UN human rights prize for Souter

Andrew Anderson of Selkirk makes his speech at the headquarters of the United Nations in New York on Tuesday.
Andrew Anderson of Selkirk makes his speech at the headquarters of the United Nations in New York on Tuesday.

A Souter in the front line of protecting human rights defenders in the most dangerous and challenging parts of the world was hailed a hero by the United Nations this week.

Andrew Anderson, who was born and raised in Selkirk, having attended the town’s Knowepark Primary and Hillside Terrace high school, is executive director of Ireland-based Front Line Defenders, and it picked up a United Nations prize in the field of human rights at the UN headquarters in New York on Tuesday.

Andrew Anderson (far right), as Front Line Defenders receives a UN Prize for Human Rights

Andrew Anderson (far right), as Front Line Defenders receives a UN Prize for Human Rights

Andrew told The Southern: “We are profoundly honoured to have been awarded the prize, and I am so pleased of the team I work with, often in very difficult contexts.

“I was also very proud yesterday to be introduced by Andrew Gilmour, assistant secretary general, as Andrew Anderson from Selkirk. It was a very nice touch on what was a great day in New York.”

Andrew, whose brother is former provost David Anderson, began his crusading career when he joined Amnesty International in London almost 30 years ago, working as director of itse campaigning and crisis response programme and then director of its Africa programme.

He was then deputy director at Front Line Defenders for 13 years before becoming executive director in 2016.

In his speech to the UN, he touched on the organisation’s important, and often perilous work.

He said: “Our work is focused on the protection of human rights defenders around the world.

“And, as we celebrate the 20th anniversary of the declaration of human rights defenders, we sometimes wonder if celebrate is the right word, because the scale of the backlash and oppression against human rights defenders internationally is almost universal.

“We see defamation, smearing, marginalisation, harrassment, restrictive legislation, attacks on funding, criminalisation, detention, disappearances and killings of human rights defenders in too many countries around the world.

“We took up cases for human rights defenders at risk in over 100 countries last year.”

Front Line Defenders was founded in 2001 to provide “rapid and practical support for the security and protection for human rights defenders at risk, including protection grants; training and capacity building in physical and digital security and strategic communications/visibility; international advocacy; rest and respite; emergency hotline for human rights defenders in imminent danger; and campaigning”.

There were three other recipients of the award this year – Rebeca Gyumi (Tanzania), Joênia Wapichana (Brazil) and the family of Asma Jahangir (Pakistan), who passed away earlier this year.