2018 Nr 1
Laudatio for George Soros
The New Journal for Human Rights Prize „for exceptional contributions to the promotion of human freedom and dignity” is awarded this year to George Soros. The prize recognizes the devotion with which this philanthropist has embraced the values of freedom and dignity, the consistency with which he has supported them, and the value of the project for an open society that he has actualized for decades.
We want to highlight from the beginning George Soros‟ exceptional involvement in the „opening of the Eastern and Central Europe former communist countries to the free flow of ideas and scientific knowledge”. George Soros had contributed even before 1989 to the changes in the region by financially supporting Carta 77, Solidarnosc and the USSR dissidents. In 1984 he donated 3 million dollars to create in Budapest the Open Society Institute, a laboratory for the research of the ways in which a community formally imprisoned by a totalitarian system can find its way towards an open society.
George Soros has been an important figure in the structuring of post-communist democracy in all the countries of Central and Eastern Europe. He has spent tens of millions of dollars to financially support ONGs dedicated to human rights, equality of chances, intercultural dialog, ecological activism. He has supported the free press wherever it was under threat. At the beginning of the 90s, when in Romania the opposition papers were thrown out of trains in heaps and courageous journalist were fired from papers supporting those in Power, the philanthropist offered scholarships, journal paper and means of distribution.
In Romania, where the police state had annihilated any form off civil society, the local foundation founded in 1990 by George Soros, the „Open Society Foundation”, was directly involved in starting and supporting the first NGOs. The civil structures thus created, like the Ethnocultural Diversity Resource Center in Cluj, the Euroregional Center for Democracy in Timișoara, the Centre for Partnership and Equality and the Centre for Legal Resources, set priorities for the emerging Romanian democracy and found ways to promote it effectively. As a humanist, George Soros paid special attention to vulnerable groups. He had started his philanthropic activities by sponsoring scholarships for young black students in South Africa during apartheid. He is behind the most extensive ever individual attempt to help the Roma community. At his initiative, and with the help of the World Bank, the Roma Education Fund was established in 2005. The latter funds annually around 100.000 Roma students. He involved the European Council in creating the European Roma Institute. He pushed the European Union towards elaborating a continent-level strategy for supporting Roma communities by offering several million dollars as a starting point. During the refugee crisis, Soros has campaigned for European countries to accept responsibility for those fleeing their native land in order to save their lives, and his foundations for an Open Society started programs of support.
In particular, George Soros has supported university research in the areas of humanities and socio-political sciences in order to increase the social commitment of the academic world. He has supported financially the exchange of ideas between academics from former communist countries and their counterparts in the West. His foundations were involved in scientific and cultural projects. He has created the Central European University, the largest European investment in academia by a private person, and which is now one of the top Central and Eastern Europe universities; several generations of researchers and young professors owe it their education in the social sciences and humanities. It is worth reminding that in the „90s a large number of Romanian activists and academics studied in the West with the support of the Open Society Foundation, which offered scholarships and money for books, equipment and tuition. Not least, George Soros saved and processed the Radio Free Europe archives through Open Society Archives. But we will stop here the list of things that are financially connected to the philanthropist. Of course, George Soros did not personally create or coordinate the thousands of organizations that made up the global network meant to stabilize democracy where it was still fragile; or that brought to the forefront the issue of equality – of gender, race, sexual orientation. But he is the one who thought of, followed through and financed this “project of values”, as both a visionary and a very practical man. He was successful, as much as one can be successful in such a massive endeavor. Decent people use a polite phrase to recognize mistakes when they speak in the name of an otherwise successful community: “if anything went wrong, it was [their] sole responsibility, and not of any others”. We submit that in the case of George Soros the phrase should be reversed: if any part of his project for an “open society” went wrong, he surely is not responsible for it.
One must therefore wonder: how is it possible that the last years have witnessed such hostile, defaming campaigns against him? We are open about the role this great injustice towards him had in our decision to award the NJHR Prize to George Soros. George Soros has a history of solidarity towards those in need; we find it is now the time for us to show solidarity towards him. The New Journal for Human Rights Prize is awarded in 2018 to George Soros as a sign of appreciation for his work as a thinker, philanthropist and militant for the rights of human beings. As an expression of our solidarity towards this man in the face of the injustice he is facing. We recognize his role as promoter of the reconciliation between the principles of human dignity and freedom. There two values not only can be reconciled, but enforce each other.
1 2018 is the third year in which the NJHR Prize is being awarded „for exceptional contributions to the promotion ofhuman freedom and dignity”. The Prize consists of a diploma, a sculpture created by Radu Fulga and a sum ofmoney (offered this year with the support of Andreea and Radu Mareş, through the company SC Plastics Bavaria).Previous prizes were awarded to Emil Moise and Andrei Ursu.