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Desmond Tutu openly supports Catalonia's right to self-determination and asks Spanish Government to talk

"The parties should discuss how independence can be best achieved," if the majority of Catalans choose this option in a self-determination referendum, stated the South African Archbishop and anti-Apartheid activist, Desmond Tutu. When he was receiving the 2014 Premi Internacional Catalunya – Catalonia's most prestigious award given to people who have significantly contributed to Humankind throughout the world, Tutu directly appealed to the Spanish authorities "to listen" to the majority of Catalans, since "it's common sense." The Nobel Peace Laureate urged Spain to allow Catalans to freely and democratically hold a self-determination referendum. He also said that consensus is better than unilateral decision, which is "the second best." The Archbishop dedicated the award to all the people fighting against a series of causes, such as AIDS in South Africa, war in Syria, torture in Guantanamo, homophobia in Uganda, pollution in Northern Canada or not being allowed self-determination in Catalonia. "They do the work and I get the credit," he said ironically.

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03 June 2014 10:45 PM

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ACN

Barcelona (ACN).- "The parties should discuss how independence can be best achieved," if the majority of Catalans choose this option in a self-determination referendum, stated the South African Archbishop and anti-Apartheid activist, Desmond Tutu. When he was receiving the 2014 Premi Internacional Catalunya – Catalonia's most prestigious award given to people who has significantly contributed to Humankind throughout the world, Tutu directly appealed to the Spanish authorities "to listen" to the majority of Catalans, since "it's common sense." The Nobel Peace Laureate urged Spain to allow Catalans to freely and democratically hold a self-determination referendum. He also pointed out that consensus is better than unilateral decision, which are "the second best." The Archbishop dedicated the award to all the people fighting against a series of causes, such as AIDS in South Africa, war in Syria, torture in Guantanamo, homophobia in Uganda, pollution in Northern Canada or not being allowed the right to self-determination in Catalonia. "They do the work and I get the credit," he said ironically. The President of the Catalan Government, Artur Mas, praised Tutu's support for human and civil rights throughout the world. In addition, the Catalan President draw four main lessons from the South African leader: noble causes have to be "defended in a peaceful way;" reaching agreement is "preferable to unilateral decisions;" talks have to be carried out with "an open spirit" and "working for everybody's benefit;" and, finally, "when a great majority of people have a shared objective and act for a fair goal, their movement becomes an irresistible force." Mas added that the Premi Internacional Catalunya thanks people who have contributed to the entire humankind, but at the same time laureates give lessons to Catalans, which help them to become better people.  The US-born and Swedish national Soprano Barbara Hendricks, who is a member of the jury deciding the Prize's awardee, sung in the ceremony, since she has been involved in manifold human rights campaigns. The Archbishop of Barcelona, Lluís Martínez-Sistach, praised Tutu's "ecumenical" will and defined him as "a tireless Apostol of reconciliation and forgiveness" to overcome the traumas of the past. According to Martíne-Sistach, Tutu is "the true South African Martin Luther King," as he has devoted his life to guarantee that "all men and women of the world can live freely and as equals."


In a solemn ceremony held at the Sant Jordi room of the Generalitat Palace in Barcelona, which is the main seat of the Catalan Government, Desmond Tutu received the 26th Premi Internacional Catalunya. This award is the most prestigious prize given in Catalonia; it is awarded by the Catalan Government following the decision of an independent and international jury. Members of the jury include Edgar Morin, Jacques Delors, Barbara Hendricks, Jorge Wagensberg, Anna Veiga, Ricardo Bofill, Josep Ramoneda, and Xavier Rubert de Ventós, among others. Desmond Tutu has been awarded for his "vigorous and constant fight against all kinds of Apartheids," since the South-African Archbishop has given his active support to many causes throughout the world. However, he received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984 for this activism against the racist Apartheid Regime, as Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town and Secretary of the Council of South African Churches.

Tutu won the 2014 Award among 162 candidates from 51 different countries, proposed by 187 institutions from 43 countries, as well as by the jury members. Institutions from throughout the world could file proposals from the 2nd of July to the 31st of December 2013. The jury started to debate in January and the winner was announced on the 8th of May. Last year, the Premi Internacional Catalunya was awarded to the former Prime Minister of Norway Gro Harlem Brundtland and to the young Pakistani education activist Malala Yousafzai for "their determination and courage in the defence of human rights". Other awardees have been Lula da Silva, Haruki Murakami, Jimmy Carter, Karl Popper, Jacques Delors, Aung San Suu Kyi, Claude Lévi-Strauss, Amartya Sen and Mstislav Rostropovich, among others.

