Archive of Past Nansen Winners
Past Winners of the Nansen Award
More than 60 individuals, groups or organizations have won the Nansen Refugee Award since it was inaugurated in 1954. The first winner was Eleanor Roosevelt, the first chairperson of the UN Human Rights Commission and wife of legendary US President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
She has been followed by an illustrious group of individuals, including French President Valéry Giscard d'Estaing, Tanzania's President Julius Nyerere, King Juan Carlos I of Spain, Graça Machel and late Italian tenor Luciano Pavarotti.
A number of humanitarian organizations, and partners of UNHCR, have won the award, which has included a cash prize since 1979. Among them are the League of Red Cross Societies. Médecins sans Frontières, Handicap International and the UN Volunteers. In 1986, the Nansen went to the people of Canada - the only country to have received the award as a nation.
Hawa Aden Mohamed, widely known as Mama Hawa, was awarded the 2012 Nansen Refugee Award for her extraordinary steps to empower thousands of displaced Somali women and girls, including many who have fled war, persecution or famine. In 2013, she began the construction of the Fridtjof Nansen dormitory in Puntland, Somalia. The dormitory will provide internally displaced youth travelling to Galkayo a safe place to stay while they attend vocational training and sporting activities.
Nasser Salim Ali Al-Hamairy, founder of the Society for Humanitarian Solidarity (SHS) in Yemen, and his dedicated staff were recognized for their service to refugees who have fled conflict and famine in the Horn of Africa and crossed the treacherous Gulf of Aden. SHS staff worked around the clock to monitor about a third of Yemen's 2,000 kilometre-long coastline, pick up survivors, provide emergency care and, all too often, bury those who die en route. With the prize money of the 2011 Nansen Refugee Award, SHS inaugurated the "Nansen" primary school in the Kharaz Refugee Camp in Yemen. In this way, SHS is helping refugee boys and girls - who remain at the heart of any society - to live in dignity and take hold of their futures once they leave the refugee camp space.
British photojournalist Alixandra Fazzina received the Nansen Medal for her dedication to documenting and publicizing the consequences of war. Over a decade, Fazzina travelled around the world to portray the individual stories of uprooted people. The Nansen committee praised, in particular, her coverage of Somali refugees making the hazardous sea journey across the Gulf of Aden to Yemen; landmine victims in Kosovo; civilians stranded behind enemy lines in Angola; rape as a weapon of war in Sierra Leone; the abuse of children by militias in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Uganda; and refugee situations in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
The late Senator Edward Kennedy was awarded the Nansen in 2009 in recognition of his achievements as an unparalleled champion of refugee protection and assistance for more than 45 years. From his election to the US Senate in 1962, Senator Kennedy's work in establishing US refugee admissions, resettlement and asylum programmes directly helped millions of persecuted individuals to find protection and start new lives in the United States. He was the chief sponsor of more than 70 refugee related legislative measures and was instrumental in codifying international refugee obligations into US law.
Former British soldier Chris Clark and the 990 local and international staff of the United Nations Mine Action Programme in southern Lebanon, for their courageous work in removing tonnes of deadly munitions that had prevented the safe return home of almost 1 million Lebanese civilians displaced during Israel's short conflict with the Hezbollah militia. Clark and the team detected and destroyed large quantities of unexploded ordnance and tens of thousands of mines, including cluster bomblets. Their work allowed people to return home and humanitarian agencies like UNHCR to operate.