‘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)
Short Url
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.

Ambassadors urge Lebanon to elect president who can articulate national interests

Updated 4 sec ago

Ambassadors urge Lebanon to elect president who can articulate national interests

  • UNIFIL highlights ‘necessity of freedom of logistical movement’ to implement UN resolution

BEIRUT: The ambassadors of the Arab-International Quintet Committee on Lebanon have stressed the need to “accelerate the process of electing a new president.”

They also indicated that “there does not necessarily have to be a direct link between what’s happening in Gaza and Lebanon.”

The five ambassadors met Caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati on Friday.

“What’s happening in Gaza should be a greater incentive for Lebanon to complete the process of electing a president, as it is of utmost importance for the future days,” said Egyptian Ambassador Alaa Moussa after the talks.

He was commenting on behalf of the other committee members, and added: “The challenges and commitments the region will witness require Lebanon to have a president speaking in its name.”

The committee, which comprises the ambassadors of Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Qatar, the UAE, and France, follows developments in Lebanon.

It affirmed that “in the coming period, it will seek to create once again the environment necessary, for the Lebanese political forces that have a genuine desire, to move toward ending this matter as soon as possible.”

Lebanon has been without a president since November 2022. The parliament has failed to elect one despite holding 12 electoral sessions — the last of which was in June — as candidates failed to make it to the second round of voting due to internal political disputes.

Moussa added: “The committee has a unified stance, which is our commitment to providing all possible assistance and facilitation.

“There is a renewed spirit, and we will work on this in the coming period to reach a unified position and a road map to complete the presidential election process. So far we remain optimistic."

A political observer said that the US had insisted on the restoration of stability in southern Lebanon to facilitate diplomatic efforts based on the implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1701 to end hostilities in the country.

Mikati told Reuters on Thursday that an early halt to fighting in the Gaza Strip would trigger indirect talks to end hostilities along Lebanon’s southern border with Israel. He added he was confident that Hezbollah would announce a ceasefire if Israel did the same.

His remarks came as a new clash was reported between Iran-backed Hezbollah and UN Interim Force in Lebanon troops in the southern suburbs of Beirut on Thursday night.

Candice Ardell, deputy director of the UNIFIL Media Office, said a peacekeeping vehicle on a routine logistical operation from southern Lebanon to Beirut ended up on an unplanned route.

The UNIFIL vehicle, which was carrying soldiers from a Malaysian battalion, entered the Hayy Al-Sullum area where Hezbollah members intercepted it, confiscating equipment and cameras.

Some reports said that UNIFIL staff were handed over to Hezbollah’s security committee while others claimed that they were handed over to the Lebanese army and later released.

The incident occurred amid ongoing discussions to bolster UNIFIL’s operations in the south to support the Lebanese army, while mending relations with Hezbollah.

The tension stems from Hezbollah’s objections to UNIFIL’s incursions into residential neighborhoods without being accompanied by the army.

A UNIFIL spokesperson said: “In addition to freedom of movement inside UNIFIL’s area of operations, peacekeepers have the freedom and authorization from the Lebanese government to move throughout Lebanon for administrative and logistical reasons.

“This freedom of movement is essential to implementing the UN Security Council Resolution 1701.”

Fighting has meanwhile continued between Israel and Hezbollah on the southern front.

The Israeli air force carried out noon raids on Friday on the border town of Aita Al-Shaab after a night of heavy shelling which caused extensive damage.

Israeli artillery then targeted the towns of Houla and Wazzani in the Marjayoun district.

The Lebanese Armed Forces announced that “members of an army patrol found an Israeli army drone carrying leaflets, and a specialized army unit worked to dismantle …it.”

Meanwhile, Hezbollah announced that it had shot down “an Israeli army drone in the Azziyeh valley at midnight Thursday-Friday.”

