Dutch NGOs award Human Rights Prize to Dutch Ambassador in Costa Rica

Embassy of Costa Rica received the first edition of the Human Rights Prize for Dutch Embassies.

The Dutch embassy in Costa Rica has won the first edition of the Human Rights Prize for Dutch Embassies. This biennial prize is awarded by Free Press Unlimited, together with 17 other Dutch human rights and development organisations, to the Dutch embassy that has been most proactive, concrete and effective in defending and promoting human rights.

On 17 June, Christine Pirenne, ambassador to Costa Rica, received the prize during an award ceremony at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in The Hague. “Everyone I talk to about the Ambassador immediately mentions the word 'respect'. Diplomats, human rights defenders, journalists, students or non-governmental organizations immediately feel that the Ambassador and her team are genuinely listening to you and will do their best to represent you,” says Mira Chowdhurry, Free Press Unlimited’s Latin America Programme Lead.

Why this prize? 

Time is running out for human rights. Worldwide, human rights are under attack. Those who stand up for human rights are confronted with unprecedented persecution, intimidation and violence, both physically and digitally. In this context, the role of embassies is more important than ever. 

Embassies should, as required by EU guidelines, proactively support human rights defenders and civil society and promote human rights, both through the projects they support and through their diplomatic work. The Human Rights Prize is a token of appreciation for the embassy that has done this in a relevant way in the past two years. The Human Rights Prize is complementary to the Embassy Prize that is awarded every two years by VNO-NCW, MKBNederland and evofenedex to the embassy that provides the best economic support.

Winner: Embassy Costa Rica 

The winning embassy is based in Costa Rica, but is also active in Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua. The Embassy is an active and visible advocate of human rights in Central America, despite the sometimes dangerous context.  
“The ambassador and the embassy staff make a strategic commitment, for example by speaking out publicly and by attending court cases of human rights defenders who are wrongfully prosecuted.”  - Ruth Kronenburg, jury president and director of Free Press Unlimited. 

Mira Chowdhurry says about the collaboration with the Ambassador: “Free Press Unlimited has been working with Christine and her predecessor since 2016. The dedication and practical support through this strategic partnership has already given many journalists in Central America an opportunity to do their jobs more safe and better informed. The Ambassador also dares to speak out not only about the working climate of journalists in the present, but also in the past, and remains firm and clear about what is expected in the field of fair trial of crimes against journalists."

Runners up: Poland and Hungary  

The Dutch embassies in Poland and Hungary come in at a shared second place. In both countries, human rights and the rule of law are increasingly undermined. Amid the growing challenges, the embassies provide valuable support to local civil society and continue to work to keep the rule of law and human rights on the agenda.  
Ruth Kronenburg: “Freedom, democracy and respect for human rights cannot be taken for granted, as the war in Ukraine has shown. To protect these values, democratic countries like the Netherlands must invest in human rights and democracy worldwide, including in and around Europe. Dutch embassies, such as those in Hungary and Poland, play an important role in this.” 

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The Human Rights Prize for Dutch Embassies is awarded by ActionAid, Amnesty International Netherlands; Arisa, COC Netherlands; Cordaid; Defence for Children-ECPAT; Free Press Unlimited; Hivos; International Campaign for Tibet; IUCN NL; Justice and Peace; Lawyers for Lawyers; Netherlands Helsinki Comittee; Netherlands Institute for Multiparty Democracy (NIMD); Nederlands Juristen Comité voor de Mensenrechten; Oxfam Novib; Peace Brigades International; PAX. 

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