By Colombo Telegraph –
On November 22nd, 2012, Radhika Coomaraswamy, former Under Secretary General of the United Nations/Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, was awarded the Special Jury Prize 2012 by the Fondation Chirac for her actions in favor of the protection of children during armed conflict in the presence of Bernadette Chirac, wife of the former French president Jacques Chirac.
Presenting the Special Jury Prize, former President of Senegal and Secretary General of La Francophonie, H.E. Abdou Diouf highlighted Coomaraswamy’s contributions to the protection of children during armed conflict “Dear Radhika Coomaraswamy, you appear in the same rank as these courageous womenwho devote their talent and energy to help the victims while making sure that their social rights are better protected both normatively and institutionally.”
In her acceptance speech, Coomaraswamy thanked those who had inspired her throughout her career. “I must thank my mentor, Dr. Neelan Thiruchelvam, who inspired a generation of Sri Lankans to work for the values of peace, truth and justice until he was cruelly assassinated in 1999. I must also thank the peace and human rights community in Sri Lanka and South Asia in general for making me understand the importance of struggle and for fighting fearlessly for humanity and human rights despite difficult circumstances. […] Finally I would like to thank my family, my father, my brother and my mother. I dedicate this prize to her, to my mother and mothers everywhere who encourage their daughters to defy conventions, reach for the stars, to pursue their dreams so as to make the world a better place.” she said.
The Foundation also awarded Father Francisco De Roux, s.j. Provincial of the Jesuits of Colombia, the prestigious Prize for Conflict Prevention for his action in favor of development and democracy in the Magdalena Medio area, in Colombia.
The laureates were selected by an international jury and a committee of experts. This year’s jury, presided by Jacques Chirac, was composed of leading peacemakers: Boutros Boutros-Ghali (former Secretary-General of the United Nations), Michel Camdessus (former Director-General of the International Monetary Fund), Joaquim Alberto Chissano (former President of Mozambique), Vaira Vike Freiberga (former President of Latvia), Federico Mayor (former Director-General of UNESCO), Andrea Riccardi (Minister for International Cooperation/Italy), Jean-Pierre Landau (Inspector-General of Finances), Ismaïl Serageldin (Director of the Library of Alexandria) and Simone Veil (former State Minister/France).
“The event was also attended by former French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin, former Minister of Economy, François Baroin, French politicians and Ambassadors. Ambassador Dayan Jayatilleka and Madam Sanja Jayatilleka were also present on this occasion.” says Sri Lankan embassy in Paris.