Grammy-winning Iranian singer, awarded over Mahsa Amini protest anthem, sentenced to prison

Updated 01 March 2024

Grammy-winning Iranian singer, awarded over Mahsa Amini protest anthem, sentenced to prison

  • Shervin Hajjipour posted on Instagram on Friday, the same day that Iran held its parliamentary election, what appeared to be part of the judgment against him
  • It said Hajjipour received a three-year, eight-month sentence on charges of “propaganda against the system” and “encouraging people to protest”

DUBAI: An Iranian singer who won a Grammy presented by US first lady Jill Biden has been sentenced to more than three years in prison over his anthem supporting the 2022 protests over the death of Mahsa Amini.
Shervin Hajjipour posted on Instagram on Friday, the same day that Iran held its parliamentary election, what appeared to be part of the judgment against him.
It said Hajjipour received a three-year, eight-month sentence on charges of “propaganda against the system” and “encouraging people to protest.” The court issued its sentence in part because it found he hadn’t properly expressed regret over publishing the song.
It also imposed a two-year travel ban and ordered him to create a song about “US crimes,” as well as make posts about those crimes online.
Hajjipour thanked his lawyers and his agent for their support.
“I will not mention the name of the judge and the prosecutor so that they don’t get insulted and threatened, because insults and threats are not in the religion of humanity,” he wrote. “Finally, one day we will understand each other. Until then.”
Hajjipour already had served some prison time, but was out on bail pending the court’s decision. It was unclear if he had already reported to serve his sentence.
Iranian state-run media, focused on the election Friday, didn’t note Hajjipour’s sentence. Iran’s mission to the United Nations in New York didn’t respond to a request for comment.
Hajjipour’s song “Baraye,” or “For” in English, begins with: “For dancing in the streets,” “for the fear we feel when we kiss.” The lyrics list reasons that young Iranians posted online for why they had protested against Iran’s ruling theocracy after Amini’s death in September 2022, allegedly for not wearing her mandated headscarf to the liking of security forces.
The protests quickly escalated into calls to overthrow Iran’s clerical rulers. A subsequent security crackdown killed more than 500 people, with more than 22,000 detained.
Jill Biden awarded Hajjipour the Grammy’s new song for social change special merit award during the ceremony last year.
“This song became the anthem of the Mahsa Amini protests, a powerful and poetic call for freedom and women’s rights,” Biden said at the ceremony. “Shervin was arrested, but this song continues to resonate around the world with its powerful theme: Women, life, freedom.”
Hajjipour’s sentencing comes as other activists, journalists and artists have faced arrest, imprisonment and harassment since the demonstrations. Among those imprisoned is Nobel Peace Prize laureate Narges Mohammadi.
The New York-based Center for Human Rights in Iran condemned Hajjipour’s sentencing Friday, and demanded Iran immediately release him from the sentence.
“This blatant violation of Shervin’s rights to free speech and expression is a grave injustice and a clear affront to human rights principles,” the center said. “His imprisonment serves as a chilling reminder of the ongoing repression faced by artists, activists and dissenting voices in Iran.”

Calls for probe, ceasefire follow Israeli gunfire near aid convoy

Updated 01 March 2024

Calls for probe, ceasefire follow Israeli gunfire near aid convoy

  • “The Israeli army must fully investigate how the mass panic and shooting could have happened,” German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock wrote on X
  • European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen, also writing on X, said “every effort must be made to investigate what happened and ensure transparency”

