The European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, 1988-2013 - A Quarter Century’s Engagement in Human Rights

09-12-2013

The Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought stands out among other initiatives as the best-known and most widely appreciated instrument of the European Parliament in the field of human rights. In some countries, it is as well-known as the Nobel Prize. Over its 25-year history, it has come to be associated with the European Union’s principled commitment to freedom of thought. However, empirical research on the personal and political circumstances of Sakharov Prize laureates, as well as on the political impact of the prize in five case studies – China, Cuba, Israel and Palestine, and Russia – shows that its potential remains under-utilised. Drawing on unique perspectives from the laureates themselves, this report offers suggestions to enhance its impact, including: the prize must be targeted more tightly at contexts where it could have tangible impact; it must be dovetailed with other policy instruments; it must guard more carefully against unintended effects; and it must serve as a platform for broader international linkages in the defence of human rights. On the occasion of its quarter-century anniversary, the European Parliament must reflect on how the prize can continue to be relevant in a world whose contours and predicaments look vastly different from those that prevailed at its inception.

The Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought stands out among other initiatives as the best-known and most widely appreciated instrument of the European Parliament in the field of human rights. In some countries, it is as well-known as the Nobel Prize. Over its 25-year history, it has come to be associated with the European Union’s principled commitment to freedom of thought. However, empirical research on the personal and political circumstances of Sakharov Prize laureates, as well as on the political impact of the prize in five case studies – China, Cuba, Israel and Palestine, and Russia – shows that its potential remains under-utilised. Drawing on unique perspectives from the laureates themselves, this report offers suggestions to enhance its impact, including: the prize must be targeted more tightly at contexts where it could have tangible impact; it must be dovetailed with other policy instruments; it must guard more carefully against unintended effects; and it must serve as a platform for broader international linkages in the defence of human rights. On the occasion of its quarter-century anniversary, the European Parliament must reflect on how the prize can continue to be relevant in a world whose contours and predicaments look vastly different from those that prevailed at its inception.

Údar seachtarach

Kateryna Pishchikova (associate researcher and team leader - Fundación para las Relaciones Internacionales y el Diálogo Exterior - FRIDE, Spain)