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Nansen Medal: winners from four continents

Briefing Notes, 3 November 2000

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Kris Janowski to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 3 November 2000, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

This year's Nansen Medal, UNHCR's annual award, will go to four former exiles who have helped the refugee cause in Africa, Asia, Europe and Latin America. In a departure from the usual practice of awarding only one medal, the Nansen Committee this year granted four decorations to mark the 50th anniversary of UNHCR.

The receipients are:

  • His Holiness Abune Paulos, the Orthodox Patriarch of Ethiopia, renowned scholar and peace advocate and a former exile in the United States who has worked on reconciliation between Ethiopia and Eritrea.
  • Dr. Lao Mong Hay, a leading Cambodian intellectual and pro-democracy activist who had been a refugee in Britain and who now heads the Khmer Institute of Democracy in Phnom Penh.
  • Jelena Silajdzic, a Bosnian film producer and refugee advocate in the Czech Republic who has worked with refugees from the Balkans.
  • Argentine virtuoso pianist, Miguel Angel Estrella, a former victim of the Argentine junta exiled to Paris who has used his stature as an artist to promote the refugee cause.

The four medals will be given in four separate ceremonies in Addis Ababa, Bangkok, Prague and Buenos Aires later this month.

The Nansen Medal Award was launched in 1955 by UNHCR's first High Commissioner, G.J. van Heuven Goedhart. It is named after the famous Norwegian polar explorer and humanitarian, Fridtjof Nansen, the first League of Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and the winner of the 1922 Nobel Prize for Peace.

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Nansen Award presentation for the late Senator Edward Kennedy

UNHCR's annual Nansen Refugee Award was posthumously awarded to Senator Edward Kennedy at a ceremony in Washington DC on October 29 for his life-long commitment to refugee rights. Kennedy's wife, Victoria, accepted the award on behalf of her late husband. In presenting the award, UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres, praised the "vision and commitment" of Senator Kennedy in his support for the displaced.

The prize money of US$100,000 will be donated to the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate, where it will be used to train the next generation of leaders dedicated to the cause of refugee advocacy. The Nansen Award is given to an individual or organization for outstanding work on behalf of refugees. It was created in 1954 in honour of Fridtjof Nansen, Norwegian polar explorer, scientist and the first global High Commissioner for Refugees.

Nansen Award presentation for the late Senator Edward Kennedy

Bonga Camp, Ethiopia

Bonga camp is located in the troubled Gambella region of western Ethiopia. But it remains untouched by the ethnic conflicts that have torn nearby Gambella town and Fugnido camp in the last year.

For Bonga's 17,000 Sudanese refugees, life goes on despite rumblings in the region. Refugee children continue with school and play while their parents make ends meet by supplementing UNHCR assistance with self-reliance projects.

Cultural life is not forgotten, with tribal ceremonies by the Uduk majority. Other ethnic communities – Shuluks, Nubas and Equatorians – are welcome too, judging by how well hundreds of newcomers have settled in after their transfer from Fugnido camp in late 2002.

Bonga Camp, Ethiopia

Serbia: Europe's forgotten refugees

A study of the lives of three Europeans who have been living as refugees in Serbia for more than 15 years.

Serbia is the only European country with a protracted refugee population. More than 90,000 refugees from Croatia and from Bosnia and Herzegovina remain there, victims of wars that erupted after the break-up of the former Yugoslavia in 1991.

These long-term refugees live under appalling conditions in dingy apartments and overcrowded collective centres – the nearest thing to refugee camps in modern Europe.

This set of pictures tells the story of three displaced people, the problems they face and their hopes for the future.

Serbia: Europe's forgotten refugees

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