GAZA STRIP, Palestinian Territories: World leaders on Friday called for an investigation and a ceasefire nearly five months into the Gaza war, a day after dozens of desperate Palestinians were killed rushing an aid convoy.
Israeli troops opened fire as Palestinian civilians scrambled for food aid during a chaotic incident Thursday which the Hamas-run territory’s health ministry said killed more than 100 people in Gaza City.
The deaths came after a World Food Programme official had warned: “If nothing changes, a famine is imminent in northern Gaza.”
The Israeli military said a “stampede” occurred when thousands of Gazans surrounded the convoy of 38 aid trucks, leading to dozens of deaths and injuries, including some who were run over.
An Israeli source acknowledged troops had opened fire on the crowd, believing it “posed a threat.”
Gaza’s health ministry called it a “massacre” and said 112 people were killed and more than 750 others wounded.
The fatalities helped push the total number of Palestinian war dead in Gaza to 30,228 mostly women and children, according to the ministry’s latest toll.
Overnight Thursday-Friday 83 people were killed in strikes, the ministry said.
The war began on October 7 with an unprecedented Hamas attack on southern Israel that resulted in the deaths of about 1,160 people, mostly civilians, Israeli figures show.
Israel’s military says 242 soldiers have died in Gaza since ground operations began in late October.
“The Israeli army must fully investigate how the mass panic and shooting could have happened,” German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock wrote on social media platform X.
Her French counterpart Stephane Sejourne said: “there will have to be an independent probe to determine what happened,” and Italian Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani urged Israel “to protect the people in Gaza and to rigorously ascertain facts and responsibilities.”
European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen, also writing on X, said “every effort must be made to investigate what happened and ensure transparency.”
The head of Libya’s Presidential Council, Mohamed el-Manfi, appealed for “an urgent investigation” by the United Nations Security Council into the “unprecedented crime.”
US President Joe Biden — whose country provides billions of dollars in military aid to Israel — said Washington was checking “two competing versions” of the incident.
Aerial footage of the incident made clear “just how desperate the situation on the ground is,” a US State Department spokesman said. Washington was pushing Israel to allow in more aid, he said.
The Gaza City aid incident came with talks progressing toward a ceasefire, but would now complicate those efforts, Biden said.
The White House later said it had asked Israel to probe the “tremendously alarming” deaths. Deputy press secretary Olivia Dalton said the event “needs to be thoroughly investigated.”
Qatar’s foreign ministry condemned “in the strongest terms the heinous massacre committed by the Israeli occupation” and called for “urgent international action” to halt the fighting in Gaza.
Further afield, in South America, Colombian President Gustavo Petro announced the suspension of arms purchases from Israel after the “genocide” in Gaza City.
While the situation is particularly acute in Gaza’s north, Gazans are struggling for food, water and medical care throughout the territory including in far-south Rafah where around 1.4 million people have sought refuge from fighting elsewhere.
Israel is threatening to send in troops against Hamas fighters in Rafah.
Information conflicted on what exactly unfolded in Gaza City.
A witness, declining to be named for safety reasons, said the violence began when thousands of people rushed toward aid trucks, leading soldiers to open fire when “people came too close” to tanks.
Israeli army spokesman Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari said the military had fired “a few warning shots” to try to disperse a “mob” that had “ambushed” the aid trucks.
“Thousands of Gazans” swarmed the trucks, “violently pushing and even trampling other Gazans to death, looting the humanitarian supplies,” he said.
When the crowd got too big, he said the convoy tried to retreat and “the unfortunate incident resulted in dozens of Gazans killed and injured.”
Aerial images released by the Israeli army showed what it said were scores of people surrounding aid trucks in the city.
Ali Awad Ashqir, who said he had gone to get some food for his starving family, told AFP he had been waiting for two hours when trucks began to arrive.
“The moment they arrived, the occupation army fired artillery shells and guns,” he said.
Hagari denied Israeli forces carried out any shelling or strikes at the time.
Looting of aid trucks has previously occurred in northern Gaza, where residents have taken to eating animal fodder and even leaves to stave off starvation.
The chief of the United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, said no UN agency had been involved in Thursday’s aid delivery, and called the incident “another day from hell.”
Among its war aims, Israel says it is fighting to bring home 130 hostages captured by militants on October 7 who remain in Gaza, including 31 presumed dead.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has come under increasing pressure over the captives.
On Friday relatives and supporters of the hostages rallied outside the US embassy branch in Tel Aviv in a call for help to secure their release.
At another protest in the city on Thursday night, Alon Lee Green, 36, said things were at a crossroads.
“It’s either we are going into an eternal war that will never stop,” he said, “or we’re going to a diplomatic agreement, an Israeli-Palestinian peace.”

