The «Arthur Svensson International Prize for Trade Union Rights» for 2021 is awarded to the independent trade union movement in Belarus, represented by the Belarusian Congress of Democratic Trade Unions (BKDP) and its affiliates. They receive the award for their fearless struggle for democracy and fundamental trade union rights in Europe's last dictatorship.
Belarus is considered one of the worst countries in the world for violating workers' rights. Human rights organizations have for many years expressed deep concern about the human rights violations in the country; «disappearances», police violence and lack of freedom of expression and association. Despite the Lukashenko regime's attempts to take control of the independent unions and complicate recruitment, organizing and regular trade union activity, they have never given up and have continued to work for its members.
In connection with the presidential election in the autumn of 2020, where the result was obviously falsified, the situation in the country deteriorated further. All forms of opposition have been cracked down on through heavy police brutality, imprisonment and harassment. The independent trade union movement became central early in the fight against the falsification of the election result and the fight for democracy. There was a wave of strikes, actions and demonstrations demanding the cancellation of the election results and the release of all political prisoners.
The strikes and demonstrations were met with terror, mass arrests and torture. A number of trade union representatives and activists have been fired from their jobs, and many have been imprisoned or forced to flee the country. Union offices have been raided and closed. Nevertheless, the unions in the BKDP have recruited new members, formed new local unions and continued the struggle. This will be crucial for the Lukashenko regime to fall in the end.
The Prize Committee will state that in shaping a new political and economic regime after the fall of Lukashenko, a vibrant trade union movement, independent of political authorities, will be crucial in creating a society that serves the vast majority.
See the prize committee chair justify the award here
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Because of Covid-19 the award ceremony 16th of June will be digital, and will be availlable for all