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.
Luciano Pavarotti, in recognition of his efforts to give visibility to the refugee cause and to help raise funds for refugees projects. The 2001 "Pavarotti and Friends" concert and related activities raised awareness about Afghan refugees and the conditions they were living in. Profits from the event went towards funding various projects benefitting Afghan refugee children in Pakistan. Pavarotti continued to support UNHCR until his death in 2007.
Film maker Jelena Silajdzic fled with her husband and two children to the Czech Republic from her native Sarajevo in 1992 when the Bosnian city was under siege. In Prague, she organized cultural events to spread awareness about refugees, promote tolerance towards minorities and deepen relations between Czech society and the countries of the former Yugoslavia. In 1999, she established Slovo 21, which among other projects supports the integration of foreign nationals living in the Czech Republic.
Mustafa Dzhemilev, received the Nansen Medal in recognition of his outstanding efforts to help Crimean Tartars reintegrate in their native Ukraine. As President of the Association of Crimean Tartars and a member of the Ukrainian parliament, Dzhemilev worked tirelessly with UNHCR to help tens of thousands of Tartars recover their Ukrainian citizenship and their basic rights.
Sister Joannes Klas, a member of the Sisters of Saint Francis, for her work on behalf of Guatemalan refugees. She went to work in El Tesoro camp in Honduras in 1982, after almost three decades of teaching in primary and secondary schools in the United States. In 1991, she was asked by refugees to go back with them to the Yalpemech area of Guatemala, where she became involved in programmes to improve the lives of the returnees.
Handicap International, in recognition of the organization's innovative contributions toward alleviating the suffering of anti-personnel mine victims by providing low cost artificial limbs to more than 150,000 amputees around the world, many of them refugees, internally displaced people or returnees. The Nansen Committee also recognized Handicap International's advocacy work to ban the production, sale and use of anti-personnel mines.