1998 - UNESCO-Madanjeet Singh Prize for the Promotion of Tolerance and Non-violence

News 1st October 1998
Mr. Narayan Desai and the Joint Action Committee
The winners of the 1998 UNESCO-Madanjeet Singh Prize for the Promotion of Tolerance and Non-violence. From right to left: Mr. Narayan Desai (India) with the jury member H. E. I. K. Gujral, Former Prime Minister of India; Ms. Shah Taj Qizilbash (Pakistan) representing the Joint Action Committee for People's Rights (JAC) with the jury member: H.E. Boutros Boutros Ghali, Former U.N. Secretary General; The jury was chaired by Archbishop Desmond Tutu (Nobel Laureat).

Pakistani and Indian laureates receive jointly the UNESCO-Madanjeet Singh Prize for the Promotion of Tolerance and Non-violence in 1998.

The Director-General, Mr. Federico Mayor, has awarded the UNESCO-Madanjeet Singh Prize for the Promotion of Tolerance and Non-violence jointly to a non-governmental organization from Pakistan, the Joint Action Committee for People's Rights, and to Mr. Narayan Desai, an Indian educator and writer.

Federico Mayor emphasized the remarkable work achieved by the two winners for the promotion of peace and tolerance who were particularly worthy of note, he said, because 'they belong to two countries where greater efforts must be made in order to establish more trustful and understanding mutual relations'. It is for this reason that the Prize has such a symbolical significance this year.

The Joint Action Committee for People's Rights, or 'JAC', was represented by Ms. Shahtaj Qizilbash. Founded in 1990, the JAC is an informal coalition of some 30 non-governmental organizations and many individuals.

In promoting tolerance and human rights, it focuses primarily on women - first victims of violence -, religious intolerance and violence in society. It also militates, with admirable courage and constancy, added Federico Mayor, against the nuclearisation of the subcontinent - the nuclear arms race is a mad race which may lead humanity to its destruction.'

The UNESCO-Madanjeet Singh Prize, established in 1995 as part of the United Nations Year for Tolerance, was awarded for the first time in 1996. It honours exceptional creative activities in the field of tolerance and non-violence promotion and is awarded every two years.

Far from being a passive attitude, tolerance, stated Federico Mayor, is 'an active commitment, a watchful, open and constructive dialogue between different persons, peoples and cultures'.

The jury met in September to evaluate the effectiveness and impact of the candidates' activities. They recommended the two candidates who were nominated as joint winners by the Director-General. The international jury, chaired by Nobel Prize laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu, was composed of Boutros Boutros-Ghali,  the former U. N. Secretary-General, the former Indian Prime Minister Inder Kumar Gujral and the French Rabbi René-Samuel Sirat.

The $ 40,000 Prize was presented to the laureates in a ceremony at UNESCO Headquarters on 16th November, International Day for Tolerance, which is also the anniversary date of the Organization's foundation.

The Prize's donator, the artist, writer and diplomat Madanjeet Singh, serves as Special Adviser to the Director-General of UNESCO. Imprisoned during Mahatma Gandhi's 'Quit India' non-violent movement against British colonial rule, Mr. Singh served also as Ambassador of India in Asia, South America, Africa and Europe.