October 19 2002
Award ceremony of the Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize 2002
19/10/2002 - On 14 October President Helmut Kutin received the 2002 Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize, the world's largest award for humanitarian service, on behalf of SOS-Kinderdorf International.
The award ceremony of this year's Hilton Humanitarian Prize took place within the framework of the conference on "Social Justice - Bridging the Global Gap between Rich and Poor", and was attended by leading experts in various fields of humanitarian work, UN ambassadors and prominent public figures.
SOS Children's Village President Helmut Kutin received the prestigious one million dollar prize on behalf of the organisation's co-workers, in particular the thousands of SOS mothers. The prize money will be used to expand existing Aids projects and establish new ways to support Aids orphans and families affected by HIV/Aids in eastern and southern Africa. Steven Hilton, president of the Los Angeles-based Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, highlighted in his speech that the foundation's founder, hotel entrepreneur Conrad Hilton, must have had the work of SOS Children's Villages in mind as he drew up his will: "He admonished us to love and encourage each other so that no one would be abandoned to poverty and darkness. But he singled out children especially calling them the repositories of our hope for the upgrade progress of humanity."
In his speech of thanks, Helmut Kutin pointed out that the discrepancy between industrialised nations and "developing countries", particularly as regards the situation of children and young people, is actually far less than is generally believed: "We forget to look into our own countries, into our own very advanced societies and to see what a tremendous amount of poverty exists there, particularly among the children and young people", who above all suffer from an emotional coldness and broken family life. These children, just as all of the children of this world, need to be wanted, loved and strengthened. Helmut Kutin particularly emphasised the need to fight Aids together, above all in Africa - a fight which has to be fought by taking small steps day by day so as not to become overwhelmed by the dimension of the Aids epidemic. "It's our endeavour to try continuously, particularly in very desperate situations - of which I have in my own life passed through a good amount - of war, natural calamities, to continue to live this hope, compassion, respect and through this respect also show genuine love for your brother and sister of any colour, of any religion, of any political system."
Another prominent speaker was Oscar Arias, former Costa Rican president and Nobel Peace Laureate. In the keynote speech, "Social Justice in the 21st century", he made clear how political claims and social reality continue to be poles apart, how much political and economic reality counteracts strategies to combat poverty and therefore appears to nullify the connection between violence and social exclusion: " In the year 2000, the world spent about 800 billion dollars on weapons and soldiers, but only fifty-six billion was spent on development assistance. [...] The simple truth is that spending on arms, and especially getting caught up in regional or global arms races, is the surest way to perpetuate poverty. And, in my view, it is also a very poor method of guaranteeing security. For an arms race never has a winner, and the losers are numbered most heavily among the poor. It is no coincidence that poverty and violence so often go hand in hand. When will we learn that the best way to foster security is to act to ensure justice?"
All of the speeches made during the prize-giving ceremony and at the conference made reference to the ambivalence towards humanitarian work and the fact that the majority of the world's population needs lasting social change. The neglect by political actors has to be made good by civil society, NGOs, voluntary organisations, etc. and social action will - in the foreseeable future - find enough fields of activity.
Queen Noor of Jordan, patroness of SOS Children's Villages Jordan, said in her speech: "In meetings such as ours today we focus on seemingly overwhelming problems and challenges facing our world. But it is also helpful, in the course of our deliberations, to pause for reinspiration; to be reminded of the exceptional efforts and progress in organizations like SOS Children's Villages, and many of the organizations in this room, that are bringing hope and light to some of the world's darker places."