Dutch diplomat wins international prize

Caecilia Wijgers, a member of staff at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, has become the first-ever winner of the Palmer Prize for Diplomats. She won the award for promoting democracy in Cuba and received it today in Vilnius during the sixth ministerial conference of the Community of Democracies, a network organisation of democratic countries.

The Palmer Prize seeks to honour diplomats who make sustained efforts under difficult circumstances to advance democracy in their country of assignment. This is the first time the award has been conferred.

Caecilia Wijgers was awarded the Palmer Prize for her efforts to promote freedom of speech and free access to information for civil society, journalists and human rights defenders in Cuba between 2005 and 2009. At the time, she was deputy ambassador in Cuba.

At the presentation in Vilnius, Ms Wijgers expressed her delight at the award. ‘All over the world, through its human rights strategy, the Netherlands is investing in fundamental rights such as freedom of speech and free access to information. But fundamental change will only come if the local population also wants it. As a diplomat, you can help to promote that process in a variety of ways. Winning the Palmer Prize is a great honour.’