‘Promotion of human fraternity must extend to empowerment of women,’ Zayed Award panel judge Epsy Campbell Barr tells Arab News

The Zayed Award for Human Fraternity recognizes those who contribute most to human progress and coexistence. (Adjaye Associates)
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Updated 23 January 2023

‘Promotion of human fraternity must extend to empowerment of women,’ Zayed Award panel judge Epsy Campbell Barr tells Arab News

  • Former Costa Rica vice president says “more understanding between the sexes” needed to build a better world
  • Zayed Award for Human Fraternity was launched in 2019 following Pope Francis’ historic visit to Abu Dhabi

DUBAI: Promotion of the values of human fraternity must extend to the empowerment of women, according to Epsy Campbell Barr, a former vice president of Costa Rica and member of the judging panel for this year’s Zayed Award for Human Fraternity.

“We need more understanding between the sexes in order to build a better world,” she told Arab News in the lead-up to this year’s award ceremony on Feb. 4. “It is impossible to do so without the inclusion of women.

“This is where the message of the human fraternity is important: Through the promotion of equality and non-discrimination.”

The Zayed Award for Human Fraternity was created to build on the historic meeting in Abu Dhabi on Feb. 4, 2019, between Pope Francis and Ahmed El-Tayeb, the grand imam of Al-Azhar.

Their meeting, which marked the first-ever papal visit to the Arabian Peninsula, culminated in the co-signing of the Document on Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together, also known as the Abu Dhabi declaration.

The award was set up following the meeting between Pope Francis and Grand Imam Sheikh Ahmed El-Tayeb in 2019. (AFP)

It was born from a fraternal discussion between the two religious leaders with the aim of helping to guide others in advancing a “culture of mutual respect.” Francis later described it as “no mere diplomatic gesture but a reflection born of dialogue and common commitment.”

The Abu Dhabi declaration led to the founding of the Higher Committee of Human Fraternity and the Zayed Award for Human Fraternity, under the patronage of Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, who was then the crown prince of Abu Dhabi and is now the ruler of the emirate and president of the UAE.

The award, now in its fourth edition, is named in honor of Sheikh Mohammed’s father, the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al-Nahyan, founder of the UAE.

Campbell Barr, who was in office in Costa Rica from May 2018 until May 2022, was the first woman of African descent to hold the post of vice president in Latin America, and was named among the 100 Most Influential People of African Descent in 2021.

As an economist and long-serving politician, she believes the full implementation of the Document of Human Fraternity can help promote the political, social and economic empowerment of women and girls.

“We need to build bridges,” she said. “When we think of women’s economic empowerment, we have to make sure we can have a dialogue with the financial sector to offer women finances for their entrepreneurship ideas, as well as having a sense of human fraternity in political dialogues.

“We need money in the hands of women because we know it will not only change her life but the life of the community around her and, eventually, the country.”

The panel of judges for this year’s Zayed Award. (Supplied)

Campbell Barr’s comments come at a time when the rights of women and girls are being rolled back in many parts of the world, and as the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and the inflationary pressures resulting from the war in Ukraine fall disproportionately on their shoulders.

Nowhere is the assault on women’s liberties more blatant perhaps than in Afghanistan, where the Taliban, which stormed back to power in August 2021, has barred girls from secondary education and, more recently, blocked their access to colleges and universities.

According to the World Bank, although women make up half of the global population, they contribute a mere 37 percent to global gross domestic product. The bank said global GDP could increase by 26 percent if the gap between men and women in the workforce is closed.

“We have to change our minds, we have to cooperate,” said Campbell Barr. “The message of the document can be useful for social, economic and environmental issues. We have to use the human fraternity agreement as a tool for general dialogue, to build our consensus for a new world.”


Feb. 4 has been designated as the International Day of Human Fraternity in honor of the signing of the Document on Human Fraternity by Pope Francis and Grand Imam of Al-Azhar Ahmed El-Tayeb in Abu Dhabi on that day in 2019.

The Zayed Award for Human Fraternity is an independent global prize, presented by the Higher Committee of Human Fraternity, that was launched in recognition of those who make profound contributions to human progress and peaceful coexistence.

Honorees are awarded $1 million in support of their efforts and to fund the continuation of their work in advancing human fraternity, collaborating across divides, and driving real progress.

The 2021 prize was jointly awarded to Antonio Guterres, the secretary-general of the UN, and French-Moroccan activist Latifa Ibn Ziaten, founder of the Imad Association for Youth and Peace who, after losing her son to an act of terrorism, channeled her sorrow into developing an outreach program for young people.

