The prime minister of Ethiopia, Abiy Ahmed, has been named the 2019 laureate of the Félix Houphouët-Boigny Peace Prize for his role in bringing about a peace agreement between the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia and the State of Eritrea.
The prize, awarded by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), was presided over by a jury, which met on 29 April 2019 at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris. The jury comprised such prominent individuals as the former president of Liberia and 2011 Nobel Peace Laureate Ellen Johnson Sirleaf; the former president of France, François Hollande; Princess Sumaya bint El Hassan of Jordan, a UNESCO Special Envoy for Science for Peace; Michel Camdessus from France, a former director general of the International Monetary Fund (IMF); Professor Muhammad Yunus from Bangladesh, the founder of Grameen Bank and the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate; and Forest Whitaker, founder and president of the American non-governmental organisation Peace and Development Initiative and a UNESCO Special Envoy for Peace.
The jury recognised Prime Minister Ahmed’s “reforms, undertaken to consolidate democracy and social cohesion”. It also sought to encourage his commitment to the promotion of a culture of peace across the African continent.
The 2019 edition of the Félix Houphouët-Boigny Peace Prize marked the 30th anniversary of its inception. A UNESCO press release stated: “The Prize is intended to honor living individuals and active public or private institutions or bodies that have made a significant contribution to promoting, seeking, safeguarding or maintaining peace in conformity with the Charter of the United Nations and the Constitution of UNESCO.”
The prize was established in 1989 by a resolution supported by 120 countries and adopted by the General Conference of UNESCO at its 25th session. It is in line with the philosophy of UNESCO’s founders who, in the preamble to the organisation’s constitution, solemnly declare: “Since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defences of peace must be constructed.”
Prime Minister Ahmed has been given huge credit for restoring peace between Ethiopia and Eritrea after a two-decade-long civil war. The peace between the two countries has led to the reunification of families and the restoration of flights between the capital cities of Addis Ababa and Asmara.