A Belgian human rights activist and a Pakistani philanthropist have bagged a coveted United Nations prize which draws its inspiration from apostle of peace Mahatma Gandhi’s life.

Franois Houtart of Belgium and Abdul Sattar Edhi of Pakistan were awarded the ‘2009 United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO)—Madanjeet Singh’ prize for promoting tolerance and non-violence.

The two will share a prize money of USD 10,000 and receive the award on the ‘International Day for Tolerance’ on November 16, the Paris-headquarted UNESCO said in a statement.

The prestigious prize was constituted way back in 1995 on the 125th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi mainly due to generosity of Indian diplomat and UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador, Madanjeet Singh.

Dedicated to advancing the spirit of tolerance in the arts, education, culture, science and communication, the prize is awarded every two years to individuals or institutions for contributions to the promotion of tolerance and non-violence.

Previous laureates include Myanmar Nobel Peace Prize laureate Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and exiled Bangladeshi writer Taslima Nasreen.

Mr. Houtart, an ardent promoter of North-South cooperation and known throughout his life as a human rights defender, has won the award for his contribution to the advancement of the inter-faith and inter-cultural dialogue.

Mr. Edhi is one of the most active philanthropists in Pakistan through his Edhi Foundation, which he created in 1957. He got the award for his active stand against extremism and support for humanitarian efforts.

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