The White Helmets and Jo Cox MP – winners of the 2016 RISING Global Peace Prize
RISING Global Peace Forum is about bringing people together from different walks of life to find solutions to the many forms of conflict around us. It is a way of bringing together some of the stories and people that you may know, alongside those you may not. Moreover, we want to recognise those people who have dedicated themselves to provoking peace as a way of inspiring others to do the same.
We created the RISING Global Peace Prize because we wanted to create a moment of reflection where we could take stock of the many brave women and men around the world who make peace their mission. Whether trying to save people in a field of conflict, or campaigning a thousand miles away to defend the defenceless or build more inclusive communities, we all have a way of being peacemakers. To us, it made sense that the inaugural prize should go to winners who embodied what it means to fight for peace, at home and abroad.
The volunteers of Syria Civil Defence (aka The White Helmets) and the late Labour MP Jo Cox – who championed their heroism amongst so many other causes – are the perfect examples of people dedicated to peace. In our view, there could be no more deserving recipients for this prize and it is all the more significant that we recognise them together.
Jo Cox worked tirelessly to bring about a better world and is truly deserving of this award. Her legacy is the example she has set for humanitarians and politicians alike. Earlier this year, Jo referred to The White Helmets in her nomination letter to the Nobel Peace prize committee as “heroes” and said they offer a sense of hope in an otherwise desperate conflict. At RISING, we want to recognise their tireless, non-partisan work to help the victims of one of the worst conflicts of modern times. Both recipients have demonstrated their deep commitment to humanity and offer the hope of a more peaceful, tolerant world in the future.
Being based in Coventry, the UK City of Peace and Reconciliation, it’s been impossible for us to think about the example of both The White Helmets and Jo Cox, without thinking of our own city. On 14 November 1940, the centre of Coventry was mostly reduced to rubble, and yet the city embarked on an immediate journey of peace and reconciliation, rising from the ashes. The White Helmets take incredible risks as they routinely pull people from the rubble amid constant attacks and, in reality, they have lived 14 November 1940 every day and every night for longer than the Second World War even lasted.
Today, Coventry has proudly welcomed more Syrian refugees than any other part of the UK, including London. And that is in no small part thanks to the incredible campaigning efforts led by Jo Cox MP, who co-chaired the Friends of Syria group in parliament and forced the UK government to take in more Syrian refugees. Jo was not satisfied with the number of refugees taken in by the government, but then a true campaigner never is satisfied and that is what made Jo so exemplary. Jo had long campaigned on humanitarian issues but she recognised the need to support The White Helmets and the Syrian people now more than ever. For that, we recognise Jo alongside those fearless volunteer rescue workers of Syria.
We have also been moved at how, despite their own tragedy, Jo’s family moved so quickly to keep the momentum of her campaigning moving boldly forwards. In fact, the fundraising campaign they started in Jo’s name will be shared between three organisations Jo cared about, one of which is The White Helmets. For that reason, we’d like to encourage you to give what you can to that fund, to show your support for The White Helmets, too.
Over 140 White Helmets have been killed as they fought to save any and every life they could reach. Their memory and that of the passionate MP who dedicated herself to their cause will never fade. In our own small way, the RISING Global Peace Prize is our way of saying that.
Director, RISING Global Peace Forum (2016-2017)