Former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan Receives MacArthur Award for International Justice
March 20, 2008 | Press Release | Human Rights

MacArthur Foundation today honored former United Nations Secretary General Kofi A. Annan with the MacArthur Award for International Justice at a 1200-person dinner held at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel. Guests included current UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, UN representatives from more than 70 member states, and civic, non-profit, education, and business community leaders.

In accepting the Award, Mr. Annan said, “I am deeply honored to be the first recipient of the MacArthur Foundation Award for International Justice. The Foundation has worked with governments, the UN and other actors of civil society to mobilize support for international justice. These efforts have helped to change our understanding of international law. Sovereignty should no longer be seen as a privilege but as a very heavy responsibility. Every State has to protect its people: it is only when States respect fundamental human rights and uphold the dignity and worth of each person, that sovereignty will be recognized by all as credible and legitimate.”

“The MacArthur Foundation seeks to build a more just and peaceful world by supporting creative individuals, effective institutions, and fresh ideas. From our very first grant in 1978 to Amnesty International, advancing human rights and justice has been central to that mission,” said MacArthur President Jonathan Fanton, who presented the Award. “We celebrate a man who has given his life to making our world more just. We honor Kofi Annan, and through him, all those who have contributed to a world seeking to make good on the pledge ‘never again.’”

Mr. Annan is the first recipient of the MacArthur Award for International Justice, which honors individuals and organizations that have –

* Been transformative forces in the fields of human rights and international justice;

* Improved existing – or helped to create new – institutions, norms, and systems of international justice; and

* Demonstrated long-term commitment and made a significant personal contribution to advancing international justice.

In selecting Mr. Annan, the Foundation’s Board cited his role in the establishment of the International Criminal Court. The Treaty of Rome, which established the Court, was finalized during Annan’s second year at the UN. He later helped ensure that the UN could refer matters to the Court, even for states that were not party to the agreement.

The Board also noted Mr. Annan’s leadership in developing the principle of the Responsibility to Protect. In 1999/2000, he urged UN member states to resolve the conflict between the principles of state sovereignty and the international community’s responsibility to respond to human rights violations and ethnic cleansing. Taking up the challenge, the government of Canada convened the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty, whose report laid out the fundamentals of a new way to think about protection of civilians. Later, Mr. Annan’s UN reform document, In Larger Freedom, recommended that governments endorse the Responsibility to Protect. The concept has since been endorsed through General Assembly and Security Council resolutions.

The new Award provides Mr. Annan with $100,000 for his own work and invites him to suggest an additional $500,000 in support for an eligible non-profit organization working on international justice issues. 

During 2008, its 30th anniversary, MacArthur is seeking to raise the profile of international justice issues. The Foundation is supporting a series of symposia focused on international justice issues, including one held today, preceding the dinner, that featured Louise Arbour, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights; Lloyd Axworthy, President, University of Winnipeg and former Canadian Foreign Minister; Francis Deng, United Nations Special Advisor for Prevention of Genocide; Juan E. Mendez, President, International Center for Transitional Justice; Luis Moreno-Ocampo, Chief Prosecutor, International Criminal Court; Allan Rock, former Canadian Ambassador to the United Nations; and Kenneth Roth, Executive Director, Human Rights Watch. Additional symposia will be held at DePaul University in Chicago (April 25), American University, Yale University, and the University of California at Berkeley. All symposia will be open to the public.

Also today, the International Justice Center was launched in the virtual world of Second Life. Organized by the non-profit Global Kids, the International Justice Center is a virtual education and action center on global justice and human rights issues. The Center, funded by MacArthur, will serve as the hub of a new social network connecting International Criminal Court officials, human rights advocates, lawyers, academics, and members of the public interested in these issues.

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