The Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) is pleased that its Chief Commissioner, Dr. Daniel Bekele, has been awarded the Schuman EU awards at a ceremony which took place this afternoon at the Delegation of the European Union to Ethiopia. The award, which comes to Ethiopia for the first time, recognizes individuals for “merits in promoting democracy, rule of law, human rights, tolerance and equality”.

First awarded in Myanmar in 2017, to mark the European Union’s 60th anniversary, the Schuman Awards were established as an “innovative way of doing diplomacy by inspiring and communicating with people.” During his speech at the ceremony, Ambassador Roland Kobia said that human rights remain at the heart of what unites the European Union. We understand the value of promoting and protecting human rights. The EU understands it’s not perfect, but it will continue the process of the protection and promotion mechanism. We also want to export human rights to the rest of the world by mainstreaming it into all our programming. This event today falls within this framework and seeks to empower people and individuals.

Robert Schuman (1886-1963), after whom the awards are named, was a French statesman, intellectual and activist who became “instrumental in building postwar European and trans-Atlantic institutions and was one of the founders of the European Communities, the Council of Europe and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). The awards therefore recognize not just outstanding work in promoting tolerance and freedom, but also the “personalities with high merits in defending these universal values, often despite resistance and criticism.”

In presenting the award to Dr. Daniel Bekele, Ambassador Roland Kobia, said Dr. Daniel has led the EHRC into being an A Status National Human Rights Institution (NHRI), which is a truly remarkable achievement in itself. The EHRC still continues to be a voice, even amidst challenges and difficult context.

The awards ceremony took place in the presence of other human rights defenders in Ethiopia, representatives of national government and non-government organizations, members of the diplomatic community, as well as local and international media. The 2024 Schuman EU Awards recipients also included:

  • Gaari Ismail Yusuf-Hormuud Women Association leader
  • Getu Saketa- Founder of Human Rights League of the Horn of Africa
  • Melaku Belay-Founder of Fendika Cultural Center
  • Melkamu Ogo- Chairperson of Defend the Environment
  • Ethiopian Women Lawyers Association (EWLA)
  • Yared HaileMariam-Executive Director of the Ethiopian Human Rights Defenders Center

Additionally, there was a note of recognition to all the Ethiopian Human Rights Defenders who are not able to receive the award in person because they are in prison or in exile for doing their work.

In his remarks, EHRC Chief Commissioner, began by congratulating the other recipients of this year’s awards and said that he “accepts the award as a recognition of the Commission’s efforts to carry out in full its mandate as the national human rights institution (NHRI) and to shoulder with humility and integrity its responsibilities towards the public”. He added, “at a time when the very foundations of human rights work are being questioned and, as a result, resources required for the work are deprioritized or scarce, the award is also a strong acknowledgement to all Ethiopian and other individuals in the country who strive everyday to embody the values of human rights”.

Speaking on behalf of EHRC Commissioner Dr. Abdi Jibril and Commissioner Rigbe Gebrehawaria, the whole Commission’s staff and her own, EHRC Deputy Chief Commissioner Rakeb Messele conveyed heartfelt congratulations to Dr Daniel Bekele.

It is to be recalled that the EHRC Chief Commissioner was honored with the German Africa Award 2021 for his “lifelong fight for human rights” and received other recognitions by national and international organizations including the Alison des Forges Human Rights Award for Extra-ordinary Activism.