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2014 North-South Prize Award Ceremony

Lisbon , 

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What unites today’s winners?

One, a Moroccan of Jewish descent.

Advisor to kings.

Trained economist.

Peace broker, globally renowned for his efforts to promote a two-state solution for Israel and Palestine.

A man who has devoted most of his life to enhancing dialogue between cultures and faiths.

The other, an Irish doctor.

A nun.

A woman who has spent decades improving the health and welfare of countless other women, and children first in Angola and then Uganda.

And who has successfully mobilised medics and surgeons from around the world to do the same.

On paper they look very different.

Both extraordinary, yes, but very different still.

And yet there is an invisible thread which runs between our two laureates.

It is their shared and unshakeable commitment to the pursuit of human dignity.

To the worth and value of every single human being – no matter who they are, or where they come from.

This belief in human dignity is why the Council of Europe exists.

We were born out of the wreckage of the Second World War as Europe’s leaders sought to build peace on new foundations:

Democracy, human rights, and the rule of law.

We were Europe’s nations coming together to say: no one is worthless.

No one is dispensable.

No single faith or world view should be destroyed at the hands of another.

We have a duty to promote the life chances of every single man, woman and child.

These values are embodied in Dr Maura Lynch and Andre Azoulay.

And they are values which grow more important by the day.

Because, the truth is: these are not easy times for tolerance or solidarity.

Not in the North, or the South. Not in rich countries or in poor.

Across the world we are seeing ongoing economic hardship and growing poverty and inequality.

Wherever you look, certain individuals and groups are being denied jobs, opportunities and fundamental rights.

There is tension across many of our societies as they struggle to cope with mass migration and their new found diversity.

We face conflicts.

Terrorism – including last week’s day of global bloodshed  –  and let me once again extend my deepest condolences to all those affected by the attacks in France, Tunisia and Kuwait.

A migrant crisis in the Mediterranean.

An international system that is struggling to give people answers.

I cannot remember a time when – in so many nations – the forces of division were so strong.

 

And who is seeking to capitalise on all this uncertainty?

Populists.

Xenophobes.

Corrupt elites.

Individuals and organisations who thrive on mistrust and hate.

So, in these difficult and fragmented times I want to pay an extra special tribute to this year’s winners.

Not only have you helped many, many people.

But, in the face of growing fear, you represent the only antidote: hope.

So let me now hand over to our laureates so that we can hear from you, first hand.

Today is the first time I have the pleasure to meet Dr Lynch, but I have met Andre Azoulay,

one of those occasions was actually on the street in his town, Essaouira, the same town which inspired Norway’s most famous Children’s Book about a town called Kardamomme by, where everyone is kind and the only law is you have to be nice.

Perhaps with those roots, you were destined to follow this path.

It gives me great pleasure to see you both receive this award.

On behalf of the Council of Europe: thank you very much.