and lived in Portugal until his death in 1955.

The six-member panel of judges, led by former Portuguese President Jorge Sampaio, praised Guterres and the members of the Palestine-based PRIME for their work in promoting human rights and inter-cultural, inter-ethnical and inter-religious respect and dialogue.

The High Commissioner dedicated his half of the prize to humanitarian aid workers who have lost their lives while helping others around the world. In the last six months, three UNHCR staff members have been killed in Pakistan, while Russian human rights advocate Natalia Estemirova, who worked with UNHCR through the Memorial organization, was murdered in Chechnya last week. Guterres said the prize came as a "great encouragement at such a difficult time."

The non-governmental PRIME gathers Palestinian and Israeli researchers and works to promote mutual coexistence and peace-building through joint research and outreach activities.

Meanwhile, UNHCR was awarded the Francisco de Vitoria medal at a ceremony last week in Vitoria-Gasteiz, northern Spain. UNHCR's Europe Bureau Director Judith Kumin accepted the medal, which is expected to be displayed in the refugee agency's Geneva headquarters.

UNHCR is the second recipient of the annual award, which is given by the municipality of Vitoria-Gasteiz and the University of the Basque Country to an individual or an institution for exceptional commitment to human rights and international understanding. The International Court of Justice, principal judicial organ of the United Nations, won the first medal.

Francisco de Vitoria was a 16th Century Spanish Roman Catholic philosopher, theologian and jurist, founder of the tradition in philosophy known as the School of Salamanca. He is regarded as one of the founding fathers of international law.