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Ambassador of Conscience Award 2013

    September 18, 2013

    Pakistani school girl and education rights campaigner Malala Yousafzai is one of two 2013 recipients of Amnesty International's Ambassador of Conscience Award, along with singer and human rights and social justice activist Harry Belafonte.

    Malala Yousafzai

    The youngest ever recipient of the Ambassador of Conscience Award, Yousafzai is a 16-year-old advocate for equal access to education. Malala will be presented with the Award by U2's Bono accompanied by Azar Nafisi, author of Reading Lolita in Tehran.

    In 2009 the BBC published the girl's diary which detailed her frustrations with the Taliban's order to shut down all girls’ schools in her native Pakistan.

    In 2012, Malala, then aged 15, and two friends were attacked by the Pakistani Taliban on their way home from school. Malala was shot and severely wounded in the attack. Treated at the Queen Elizabeth Hosptial in Birmingham, she now has a titanium plate fitted to help her hear.

    Malala at UN headquarters in New York © REUTERS/Brendan McDermidMalala at UN headquarters in New York © REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

    On receiving the accolade Malala Yousafzai said:

    “I am truly honoured to receive this award and would like to take the opportunity to remind everyone that there are many millions of children like me across the world who fight every single day for their right to go to school. I hope that by working together we will one day realise our dream of education for every child, in every corner of the world.”

    Harry Belafonte

    Originally famous for his classic hits like Jump in the Line, the singer has also dedicated his life to humanitarian causes, spanning the civil rights movement to the plight of children caught in Syria’s armed conflict. An Emmy- and Tony-Award winning musician and entertainer, Harry Belafonte has in innumerable ways acted on what he describes as the “obligation to do more than just entertain”.

    Harry Belafonte is one of this year's recipients of the Ambassador of Conscience Award © Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights
    Belafonte: recipient of the 2013 Ambassador of Conscience Award © Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights

    On hearing the news, Belafonte said:

    “Since its birth, I have been devoted to the principles for which Amnesty International stands. It is an honour to receive the recognition being bestowed. Amnesty International’s stand on any universal abuse to human rights has been courageous and is our moral compass.

    Harry and Malala are truly ambassadors of universal rights, justice and human dignity and inspire others to follow their example.

    Salil Shetty, Secretary General of Amnesty International

    “I am especially honoured to receive the Ambassador of Conscience Award because I am having the distinction of sharing this with Malala Yousafzai, a true hero of our time. My admiration for her is unending. She has awakened many in the global family to a commitment in struggle against tyranny. For all this I remain eternally grateful.”

    Roger Waters will make the presentation to Harry Belafonte accompanied by a special guest.

    The Awards

    The Ambassador of Conscience Award, originally inspired by the poem From the Republic of Conscience written for Amnesty International by the late Seamus Heaney, first began in 2003. Tonight's ceremony will pay tribute to the Nobel Laureate, including a reading of the poem that has inspired a generation of human rights activists.

    Given annually to individuals who show exceptional leadership in the fight to protect and promote human rights and human conscience, the Award aims to promote the work of Amnesty International by association with the life, work and example of its ‘ambassadors’.

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    The evening will be hosted by BBC correspondent Orla Guerin and will feature music performances from tenor Joseph Calleja, Grammy award-winning artist Esperanza Spalding and Music Generation.

    “Our two new Ambassadors of Conscience are different from each other in many ways, but they share a dedication to the fight for human rights everywhere and for all,” said Salil Shetty, Secretary General of Amnesty International. “Harry and Malala are truly ambassadors of universal rights, justice and human dignity and inspire others to follow their example.”

    Previous recipients

    Previous Ambassador of Conscience Award recipients include: Nelson Mandela, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, U2 and Paul McGuinness and Peter Gabriel.

    Salil Shetty, Aung San Suu Kyi and Bono with the award at Electric Burma concert © Mark Stedman/Photocall Ireland
    Salil Shetty, Aung San Suu Kyi and Bono with the award at an Electric Burma concert © Mark Stedman/Photocall Ireland