Search begins for 2009 Nansen Refugee Award nominees

News Stories, 26 February 2009

© UNHCR/S.Hopper
The Award consists of a commemorative medal and a monetary prize of US$100,000.

GENEVA, February 26 (UNHCR) The annual search for nominees for UNHCR's Nansen Refugee Award has begun, with High Commissioner António Guterres on Thursday asking the agency's staff to identify candidates for the honour that has been given for service to refugees ever year since 1954.

"Candidates for the Nansen Refugee Award should be inspiring individuals, groups or organizations involved in work supporting the cause of refugees, contributing to their well-being, improving the conditions for people of our concern," said Guterres.

Last year the Nansen Selection Committee chose Chris Clark, coordinator of the UN Mine Action Coordination Centre-South Lebanon (UNMACC-SL), and his staff of nearly 1,000 international and Lebanese civilians for clearing cluster bombs an outstanding contribution to the security of internally displaced people and returnees in Lebanon, as well as humanitarian workers.

The High Commissioner, who chairs the selection committee, said the extent of the work and number of beneficiaries was less important than the "ingenuity, originality and dedication" in ensuring success. Nominations must be received by April 24 and people from outside UNHCR can also put forward candidates.

"This work might include activities such as: protecting the vulnerable refugees; funding, designing, or implementing a project; advocacy; or working on specific policies for facilitating the voluntary return, local integration or resettlement of refugees. Actions taken to prevent refugee-producing situations will also be considered," Guterres said.

Self-nominations and nominations of current or former UNHCR staff members are not encouraged.

The Nansen award, given annually since 1954 to individuals or organizations, is named after Fridtjof Nansen, the first League of Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and the 1922 Nobel Peace Prize laureate.

The Award consists of a commemorative medal and a monetary prize of US$100,000, donated by the Governments of Norway and Switzerland. The prize money is used to fund projects for refugees selected by the winner in consultation with UNHCR.

Previous recipients include Eleanor Roosevelt, King Juan Carlos I of Spain, Queen Juliana of the Netherlands, Médecins Sans Frontières, the people of Canada, Graça Machel, Italian tenor Luciano Pavarotti, Annalena Tonelli and Margarite Barankitse.

Nominations and requests for information should be addressed to the Nansen Committee Secretariat, fax: (+41) 022 739 7367, email: Nansen Award

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The Nansen Refugee Award

The Nansen Refugee Award

Given to individuals or organizations for outstanding service in the cause of refugees.

2008 Nansen Refugee Award

The UN refugee agency has named the British coordinator of a UN-run mine clearance programme in southern Lebanon and his civilian staff, including almost 1,000 Lebanese mine clearers, as the winners of the 2008 Nansen Refugee Award.

Christopher Clark, a former officer with the British armed forces, became manager of the UN Mine Action Coordination Centre-South Lebanon (UNMACC-SL) n 2003. His teams have detected and destroyed tons of unexploded ordnance (UXO) and tens of thousands of mines. This includes almost 145,000 submunitions (bomblets from cluster-bombs) found in southern Lebanon since the five-week war of mid-2006.

Their work helped enable the return home of almost 1 million Lebanese uprooted by the conflict. But there has been a cost – 13 mine clearers have been killed, while a further 38 have suffered cluster-bomb injuries since 2006. Southern Lebanon is once more thriving with life and industry, while the process of reconstruction continues apace thanks, in large part, to the work of the 2008 Nansen Award winners.

2008 Nansen Refugee Award

2007 Nansen Refugee Award

The UN refugee agency's Nansen Awards Committee has named Dr. Katrine Camilleri, a 37-year-old lawyer with the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) in Malta, as the winner of the 2007 Nansen Refugee Award. The Committee was impressed by the political and civic courage she has shown in dealing with the refugee situation in Malta.

Dr. Camilleri first became aware of the plight of refugees as a 16-year-old girl when a priest visited her school to talk about his work. After graduating from the University of Malta in 1994, she began working in a small law firm where she came into contact with refugees. As Dr. Camilleri's interest grew in this humanitarian field, she started to work with the JRS office in Malta in 1997.

Over the last year, JRS and Dr. Camilleri have faced a series of attacks. Nine vehicles belonging to the Jesuits were burned in two separate attacks. And this April, arsonists set fire to both Dr. Camilleri's car and her front door, terrifying her family. The perpetrators were never caught but the attacks shocked Maltese society and drew condemnation from the Government of Malta. Dr. Camilleri continues to lead the JRS Malta legal team as Assistant Director.

2007 Nansen Refugee Award

The Nansen Refugee Award 2005

Burundian humanitarian worker Maggy Barankitse received the 2005 Nansen Refugee Award for her tireless work on behalf of children affected by war, poverty and disease. The Nansen medal was presented at a grand ceremony in Brussels by H.R.H. Princess Mathilde of Belgium and UN Deputy High Commissioner for Refugees Wendy Chamberlin.

Accepting the award, Barankitse said her work was inspired by one single goal: peace. "Accept your fellow man, sit down together, make this world a world of brothers and sisters," she said. "Nothing resists love, that's the message that I want to spread."

Sponsored by UNHCR corporate partner Microsoft, the ceremony and reception at Concert Noble was also attended by Belgium's Minister for Development Co-operation Armand De Decker, European Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Aid Louis Michel, renowned Burundian singer Khadja Nin, Congolese refugee and comedian Pie Tshibanda, and French singer and UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Julien Clerc. Among others.

The Nansen Refugee Award 2005

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