WHO says Gaza health system ‘more than on its knees’

Updated 01 March 2024

WHO says Gaza health system ‘more than on its knees’

  • WHO spokesperson Christian Lindmeier told reporters in Geneva: “All the lifelines in Gaza have more or less been cut”
  • “The food supplies have been cut off deliberately. Let’s not forget that”

GENEVA: People in the Gaza Strip are risking their lives to find food, water and other supplies such is the level of hunger and despair amid the unrelenting Israeli assault, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Friday.
“The system in Gaza is on its knees, it’s more than on its knees,” WHO spokesperson Christian Lindmeier told reporters in Geneva. “All the lifelines in Gaza have more or less been cut.”
Lindmeier said this had created a “desperate situation,” as seen on Thursday, when more than 100 people seeking humanitarian aid in Gaza were killed.
Gaza health authorities said Israeli forces shot dead the Palestinians as they waited for an aid delivery. Israel blamed the deaths on crowds that surrounded the aid trucks, saying victims had been trampled or run over.
“People are so desperate for food, for fresh water, for any supplies that they risk their lives in getting any food, any supplies to support their children, to support themselves,” Lindmeier said.
While aid is reaching southern parts of the Gaza Strip, it is too slow to avert a hunger crisis even there. Aid barely makes it to northern areas that are further from the main border crossing and only accessible through more active battle fronts.
“The food supplies have been cut off deliberately. Let’s not forget that,” Lindmeier said.
Israel has said the failure to get enough aid into Gaza to meet humanitarian needs is due to UN distribution failures.
A senior UN aid official told the UN Security Council on Tuesday that one quarter of the population of Gaza is one step away from famine and widespread famine could be “almost inevitable” without action.

Hamas, other Palestinian groups stress ‘unity’ in Moscow

Updated 39 min 11 sec ago

Hamas, other Palestinian groups stress ‘unity’ in Moscow

  • Meeting in Moscow brought together Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Fatah and other Palestinian groups
  • Discussions in recent years about integrating Hamas into the PLO have ended in failure

GAZA: Palestinian factions including rivals Hamas and Fatah said on Friday they would pursue “unity of action” in confronting Israel after representatives met at Russia-hosted talks.
The meeting in Moscow on Thursday brought together Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Fatah and other Palestinian groups for talks on the war in Gaza and an eventual post-war period.
It came on the heels of the resignation of the Palestinian Authority government, which is led by Fatah and based in the occupied West Bank.
Outgoing prime minister Mohammad Shtayyeh called for intra-Palestinian consensus as he announced the resignation, and some analysts said the development could pave the way for a government of technocrats that could operate in the West Bank and Hamas-run Gaza after the war.
Arab and Western leaders have been pushing for reforms to the Palestinian Authority as they discuss possible reconstruction efforts.
A statement on Friday by the Palestinian factions represented in Moscow said there would be an “upcoming dialogue” to bring them under the banner of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO).
Thursday’s “constructive” talks saw agreement on points including the need for the withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza and the creation of a Palestinian state, the statement said.
While Hamas and Islamic Jihad are considered “terrorist” entities by Western powers, the PLO is internationally recognized as representing Palestinians in the Palestinian territories and diaspora.
Discussions in recent years about integrating Hamas into the PLO have ended in failure.
In recent years, Moscow has strived to maintain good relations with all actors in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, including Fatah and Hamas.
Russia’s relations with Israel have become strained amid Moscow’s criticism of Israeli actions in Gaza and rejection of a Palestinian state.
The war in Gaza was triggered by Hamas’s October 7 attack on Israel that resulted in the deaths of about 1,160 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on official Israeli figures.
At least 30,228 people, mostly women and children, have been killed in Israel’s retaliatory military offensive in Gaza, according to the health ministry in the Hamas-run territory.