THE HAGUE, November 24, 2022 – “Georgia’s policy on ethnic minorities is a testament to the efforts of the authorities to meet their responsibilities and to improve the legal and institutional framework. Thanks to these efforts, Georgia has been hailed as a forerunner among post-Soviet countries. However, regions with predominantly ethnic minorities continue to suffer from a lack of basic social infrastructure,” said Tamta Mikeladze, director of the Equality Policy Program at the Center for Social Justice.
Speaking to representatives of governments, civil society and international organizations attending the awards ceremony, Kamran Mammadli, researcher at the Center for Social Justice, said: “We, the people of Georgia, find ourselves at a unique moment in history where we show our strength in to find solidarity. We are a diverse country that can make diversity work by cultivating interethnic and interreligious solidarity among diverse groups.”
They received the 2022 Max van der Stoel Prize on behalf of the Social Justice Center today at a ceremony at the Peace Palace in The Hague.
“To achieve this,” Mammadli continued, “we need support for underrepresented, marginalized and oppressed groups. At the same time, we should work to make the ruling group more aware of minorities. We as an organization and I as a researcher, as a community organizer, as an ordinary citizen are doing our best to build a better Georgia where everyone shares the idea that strength lies in solidarity.”
Mikeladze added: “Activists from minority ethnic backgrounds working tirelessly to build community centers, form self-organized groups and call for respect for their dignity, rights and citizenship give us hope. They have also demonstrated their unwavering solidarity with their fellow citizens, regardless of ethnicity or disadvantaged groups facing injustice, thereby creating the invaluable experience of active citizenship and political participation.”
At the award ceremony, Dutch Foreign Minister Wopke Hoekstra said: “Civil society organizations are persistently committed to social change and minority rights. They drive public debate and spur governments to action. They fight to ensure that people are not left behind and that important social issues are not forgotten. In doing all this, NGOs form an essential bridge between the ideal of human rights and the political act of making them a lived reality. Therefore, it is often the existence and vitality of civil society that demonstrates the health and vitality of democracies. That is the immense value of groups like the Social Justice Center that we honor today.”
Speaking on behalf of the jury, OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities (HCNM) Kairat Abdrachmanov stated: “Since its inception in 2012, the Center for Social Justice has been working on long-term political and socio-economic transformation in Georgia by giving a voice to ethnic and religious ones minorities and support for their interests. This is done with a particular focus on youth and women and through programs such as the Social Policy Programme, the Gender Equality Policy Program and the Justice and Democracy Programme. This has led to community organizations and campaigns to promote minority rights.”
Abdrakhmanov added, “I think it’s important to come together to not only recognize the work, but to see the value of working with organizations and individuals that celebrate diversity and inclusion to build cohesive and resilient societies for peace and security for all.” build up, including national minorities.”
Georgian Ambassador to the Netherlands David Solomonia said: “Full integration of ethnic minorities, support for cultural diversity and ensuring a safe and tolerant environment are the main pillars of government policy. On this important journey, we also count on the contribution and engagement of civil society and NGOs, as we have created a vibrant environment and various platforms for this endeavour.”
The Max van der Stoel Prize – a €50,000 prize – has been organized by the HCNM every two years since 2003 and is sponsored by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs. It is awarded to an individual, group or institution in recognition of their exceptional and outstanding achievements in improving the position of national minorities in OSCE countries.
Max van der Stoel was appointed the OSCE’s first HCNM in 1992 and served for eight and a half years. He was twice Foreign Minister of the Netherlands and sat in both the Upper and Lower Houses of the Dutch Parliament. He served as the Permanent Representative of the Netherlands to the United Nations and was given the honorary title of Minister of State by then Queen Beatrix.
Event material can be found here.