2018 United Nations Prize in the Field of Human Rights

The 2018 winners of the prestigious United Nations Prize in the Field of Human Rights are:

Ms. Rebeca Gyumi - activist for the rights of women and girls (Tanzania)

Ms. Asma Jahangir (posthumously) - human rights lawyer (Pakistan)

Ms. Joênia Wapichana (Joênia Batista de Carvalho) – activist for the rights of indigenous communities (Brazil)

Front Line Defenders – organization advocating and working for the protection of human rights defenders (Ireland)
This is the tenth award of the prize, coinciding this year with the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The award ceremony for the 2018 Prize will take place at UN Headquarters in New York in December 2018, as part of activities to commemorate Human Rights Day.

Further details on the 2018 Human Rights Prize Winners:

Ms. Rebeca Gyumi - activist for the rights of women and girls (Tanzania)
Rebeca Z. Gyumi is a Founder & Executive Director at Msichana Initiative, a Tanzanian civil society organization which aims to empower girls through education and addresses challenges which limit girls’ right to education. She has worked for over 8 years with an organization working on youth, as a TV personality and youth advocate. Ms. Gyumi challenged the constitutionality of section 13 and 17 of The Law of Marriage Act of 1971 that allowed girls to marry at the age of 14 and 15 where there is parental consent or court's sanction. She won the case before the High Court of Tanzania in 2016.

Ms. Asma Jahangir (posthumously) - human rights lawyer (Pakistan) 
Asma Jahangir (1952-2018) was Pakistan’s leading human rights lawyer. For three decades, she defended the rights of women, children, religious minorities and the poor. Having founded the first legal aid centre in Pakistan in 1986, Ms. Jahangir courageously took on and won very complicated cases. She has been threatened, assaulted in public and placed under house arrest for defending human rights. She was elected as the first female President of the Supreme Court Bar Association of Pakistan and co-founded and was the first Chairperson of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan. Ms. Jahangir has also served as United Nations Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, arbitrary or summary executions, then as the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief and subsequently as the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Ms. Joênia Wapichana (Joênia Batista de Carvalho) – activist for the rights of indigenous communities (Brazil)
Joênia Wapichana (officially Joênia Batista de Carvalho) is the first woman indigenous lawyer in Brazil and a member of the Wapichana tribe of northern Brazil. After taking a land dispute to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, Ms. Wapichana became the first indigenous lawyer to appear before the Supreme Court of Brazil. In 2013, she was appointed as the first president of the National Commission for the Defense of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Front Line Defenders –  organization advocating and working for the protection of human rights defenders (Ireland)
Front Line Defenders or The International Foundation for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders is a human rights organization founded in Dublin, Ireland in 2001, to protect human rights defenders at risk. The organization works to address the protection needs identified by defenders themselves and to enable them to continue their work without the risk of harassment, intimidation or arrest.

What is the United Nations Prize in the Field of Human Rights?
The United Nations Prize in the Field of Human Rights is an honorary award given to individuals and organizations in recognition of outstanding contributions to the promotion and protection of the human rights and fundamental freedoms enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and in other instruments of the United Nations relating to human rights. The Prize was established by the General Assembly in 1966 (A/RES/21/2217) and was awarded for the first time on 10 December 1968, on the occasion of  the celebration of the twentieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The Prize has since been awarded in 1973, 1978, 1988, 1993, 1998, 2003, 2008 and 2013.

The Prize is an opportunity not only to give public recognition to the achievements of the recipients themselves, but also to send a clear message to human rights defenders all over the world that the international community is grateful for, and supports, their tireless efforts to promote all human rights for all.

Previous winners have included Eleanor Roosevelt, Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, Jimmy Carter, Denis Mukwege, Malala Yusafzai, Amnesty International and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

How were the winners of the Prize chosen?
An important feature of the Prize is that nominations can be received from a broad variety of sources: "Member States, specialized agencies and non-governmental organizations in consultative status and from other appropriate sources."

Over 300 nominations were thus received by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) for this year’s Prize from a broad variety of sources including Member States, UN organizations and civil society, including through online nomination forms. The process was launched on 7 March 2018, and a call for nominations was made with the initial deadline of 6 April, which was later extended to 22 April 2018.

The winners were chosen by a special committee comprising of the President of the General Assembly, the President of the Economic and Social Council, the President of the Human Rights Council, the Chair of the Commission on the Status of Women and the Chair of the Advisory Committee of the Human Rights Council, as mandated by the UN General Assembly. OHCHR provided support to the special committee.


Previous winners of the prize