What you (probably) didn’t know yet about the Human Rights Tulip


The Human Rights Tulip is awarded every year by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to support the work of human rights defenders worldwide. Who are these human rights defenders? And why is the prize so important? Eduard Nazarski, chair of this year’s jury, explains.

First, a little background. Human rights are for everyone. Or at least, they should be. Every person wants to be accepted, wants to be able to move freely without fearing for their safety, wants to be able to go to work or school. But these rights cannot be taken for granted everywhere. That’s why the Ministry of Foreign Affairs promotes human rights worldwide. And the work of human rights defenders plays a key role in this effort.

Global human rights defenders

‘Human rights defenders are people who stand up against injustice, often in their immediate surroundings,’ Eduard explains. The former director of Amnesty International is chair of the jury that chooses the winner of the Human Rights Tulip. ‘Human rights defenders are often on the front lines. They are at risk of being threatened, imprisoned or assaulted, by their own government or by others who don’t agree with them.’

‘We’re talking about incredibly courageous people who deserve our support. The Human Rights Tulip is one way in which the Dutch government expresses this support.’

‘How hopeless and cruel would the world be without human rights? Without agreements between both states and people about how we treat each other?’

Enlarge image Eduard Nazarski
Eduard Nazarski.

€100,000 prize for the Human Rights Tulip winner

The winner of the Human Rights Tulip receives a bronze tulip sculpture and €100,000 –money that the winner can use to expand their human rights work in order to reach more people, in more places. Last year’s winner, Lilit Martirosyan, used the prize money to open a community centre for transgender people and sex workers.

‘A person or organisation can make a big difference with this money,’ Eduard says. ‘But publicity is important too, for all the candidates. This is one way the Dutch government shows it sets store by human rights, at home and abroad. I hope the ministry will stay in touch with these human rights defenders through the embassies, and continue to support them in every way possible.’

To learn more about other ways in which the Ministry of Foreign Affairs promotes and supports human rights worldwide, read the Dutch Human Rights Report 2020.

The Human Rights Tulip jury

Besides Eduard Nazarski, this year’s jury consists of: Jacobine Geel (chair of the Netherlands Institute for Human Rights and TV presenter), Zohra Moosa (director of Mama Cash), Danielle Hirsch (director of environmental and human rights organisation Both ENDS) and Antoine Buyse (professor of human rights and director of the Netherlands Institute of Human Rights). Bahia Tahzib-Lie (Human Rights Ambassador) is also on the jury, but does not vote.

The jury considers several factors in making its decision, including the expected impact of each nominee’s work, Eduard says. ‘But we also consider the obstacles that candidates come up against in pursuing their goals. And whether they try to solve problems on their own or build bridges. Because the more connections you make with the wider society, the bigger your impact can be. And the more likely you’ll be able to set lasting changes in motion.’

The nominees for the 2021 Human Rights Tulip

There are still three remaining candidates for 2021 Human Rights Tulip. You can read more about them below. The winner will be announced on 6 December.

Enlarge image Nicholas Opiyo
Nicholas Opiyo.

Nicholas Opiyo

As a child, he grew up in the epicentre of a brutal war between the Lord’s Resistance Army and Ugandan government troops. Today, working as a human rights lawyer, he is being threatened, spied on and shadowed. Read Nicholas Opiyo’s story.

Enlarge image Mari Davtyan
Mari Davtyan.

Mari Davtyan

The Russian police do not always respond to domestic violence complaints. Sometimes their failure to act has fatal results. Lawyer Mari Davtyan has been working for years now to change this situation. Read Mari Davtyan’s story.

Enlarge image Nunca Más
Nunca Más.

Nunca Más

After a centre for human rights in Nicaragua was shut down by force, its staff had to flee the country. Despite these setbacks, they set up Nunca Más, a new activist collective that is continuing to work for human rights in Nicaragua. Read the story of Nunca Más.