Desmond Tutu praised the Catalan independence movement

The anti-Apartheid activist directly mentioned the issue of Catalan self-determination in two parts of his speech. He firstly touched upon the subject when he enumerated a series of causes, dedicating the prize to the people working to address them. Some of the issues mentioned by Tutu were AIDS in South Africa, war in Syria, torture in Guantanamo, homophobia in Uganda, pollution in Northern Canada or not being allowed the right of self-determination in Catalonia. "They do the work and I get the credit" for receiving today's Prize, he said with irony.

In the last part of his speech, he insisted that we all live in "a global village" and that "we are all a members of one family: the human family." "We are all Africans," according "to scientists." At this point he defined "the essence of being human" using a South African word: "Ubuntu." Tutu explained that in order to be a human being, we need the presence of other human beings. "You cannot exist in isolation." "We are all connected" and "what we do affects the whole world."

The South African Archbishop praised the massive demonstrations for independence

At this point, he praised the massive peaceful demonstrations that took place in Barcelona in September 2012 and September 2013 supporting independence. Tutu said that the whole world was looking at Catalonia, when firstly 1.5 million people demonstrated and a year later an even larger number held hands and formed a 400 kilometre-long human chain. He mirrored this peaceful and democratic demonstration to "the violent invasion by extreme-right" members of a Catalan cultural centre in Madrid last year.

According to Desmond Tutu, "it's common sense" that "if the majority wants self-government and independence, Spain should listen" and allow a self-determination vote. In case the independence option won, then "the parties should discuss how independence should be best achieved." If the Spanish authorities continue to block a democratic way out, relations could "deteriorate", Tutu warned. In the morning, in a press conference, he had already spoken about this issue and he said that the self-determination claims "will not disappear" by blocking them. On the contrary, they are likely to become more intense.

Tutu insisted that the Spanish and Catalans should "not allow relations to deteriorate," and he considered that it would not be a desirable scenario to "unilaterally declare independence." "Any form of unilateralism is second best," he said while he was praising the value of reaching agreements and consensus. He also talked about Catalonia's attempts to reach such a negotiated way out, such as the debate at the Spanish Parliament held last April.

At this point, he also added that "the sisters and brothers who are in any side of the border," the day after Catalonia's independence would "continue to be sisters and brothers" of "the human family". And therefore, there is the need to work for understanding and find a solution beneficial for all.

Mas: "Cataloniais a country used to living in diversity", with a "strictly" cultural identity

After Tutu's speech, Artur Mas praised the Archbishop's contribution to noble causes throughout his entire life. Mas insisted that the Premi Internacional Catalunya is "for people who make humankind move forward; which means that men and women be more cultivated, more sensitive and freer." The Catalan President highlighted how Tutu supported causes not only in his country but also throughout the world, "a fight he has carried out with his words but also with action: words and facts." An activist work carried out "with determination, courage and joy".

Mas wanted to point out three things about Catalonia, "which help to better understand the country." Firstly, Catalonia is "a thousand-year old small nation, with an open mind and a universal vocation that has managed to preserve its identity." However, Catalonia's identity is a cultural one based on the language, "it is strictly cultural", underlined Mas, "nothing more". Secondly, "Catalonia is a country accustomed to hosting people from very diverse origins; which focuses more on the common project than on the diverse roots." Mas offered a figure to illustrate this diversity: "7 out of 10 people living in Catalonia, and therefore Catalans," have origins outside Catalonia. Therefore "Catalonia is a country used to living in diversity."

And thirdly, Catalonia has "a dynamic, strong and organised civil society, with a very rich associative network." It has "solidarity networks that, in hard times such as the current years, they work at full capacity." Therefore it is an active, dynamic and solidarity-driven society. At this point, the Catalan President used the South African word stated by Desmond Tutu, "Ubuntu," saying that Catalans do not only focus on themselves but also on the others, in the rest of society. "It is this country and not an invented one that asks to decide on its own future and vote on the 9 November next" he emphasised.

The Catalan President insists that "consensus is preferable to unilateral decisions"

Finally, the Catalan President said that Tutu's speech offers lessons to Catalans. Firstly that "the attitude is a determinant factor to defend any cause." "The attitude can only be a joyful one, developed in a strictly peaceful way," he stated. Mas added that the Catalan self-determination movement is mostly committed to this attitude, but it has to keep these principles present. Secondly, "consensus is preferable to unilateral decisions." "Unilateral decisions are the second best, as Archbishop Tutu said", pointed out Mas. Thirdly, the Catalan President highlighted that "a negotiation has to be developed with an open spirit and an open heart in order to work for the mutual benefit." Finally, he quoted Desmond Tutu saying that when a great majority of people have a shared objective and act for a fair goal, their movement “becomes an irresistible force."

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  • Desmond Tutu giving is acceptance speech (by P. Cortina)

  • Desmond Tutu giving is acceptance speech (by P. Cortina)

  • Desmond Tutu giving is acceptance speech (by P. Cortina)
  • Desmond Tutu giving is acceptance speech (by P. Cortina)