2005 Sydney Peace Prize awarded to United Nations Advocate for Children

9 May 2005

Sydney Peace Prize winner Olara Otunnu
Sydney Peace Prize winner Olara Otunnu

The Sydney Peace Prize jury's citation refers to Mr Otunnu's 'lifetime commitment to human rights, his ceaseless efforts to protect children in time of war and his promotion of measures for the healing and social reintegration of children in the aftermath of conflict'.

Making today's announcement, Alan Cameron, Chair of the Sydney Peace Foundation, said, 'The Sydney Peace Prize jury recognized Mr Otunnu's highly significant international work for the protection of children. We are enthusiastic about his acceptance of this prestigious award. We look forward to welcoming him to Sydney in the first week of November.'

Speaking from New York, Mr Otunnu commented, 'I am very honoured to receive a Peace Prize which has been previously awarded to eminent advocates of peace and human rights. This award also recognizes the efforts of the United Nations to outlaw and end the use and brutalisation of children in situations of armed conflict. I look forward to highlighting these issues when I come to Sydney. I am very grateful for your recognition of our work.'

In the 1970's as president of the Students' Union in Makere University and as Secretary-General of Uganda Freedom Union, Mr. Otunnu played a leading role in the resistance against the regime of Idi Amin. After the overthrow of that regime he was Uganda's permanent representative to the UN and in the mid 1980's was his country's Foreign Minister. From 1990 until 1998 he was President of the International Peace Academy. He has taught at Albany Law School, and the American University in Paris; he also practised law at the firm of Chadbourne & Parke in New York. Mr. Otonnu was educated at Budo, Makere University, Oxford University, and Harvard University where he was a Fulbright scholar. In 1997 following Graca Machel's landmark study of the impact of war on children, the UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan appointed Mr Otunnu as his special envoy for the protection of children exposed to armed conflict.

Commenting on the Sydney Peace Prize jury's choice of Mr Otunnu, the Director of the Sydney Peace Foundation, Professor Stuart Rees, said that the jury had been impressed by Mr Otunnu's passionate commitment, advocacy and initiatives to protect the most innocent and most vulnerable members of a community, children. Mr. Otunnu has been instrumental in placing the protection of war-affected children on the international peace and security agendas, developing the practice of naming and listing of parties to conflict which brutalize children, developing a mechanism to monitor and report on compliance and violations of child soldiers.

He has travelled the world negotiating to end the use of child soldiers and other violations against children. Nevertheless, his recent report 'Children and Armed Conflict' acknowledges that there is continued targeting and brutalisation of children in situations of armed conflict, including their killing, maiming, use as child soldiers, rape and abduction. The report refers to a 'human made catastrophe of tsunami proportions.' Mr. Otunnu stated, 'Those who destroy the children are destroying the future of our societies. We must stop this process of self destruction.'

Mr. Otunnu is active in many civic initiatives and organizations. He currently serves on the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, the Aspen Institute, Carnegie Corporation of New York, the International Selection Commission of the Philadelphia Liberty Medal, Aspen France and the jury for the Hilton Humanitarian Prize

Previous recipients of the Sydney Peace Prize have included Professor Muhammad Yunus, founder of the Grameen Bank for the Poor; Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu of South Africa; President Xanana Gusmao of East Timor; former Governor General of Australia, Sir William Deane; former United Nations Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson; the Palestinian academic and human rights campaigner, Hanan Ashrawi and, last year the Indian writer, Arundhati Roy.

Olara Otunnu will give the City of Sydney Peace Prize Lecture in the Seymour Centre on November 3rd and will receive the 2005 Sydney Peace Prize in a gala ceremony in the McLaurin Hall of the University of Sydney on November 4th.

Enquiries: Andrew Potter, 02 9351 4514, 0414 998 521
Prof Stuart Rees, 9411 5139 (a.h)