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Alvarez calls for ‘Civil Society challenge – with reconciliation’

Alvarez, Ochello and Trico at the 2017 event

Equality Rights Group Chair, Felix Alvarez, has called for ‘unison and reconciliation between all social and political actors in Gibraltar in order to face a future of unity before the many challenges ahead. It’s time we set goals together, and looked long-term at a future without disunity,’ he said. ‘Workers and capital all have one interest: success. And fair treatment and a just slice of the pie is the recipe to look to,’ he said.

The call came at the sixth Independent Civil Society Awards event, hosted by ERG with the participation of Unite the Union, where the Chief Minister, Fabian Picardo was welcomed and thanked for ‘unhesitatingly accepting’ ERG’s invitation to address the proceedings at the Garrison Library, amid good attendance from across social NGOs, the public, all the Unions, University students and school pupils. ‘

Chief Minister Fabian Picardo, QC

‘It’s always going to be a valuable perspective when the head of an Administration is willing to share their take on the role of Civil Society in Gibraltar for both today and for the future, and Chief Minister Picardo’s contributions are always welcome,’ Mr. Alvarez said, adding that ‘We have also already extended an invitation to GSD Leader, Dr Keith Azopardi, for 2019 and we look forward to receiving his input, too.’

The ERG Chairman took the opportunity in his introductory remarks to highlight the unfunded work of the Gibraltar Hearing-Impaired and Tinnitus Association (GHITA), run by Edgar Triay, and called for ‘a wave of financial support’ for ‘ GHITA’s sterling work’, through a surprise initial donation of £500 by ERG themselves as a means to encouraging others to express support ‘in whatever way possible’.

Alvarez thanked Unite the Union, GGCA, NASUWT/GTA, and all the workers that made the annual event possible as a means to illustrating the point that ‘ We’re all in this together. I mean Society. I mean living. I mean that we’re all in one way or another, labourers towards our mutual growth. We all of us must count.’

He also highlighted the role played by ‘the ever-toiling workers of the Gibraltar media, those in front and behind the cameras, the microphones, and the pages, giving of their best, often under very difficult conditions, but doing the indispensable and wholly crucial work of informing us all. Without them,’ he added, ‘Gibraltar couldn’t aspire to be modern, let alone a developing democracy. They need more support, more help.

Four awards were presented this year by ERG and Unite the Union jointly: to Tamsin Suarez for her broad work on women’s rights, to the Secular Humanist Society of Gibraltar for their contribution to secular perspectives in Gibraltar in relation to educational policy and other issues, as well as two posthumous awards presented to representatives from the families of the late Margot Aguilera for her work on the rights of women workers in the Trade Union movement, and of the late Albert Risso, for his signal early and historical contributions to helping lay the foundations of Civil Society in our country as a politician, Trade Unionist, and first President of the Association for the Advancement of Civil Rights (AACR).

Last but not least, the somewhat surprising results of the third Sweet & Sour Poll were announced covering not only popular approval or disapproval of local politicians, but also the thorny questions of surveillance in Gibraltar and assisted dying. (Editor’s Note: results will be posted separately).

On the matter of the Poll itself, ERG explained that while ‘it’s a popular, online gauging of temperature on issues, it does not claim to be a scientifically-constructed survey. Nonetheless, even if some of the results announced this year were as much as 50% out of kilter, which we do not think is the case by any means, they would still represent a significant and noteworthy volume of feeling on a number of important and sensitive issues,’ the statement ended.