UN chief donates UAE prize money to refugee agency

Antonio Guterres’s $500,000 Zayed Award funds will help needy refugees

FILE In this photo taken from a pre-recorded video streamed online and provided by Ministry of Environment Government of Japan, U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres speaks during the Online Platform Ministerial Meeting Thursday, Sept. 3, 2020.  France and the U.N. will host a new conference next week about aid to Beirut after its devastating port explosion in August, amid political deadlock and a worsening economic crisis in Lebanon, the French presidency said Friday, Nov. 27. (Ministry of Environment Government of Japan via AP)
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UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres on Wednesday said that he would donate the $500,000 from the UAE's Zayed Award for Human Fraternity to help those displaced by war and persecution.

Mr Guterres said he would give his cash prize to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, which assists about 79.5 million people around the world who have been forced to flee their homes.

“I am proud to share that I will donate the monetary prize associated with this award to the UN refugees agency, in support of its invaluable work for the most vulnerable,” he wrote on Twitter.

Mr Guterres was announced as the co-winner of this year's Zayed Award on Wednesday, alongside Moroccan-French activist Latifa Ibn Ziaten, who has campaigned against religious extremism since her son, Imad, was killed in a terrorist attack.

The UN chief’s spokesman, Stephane Dujarric, said the prize highlighted global challenges, including how “discrimination, racism and extremist violence are surging across the globe”.

“As the world faces the Covid-19 pandemic, an economic crisis, a climate emergency and threats to peace, unity and solidarity are more important now than ever,” Mr Dujarric said in New York.

The donated money will help the refugee agency to "buttress its indispensable efforts to protect the most vulnerable members of the human family – the forcibly displaced", Mr Dujarric said.

The award honours those who promote peace and tolerance.

It was created after the Document on Human Fraternity was signed by Pope Francis and the Grand Imam of Al Azhar, Dr Ahmed Al Tayeb, in Abu Dhabi in February 2019.

Pope Francis congratulated Mr Guterres and Ms Ibn Ziaten in a message to his 19 million Twitter followers, saying: “I thank both of you for your witness.”

Mr Guterres, a former prime minister of Portugal, has led the UN since 2017. He previously served as the UN’s High Commissioner for Refugees and led the body from 2005 to 2015.

UNHCR has more than 17,000 staff across 135 countries and an annual $8.6 billion budget.

Its biggest projects focus on the crises in Syria, Venezuela, Afghanistan, South Sudan and Myanmar.