Workers champion gets Gibraltar Award

This year?s Gibraltar Award from the SDGG is being presented today to the family of the late Alberto Risso.

At the presentation will be Luis and Victor Risso, nephews of Alberto, with their family.

Mr. Risso?s contribution to the political life of Gibraltar was immense. Whereas the career of his colleague and recruit Mr. Fava lasted a mere three months and ended suddenly with his expulsion by the colonial authority, Mr. Risso?s lasted over 60 years and ended with his rejection of a decoration of the Order of the British Empire from that same authority, a curious reverse image of Mr. Fava?s career.


Alberto Risso was a campaigner for the right of Gibraltarians to participate in the Government of Gibraltar from a time when Gibraltar was governed entirely by persons nominated by the Governor of Gibraltar, namely the Heads of Services and several other military officers and three civilians prior to 1921. These were really difficult times for the political progress of the colonies in the British Empire. The Empire was at the peak of its powers as an extension of UK industry and commerce and did not take kindly to movements for self-government in the colonies, all of which were designed to contribute in some way to the development of its international Trade, said SDGG spokesperson William Serfaty.

Alberto Risso has the longest career of any of Gibraltar?s political activists. Immediately after the First World War he participated, as a very young man who in our generation would still have been at school, in the campaign which achieved a small minority of elected persons in the City Council in 1921 (three), and continued to campaign to increase the number of elected representatives in the elections of 1948. He was a member of the Constitutional Conference which produced our outgoing 1969 Constitution which reduced the nominated number of Government members to three.

He was one of a so-called ?deputation of working men? who made representations to the Secretary of State for the Colonies in 1919 by presenting themselves in London, itself a noteworthy move given the conditions of the time. This deputation achieved the replacement of the Board of Sanitary Commissioners, all nominated by the Governor, by a City Council of which five members were nominated by the Governor and four were members elected ?by the electors of Gibraltar?.

He was founder Founder-President of both the AACR and of the Gibraltar Confederation of Labour the two most significant bodies in the emancipation of the people of Gibraltar from Colonial Rule, and stood for election for all AACR candidatures to the City Council and to the Government of Gibraltar until the 1970?s. He refused a decoration, on the grounds of his egalitarian ideals in the 1980?s.

During 2006 the SDGG will collect documentation on the life of Alberto Risso designed to inspire a biography, or which will otherwise, as in the case of Mr. Fava be prepared for publication by the SDGG itself. This is a daunting task given the length of Mr. Risso?s career and the great amount of information spread amongst many repositories, archives and personal collections. Our group, which is dedicated to showing Gibraltarians the right we have to be proud of our very difficult history, will find the means to do so during the coming year, as we have done for Mr. Fava.

"Mr. Risso?s Gibraltar Award bears the date 10th of December 2005, International Human Rights Day, which we are sure he would have appreciated, having worked for our Political and Civil Rights all his life, and having sought these in a totally selfless manner," said Mr Serfaty.