BERLIN – Former German Chancellor Angela Merkel has received a United Nations award for her 2015 decision to welcome refugees into the country.
Merkel, who left office last year, was awarded the Felix Houfot-Boigny UNESCO Peace Prize in the Ivory Coast capital Yamoussoukro on Wednesday.
“All members of the jury were impressed by his courageous decision to welcome more than 1.2 million refugees from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and Eritrea in 2015. This is the legacy he leaves,” the jury wrote in August last year when the decision was first announced.
Angela Merkel said in her acceptance speech, “It is more important than ever to work firmly and hard for peace.” “Dialogue is the weapon of the strong and not of the weak,” he added, quoting Houfot-Boigny, Ivory Coast’s first president after independence from France in 1960.
Merkel thanked the jury for their choice, referring to the refugees from Ukraine, which “focuses on war … which means that people have to leave their home countries”.
“We thought that wartime was over in Europe,” Merkel said. “But since February 24 last year, when Russia’s demonic aggression against Ukraine took place, we have come to the sad conclusion that this is not the case. It shook Europe to its roots.”
In 2015, Germany implemented an “open-door” refugee policy, and Merkel said many people across the country supported it, showing that Germany can offer a warm welcome.
“I offer my sincere thanks to all of them [people] Because I also consider them as winners of this award,” he said.
The event paid tribute to Merkel and her refugee policy.
UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay praised the “courageous decision” to accept more than a million refugees. “You took the risk … you implemented the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” Azoulay said.
“We admire your humanity, your spirit of solidarity and your deep sense of morality and your inspiring leadership,” said jury president and 2018 Nobel Peace Prize laureate Denis Mukwege.
Before handing out the certificate, a short video reenacts the steps that led to Merkel’s decision, her famous quote “We make it” (“We’ll get it done”) and referred to the former chancellor as “Mama Merkel”.
The award has been given annually since 1991 to individuals or organizations that have made significant efforts to promote, research or secure peace. The first winners were Nelson Mandela and Frederic Willem de Klerk.