Nominations sought for 2008 UN Human Rights Prize

The office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights announced on 4 April that it is seeking nominations for the 2008 United Nations Prize in the Field of Human Rights.

Shulamith Koenig receiving the 2003 United Nations Human Rights prize - UN Photo/Mark GartenThe prize, which is awarded to individuals or organizations once every five years for “outstanding achievements in the field of human rights,” was first given out 40 years ago on the 20th anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  

The prize has usually been given to a group of six winners, although the 1993 award was shared by nine individuals and organizations, and the 1978 one by eight recipients. There have been 47 winners in all.

Some winners, such as Nelson Mandela and Jimmy Carter are household names all over the world. Others, such as the Egyptian writer Taha Hussein, Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan, former UN Secretary General U Thant of Myanmar and Anna Sabatova of the Czech Republic (a founding member of ‘Charter 77’) are extremely well known in their home regions or in human rights or humanitarian circles.

Eleanor Roosevelt, who played a key role in creating the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and legendary US civil rights leader Martin Luther King were both honoured posthumously, as was UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Sergio Vieira de Mello of Brazil, who received the award four months after he was killed along with 21 other people in the 2003 Canal Hotel bombing in Baghdad.

Mrs. Annie Vieira de Mello, receiving the 2003 United Nations Human Rights prize on behalf of the late husband Vieira de MelloOrganizations that have won the prize include Amnesty International, the International Committee of the Red Cross, and the Mano River Women’s Peace Network in West Africa.

The prize was established by the General Assembly in 1966, and first awarded on 10 December 1968.

Nomination forms should be sent to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. The committee that selects the winners is made up of the Presidents of the General Assembly, Economic and Social Council and Human Rights Council, and the Chairs of the Advisory Committee and of the Commission on the Status of Women.

The closing date for the receipt of nominations is 15 July 2008, and the prizes will be awarded at the General Assembly in New York on 10 December 2008 – the 60th anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

More detailed instructions about eligibility and the procedures for nominations can be found at: