As you may be aware the International Slavery Museum was recently awarded an Honourable Mention as part of the 2009 UNESCO-Madanjeet Singh Prize for the Promotion of Tolerance and Non-Violence which rewards significant activities in the scientific, artistic, cultural or communication fields aimed at the promotion of a spirit of tolerance and non-violence .
The award ceremony was held at the UNESCO HQ in Paris. I was accompanied by my colleague Claire Benjamin – Head of Communities here at NML. We met numerous permanent ambassadors and various UNESCO delegates and officials such as the Deputy Director-General of UNESCO - Mr Marcio Barbosa, and representative of the International Jury - Mr Mokhtar Taleb-Bendiab, to discuss how our organizations might work together in the future.
I have to say I was quite taken aback by the sheer scale of the awards. There were upwards of 400 at the actual ceremony in the main hall at UNESCO HQ. On the stage were the laureates, representatives from the Government Programme on Tolerance in Saint Petersburg who also received an Honourable Mention and the respective ambassadors of various countries sat next to the winners. In our case it was Mr Peter Landymore, a supporter and advocate of the museum who reiterated to me just how great an honour it is to receive an Honourable Mention and indeed be given the opportunity on such a high profile stage to highlight the vital work we are doing here in Liverpool at the International Slavery Museum.
Prior to this there had been a press conference which was filmed by several news agencies at which I had the honour of sitting next to Madanjeet Singh, now a Goodwill Ambassador for UNESCO. When you look at the current winners - François Houtart (Belgium) who was recognized for his outstanding efforts to advance the cause of social justice in the world and Abdul Sattar Edhi (Pakistan) for his life-long efforts to ameliorate the conditions of the most disadvantaged groups in Pakistan and South Asia; the list of prior laureate winners (Aung San Suu Kyi) and those who have had an Honourable Mention (the journalist Daniel Pearl; Simon Wiesenthal Centre) you get an idea of how significant it was to be given the opportunity to speak about ISM at such an event.
Here at the museum we were particularly delighted to receive the Honourable Mention as it highlights that the museum, one with world class display galleries, successful educational and community based projects, is very much seen by its peers within the field of human rights as a human rights museum - a museum which actively promotes all forms of tolerance and non-violence.
The museum will continue being a campaigning human rights museum with an even greater enthusiasm and sense of purpose than ever before.
By for now.