The 2022 award was bestowed on King Abdullah of Jordan and his wife, Queen Rania, “in appreciation of their efforts to promote human fraternity, mutual respect and peaceful coexistence,” and Haitian humanitarian organization the Foundation for Knowledge and Liberty.

Pope Francis welcomed the 2023 judging committee to the Vatican on Jan. 9 to discuss the significance of the award in promoting human fraternity on a global scale, including the protection of women’s rights.

Francis, himself a 2019 honorary recipient of the award along with El-Tayeb, told the members of the judging panel: “Your work is important in advancing the message of human fraternity.”

He also stressed the importance of the global award for humanity and urged the committee to do its part to advance the rights of women.

“It is important in your work to uphold the dignity of women, as women’s rights are often outlined on paper but not practiced in reality,” he said.

In addition to Campbell Barr, this year’s judging panel includes Miguel Angel Moratinos, the UN undersecretary general and high representative for the alliance of civilizations, and Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, a Filipino prelate of the Catholic Church the pro-prefect of the dicastery for evangelization.

They are joined by child rights activist and 2014 Nobel laureate Kailash Satyarthi, entrepreneur and 2015 Nobel laureate Ouided Bouchamaoui, and Mohammed Abdelsalam, secretary general of the Zayed Award for Human Fraternity and the Muslim Council of Elders.

Ahead of the committee’s meeting at the Vatican, Satyarthi said he was looking for an award nominee with the “light of compassion to make long-lasting changes to society. We need strong actions and bold ideas to make a beautiful, more just, and equitable world.”

Abdelsalam said the award was designed to promote understanding and respect among all peoples, adding: “That is why the award aims to highlight individuals and organizations that contribute to making a long-term impact, and who are building a framework for initiatives and ideas that foster the development of a more harmonious, global human community.”

Campbell Barr said that human fraternity “is an understanding between people, between civilizations. It is a new ideology to embrace the things we have in common rather than our differences.”

She added: “It is the building of society based on mutual peace and respect. We have been focusing far too long on what makes us different. Agreements can change lives, organizations and countries. It is the way to build a new world. We need to build bridges and understand each other.”

Epsy Campbell Barr. (AFP)

Campbell Barr said she is looking for compassion, commitment, respect and the application of human fraternity in a nominee.

“I am looking for one who promotes dialogue,” she told Arab News. “The award is not the objective. Rather, it is a tool to apply the concept of human fraternity.

“We need to build bridges and this can be made possible through a political dialogue and a sense of fraternity. We have to cooperate rather than compete.”

Campbell Barr said that over the course of her political career she had to overcome several barriers but is proud to have been able to serve her fellow Costa Ricans, empower communities and make a difference.

“I had the great opportunity of being the VP of my country, but I feel I didn’t do it for Costa Rica alone but for all the girls and women in the world to show them that they can do everything they wish to achieve,” she said.

“Women lead differently to men. We do so with more love, we are more cooperative than competitive.”

Above all, Campbell Barr believes political power ought to be used to help ease the suffering of those who are less fortunate, who often lack the opportunities afforded the better off in societies.

“Using one’s voice is so important, to inspire people,” she said. “And when one is in a high political position, we have to work with both hands.”

The winner of the Zayed Award for Human Fraternity 2023 will be announced on Feb. 4, which is the UN-recognized International Day for Human Fraternity.

Spain's PM heads to Morocco to reap benefits of mended ties

Updated 58 min 44 sec ago

Spain's PM heads to Morocco to reap benefits of mended ties

  • The visit comes 10 months after Sánchez went to meet Moroccan King Mohammed VI and put an end to a diplomatic crisis
  • Sánchez is flying south again on Wednesday and will attend a forum of business leaders from both countries in Rabat

