The Government of India has named President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia as the recipient of the 2012 Indira Gandhi Prize for Peace, Disarmament and Development.
The announcement of the Prize came on Monday, November 19, the birth anniversary of the late Prime Minister of India, Indira Gandhi, who was assassinated 28 years ago, in 1984. The Honorary Consul General of India in Liberia, Upjit Singh Sachdeva, made the announcement in Monrovia.
The 2012 Prize was awarded to President Sirleaf, an international jury said, “for serving as an example and an inspiration to many a woman in Africa and beyond; for ensuring the return of peace, democracy, development, security and order in Liberia; and for her strong interest in the consolidation and improvement of Liberia’s relations with India since her first election as President in 2005 and her re-election in 2011.”
Reacting to the announcement, President Sirleaf said she was humbled to be honored by this Prize, and was pleased to join the eminent group of persons who have received this prestigious Prize.
Madam Sirleaf added: “I am honored to receive a Prize in the name of former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. She is somebody who is known throughout the world for her strong character and determination, and as a very strong woman leader. In a way, she set the path for many of us who have followed her footsteps as leaders of our countries.”
According to an Executive Mansion release, the selection of Madam Sirleaf was made by an international jury chaired by the Prime Minister of India, Dr. Manmohan Singh. The Prize is administered by the Indira Gandhi Memorial Trust.
The Prize will be presented by the President of India, His Excellency Pranab Mukherjee, at a special ceremony at the Presidential Palace in New Delhi. The Prime Minister, Trustees of the Memorial Trust, chaired by Mrs. Sonia Gandhi, and other dignitaries will attend. President Sirleaf will, at a mutually convenient time, go to Delhi to receive her Prize.
In awarding the Indira Gandhi Prize, the jury said of the Liberian leader: “Starting from a humble background, Mrs. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has risen to the Presidency in the Republic of Liberia, becoming the first elected female Head of State on the African continent. This is all the more remarkable as it has taken place against all odds in a country which until recently saw civil strife and social discord. Hers has been a story of indomitable courage, strong determination and the yearning to achieve.
The announcement goes on to say: “President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf took over office as the President of Liberia in 2006, acquiring a legacy of distrust, disharmony and mismanagement. Restoring financial health to a country on the verge of fiscal breakdown was a singularly successful achievement. Fiscal prudence and economic planning has seen economic recovery and development return to Liberia. Her determination to promote reconciliation remains undaunted. She has been in the forefront of the struggle for the safety and rights of women. Her policies to reach out have seen the restoration of peace within Liberia’s borders and understanding with its neighbours.”
The announcement continues: “In a world, particularly among the developing countries, where progress is always confronted by social issues, she has been able to surmount many obstacles in seeing the return of Liberia back into the comity of nations as an equal and respected member. Relations between India and Liberia have seen a positive development since her first election in 2006 and her re-election as in 2011.”
The Indira Gandhi Prize for Peace, Disarmament and Development consists of an award of 2.5 million rupees and a trophy with a citation. The trophy is a square piece of banded Haematite Jasper, one of the hardest varieties of stone found in India and is estimated to be 2,000 million years old. Inset into the stone, and rimmed in silver, is a portrait of Indira Gandhi, with her name inscribed in the Devanagri script. The trophy is encased in a rosewood box edged in silver.
According to the Code of Procedure, the Indira Gandhi Peace Prize is awarded annually “to a person or organization without any distinction of nationality, race or religion, in recognition of creative efforts towards: promoting international peace and disarmament, racial equality, and goodwill and harmony among nations; securing economic cooperation and promoting a new international economic order; accelerating the all-round advancement of developing nations; ensuring that the discoveries of science and modern knowledge are used for the larger good of the human race; and enlarging the scope of freedom and enriching the human spirit.”
A galaxy of 25 recipients has been awarded the Indira Gandhi Prize for Peace, Disarmament and Development since its inception in 1986. They include, starting from the most recent: Social Activist/Founder of the NGO Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA), Ela Bhatt (2011); the former Brazilian President, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva (2010); the Prime Minister of Bangladesh, Sheikh Hasina (2009); the 4th Director-General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Dr. Mohamed El-Baradei (2008); the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (2007); Environmental and Political Activist, Wangari Maathai (2006); the 1st President of Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai (2005); Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn of Thailand (2004); the 7th United Nations Secretary-General, Kofi Annan (2003); the 2nd Commonwealth Secretary-General, Sir Shridath Ramphal (2002); former United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Professor Sadako Ogata (2001); the 7th President of Ireland, Mrs. Mary Robinson (2000); Indian Agricultural Scientist, Dr. M.S. Swaminathan (1999); Professor Muhammad Yunus, founder of the Grameen Bank and winner of the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize (1998); and the 39th President of the United States of America, Jimmy Carter (1997).
Still others are: the international non-governmental organization, Médecins Sans Frontières (1996); the 12th President of Nigeria, Olusegun Obasanjo (1995); anti-apartheid activist, Archbishop Trevor Huddleston (1994); the first President of the Czech Republic, Dr. Václav Havel (1993); Japanese Economist Saburo Okita (1992); the former Prime Minister of India, Rajiv Gandhi (posthumous, 1991); the first President of Namibia, Sam Nujoma (1990); the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) (1989); the former Prime Minister of Norway, Gro Harlem Brundtland (1988); the former leader of the Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev (1987); and Parliamentarians for Global Action, an international organization of parliamentarians (1986).