Dutch diplomats work hard with international partners to confront human rights violations around the globe.

Whether it’s supporting women’s rights organizations in the Middle East, ensuring equal rights for members of the LGBTI community, or advocating for fair and just elections, the Netherlands places a high value on human rights.

In fact, the Netherlands believes human rights and international law and order go hand in hand. Such universal values form the foundation of civilized societies, ensure long-term global security, and allow social progress and economic mobility.

It’s even enshrined the Dutch Constitution, which directs the government to promote international law and order.

“Advancing human rights is a key element of complying with that provision of our Constitution,” said the Netherlands Ambassador to the US Henne Schuwer. “We don’t promote human rights because it benefits us politically or economically. It’s just the right thing to do, so much so that our Constitution requires us to. It’s sewn into the fabric of what it means to be Dutch.”

Human Rights Tulip

The annual Human Rights Tulip is one tool Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs uses to promote international law and order and advance human rights.

The ministry established the award in 2008 to recognize individuals or organizations that promote human rights around the world. The idea is to highlight their work, and allow defenders of human rights to learn from each other.

The award comes with €100,000 in prize money, training and support to develop or expand the scale of the winner’s work. Since 2013, the award has focused on the innovative character of the candidates’ efforts.

Recent winners include:

  • Sheena Hadi, director of Aahung, a Pakistani organization that works to improve sexual and reproductive health, 2013;
  • Mideast Youth, now known as Majal, an organization that builds online platforms to give a voice to people working for human rights, 2014; and
  • IRA-Mauritania, an organization from Mauritania (North Africa) that is working to abolish slavery, 2015.

“They are the Harriet Tubmans of today, and could well become the Nelson Mandelas of tomorrow,” said Ambassador Schuwer. “They just need some international recognition for their efforts and a helping hand. That’s the spirit of the Human Rights Tulip.”

Choosing the winner

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs chose 10 candidates from around the world to compete for the 2016 Human Rights Tulip.

Online voting took place earlier this month, with the results tallied here. The candidates who received the most votes are:

  • Nguyen Quang A of Vietnam, who is showing the limits of political freedoms in his country by following official rules and procedures;
  • Nighat Dad of Pakistan, who is advancing the privacy and freedom of expression rights of people in her homeland, particularly women; and
  • El Nadim Centre, an Egyptian organization that provides support to survivors of violence and torture.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs will consider the votes, choose a winner, and hold an award ceremony in the Hague on Dec. 10,International Human Rights Day.

“All of the candidates are doing important work under difficult circumstances,” said Ambassador Schuwer. “But they are determined to advance human rights and make the world a better place for everyone.”