The 2022 Address will be delivered by Ms Elena Zhemkova, Co-Founder and Executive Director of Memorial, on Thursday 3 November 2022 at 18:00 at the Geneva Graduate Institute. The human rights organisation, Memorial, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for 2022 together with human rights advocate Ales Bialiatski from Belarus and the Ukrainian human rights organisation Center for Civil Liberties.
When announcing the laureates for 2022, the Nobel Committee noted: “Memorial is based on the notion that confronting past crimes is essential in preventing new ones.” Founded in 1987 by Nobel Peace Prize laureate Andreï Sakharov, Memorial has spent 30 years working across Russia, as well as in several other European cities, to compile a history of mass atrocities and political repression in the former USSR and to defend human rights wherever they are threatened. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Memorial grew to become the largest human rights organisation in Russia. It was dissolved in 2022 by decision of the Russian authorities, and its documentation centre was closed.
Receiving the Right Livelihood Award on behalf of Memorial in 2004, Ms Zhemkova said: “The spirit of our work is the fight for truth and law. Attempts to comprehend the past and to find answers to present-day challenges are indispensable elements of this fight". Kofi Annan also often spoke on the need to document crimes and end impunity for egregious violations of human rights to break the vicious cycles of violence that feed conflict. “The parallel pursuit of justice and peace does present challenges, but they can be managed”, he wrote. “We must be ambitious enough to pursue both, and wise enough to recognise, respect and protect the independence of justice”.
The Nobel Committee stated in its 2022 communiqué: “When civil society must give way to autocracy and dictatorship, peace is often the next victim". The retreat of democracy on all continents over the last 15 years has indeed coincided with the return of war and an increase in the number of battle-related deaths. Recent events show clearly the dangers involved in the rise of authoritarianism and autocrats, who elevate nationalism at the expense of peace and understanding. The Global Peace Index, produced annually by the Institute for Economics and Peace, has now been deteriorating for 14 years, while the latest Annual Democracy Report published by the V-Dem Institute shows that the level of democracy enjoyed by the average global citizen in 2021 was down to 1989 levels.
The lecture will be followed by a public Q&A session. Participants who wish to attend in person or online are invited to register on the Geneva Graduate Institute’s website.
Note: Interpretation between Russian and English will be provided.