BARCELONA, Spain: Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez travels to Rabat on Wednesday along with 12 ministers before a meeting with Moroccan government officials. This visit comes as part of the European country’s strategy to improve historically complex relations with its neighbor across the Strait of Gibraltar.
It comes 10 months after Sánchez went to meet Moroccan King Mohammed VI and put an end to a diplomatic crisis that had erupted in 2021 regarding Morocco's disputed territory of Western Sahara. During that meeting, Sánchez declared “a new phase of bilateral relations” with Morocco, an important partner with the European Union in fighting extremism and aiding the bloc's irregular migration policies.
Sánchez is flying south again on Wednesday and will attend a forum of business leaders from both countries in Rabat. On Thursday, he will sit down with Moroccan Prime Minister Aziz Akhannouch, a billionaire businessman who won a 2021 election and is considered close to Mohammed VI.
Sánchez’s agenda doesn't include another meeting with the Moroccan king, with whom he shared the Iftar meal to break the day’s fast during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan last April in the highlight of their reconciliation.
Sánchez’s office said that the prime minister instead had a phone conversation with the monarch in which they agreed that the meeting would “contribute to consolidating this new era in the relations between Morocco and Spain.” It added that Sánchez accepted the invitation by the king to make another official visit to Rabat at an unspecified date.
Moroccans make up the single largest foreign community with 800,000 residents in Spain, and important economic ties unite the neighbors which are separated by just 13 kilometers (8 miles) of water at the nearest point.
But relations between Spain and Morocco were severely damaged in May 2021 after Spain allowed the leader of the Polisario Front, which has waged a low-intensity armed rebellion seeking the Western Sahara’s independence from Morocco, to receive medical treatment for COVID-19 in Spain.
Morocco responded by relaxing its border controls around Spain’s North African exclave of Ceuta and thousands of people crossed over into the city. Tensions remained high until Sánchez did an about-face on Spain’s long-standing position on Western Sahara by backing Rabat’s proposal to give it more autonomy as long as it remains unquestionably under Moroccan control. Madrid maintains that the people of Western Sahara must decide their future via a referendum.
Sánchez paid a high price for moving closer to Morocco.
His shift on Western Sahara angered Algeria, a backer of the Polisario Front and major natural gas supplier to Spain. It was also widely criticized in Spain, which held Western Sahara as a colony until 1975, and caused friction inside Spain’s governing left-wing coalition between Sánchez’s Socialists and its junior partner. Politicians from across Spain's spectrum considered Sánchez to have betrayed the Sahrawi people of Western Sahara for very little tangible gains in return.
Now, Sánchez is aiming to reap some benefits after last year’s return to diplomatic normalcy.
This will be first meeting since 2015 with such a large delegation of ministries represented. Sánchez is taking along his ministers in charge of the economy, energy, foreign affairs, security and policing, agriculture, commerce, transport and migration, among others.
Thursday's meeting between the governments is expected to produce several agreements between ministries and to favor business growth, including the opening of customs offices at the border crossings for Ceuta and its sister exclave, Melilla, which Morocco has never officially recognized as Spanish territories. Melilla’s customs office was closed by Morocco in 2018, while Ceuta has never had one.
Spain is the largest foreign investor in Morocco, accounting for a significant chunk of all foreign investments, making economic cooperation a top priority for the Moroccan government. Morocco is Spain’s third most important non-EU commercial partner after the United States and Britain.
Morocco, in similar fashion to Turkey and other countries in north Africa, has reaped economic benefits from the EU in exchange for curbing irregular immigration to Spain. That, however, has not stopped thousands of migrants and refugees, including young Moroccans looking for a better future in Europe, from attempting a dangerous crossing of the Mediterranean, or a perilous Atlantic journey to the Canary Islands.
The frontier policing methods of both Spain and Morocco have fallen under intense scrutiny following the death of at least 23 African men, many reportedly refugees from Sudan, when they stormed a border fence at Melilla in June.
Rights group Amnesty International held a protest outside the seat of Spain’s government in Madrid on Wednesday, with cutout silhouettes of the victims of the Melilla tragedy. The rights group raises the number of deaths to 37 and says that 77 more people are still missing from the incident.
“A summit today between Morocco and Spain pretends to ignore what happened just seven months ago,” Esteban Beltrán, head of Amnesty International in Spain, said. “We want to remember that (the victims) are with us, and we want to remember the suffering of their families who have no information or a real investigation of what happened.”

Suez Canal tugs working to move broken down tanker, shipping traffic unaffected: Sources

Updated 01 February 2023

Suez Canal tugs working to move broken down tanker, shipping traffic unaffected: Sources

  • Canal sources say that shipping traffic is unaffected

CAIRO: Suez Canal tugboats are working to move a broken down LNG tanker called Grace Emilia on Wednesday, two canal sources told Reuters, adding that shipping traffic is unaffected.
The incident happened in a southern section of the canal where a second channel allows for ships to bypass the blockage caused by an engine malfunction, one of the sources said.

Iran says Iraq-based Kurd groups ‘involved’ in drone attack

Updated 01 February 2023

Iran says Iraq-based Kurd groups ‘involved’ in drone attack

  • Iranian authorities earlier reported “unsuccessful” drone attack

TEHRAN: Iran has accused Iraq-based Kurdish groups of being “involved” in a drone attack last week against a defense ministry site in the central province of Isfahan, Iranian media reported Wednesday.
“Parts of the drones that attacked the workshop complex of the defense ministry in Isfahan, along with explosive materials, were transferred to Iran with the participation and guidance of the Kurdish anti-revolutionary groups based in Iraq’s Kurdistan region,” Nour news agency said.
Iranian authorities reported an “unsuccessful” drone attack late Saturday that targeted a defense ministry “workshop complex” in Isfahan province, home to the Natanz nuclear enrichment facility.
An anti-aircraft system destroyed one drone and two others exploded, the defense ministry said, adding that there were no casualties and only minor damage to the site.
Nour charged that Kurdish groups brought the drone parts and explosive materials into Iran from “one of the hardly accessible routes in the northwest” upon “the order of a foreign security service.”
The news agency, considered close to the Islamic republic’s Supreme National Security Council, did not specify which country’s security service it accused of being behind the attack. It said the drone parts were delivered to the “service’s liaison in a border city.”
“The parts and materials have been assembled and used for sabotage in an advanced workshop by trained forces,” Nour said.
Some Western media have blamed the attack on Iran’s arch foe Israel.
Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish region hosts camps and rear-bases operated by several Iranian Kurdish rebel groups, which Iran has accused of serving Western or Israeli interests in the past.
In November, Iran launched cross-border missile and drone strikes against several of the groups in Iraq, accusing them of stoking the nationwide protests triggered by the death in custody in September of Iranian Kurdish woman Mahsa Amini.

Eight rockets fired at Turkish base in Iraq

Updated 01 February 2023

Eight rockets fired at Turkish base in Iraq

  • Iraqi contractor in the base was wounded
  • No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack

IRBIL, Iraq: Unidentified attackers fired eight rockets at a Turkish military base in northern Iraq on Wednesday, two of which landed inside the facility, the Counter-Terrorism Group, a security organization in Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish region, said.
A Turkish security source said the attack had caused no damage and there were no casualties in the base, without going into further detail.
An Iraqi security source who declined to be identified said an Iraqi contractor in the base had been wounded.
No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack in the early hours on the Zilkan base, which hosts Turkish troops in Ninevah province of northern Iraq.
Turkiye has been carrying out operations in Iraq for decades against the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has bases in the region. It is designated a terrorist group by Turkiye, the United States, and the European Union.
The group launched an insurgency in southeast Turkiye in 1984 in which more than 40,000 people have been killed.

Iraqi PM says banking reforms reveal fraudulent dollar transactions

Updated 01 February 2023

Iraqi PM says banking reforms reveal fraudulent dollar transactions

  • Iraq has in recent months been making efforts to ensure its banking system is compliant with the international electronic transfer system known as SWIFT

BAGHDAD: Iraq’s premier said Tuesday that new banking regulations had revealed fraudulent dollar transactions made from his country, as the fresh controls coincide with a drop in the local currency’s value.
Iraq has in recent months been making efforts to ensure its banking system is compliant with the international electronic transfer system known as SWIFT.
Referring to the new controls, Prime Minister Mohammed Shia Al-Sudani hailed “a real reform of the banking system,” but denounced “falsified invoices, money going out fraudulently,” in particular as foreign currency payments for imports.
“That is a reality,” he said in an interview on state television.
The adoption of the SWIFT system was supposed to allow for greater transparency, tackle money laundering and help to enforce international sanctions, such as those against Iran and Russia.
An adviser to Sudani had said that since mid-November, Iraqi banks wanting to access dollar reserves stored in the United States must make transfers using the electronic system.
The US Federal Reserve will then examine the requests and block them if it finds them suspicious.
According to the adviser, the Fed had so far rejected 80 percent of the transfer requests over concerns of the funds’ final recipients.
Before the introduction of the new regulations, “we were selling $200 million or $300 million a day,” Sudani said.
“Now, the central bank provides $30 million, $40 million, $50 million,” he said, questioning: “What were we importing in a single day for $300 million?“
“There are products that were entering (Iraq) for prices that make no sense. Clearly, the objective was to take foreign currency out of Iraq,” he said. “This must stop.”
Money may have been transported to Iraq’s autonomous Kurdistan province “and from there to neighboring countries,” Sudani said, without specifying whether he was referring to Turkiye, Iran or war-torn Syria.
He said the new controls had been planned for two years, in accordance with an agreement between Iraq’s central bank and US financial authorities, and deplored previous failures to put them in place.
Iraq, which is trying to move past four decades of war and unrest, is plagued by endemic corruption.
The official exchange rate is fixed by the government at 1,470 dinars to the dollar, but the currency was trading at around 1,680 on Tuesday on unofficial markets amid dollar scarcity.
The drop has sparked sporadic protests by Iraqis worried about their purchasing power.
Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein and the new central bank chief will be among a delegation traveling to Washington on February 7 to discuss the new mechanism and the fluctuating exchange rate, Sudani said.