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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.

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1991 Libertina Appolus Amathila / Paul Weis

Libertina Appolus Amathila, after fleeing her native Namibia in 1962, studied medicine in Warsaw, London and Stockholm. She provided medical care in refugee settlements for nearly 20 years before she was repatriated by UNHCR in 1989. She was sworn in as Minister of Local Government and Housing on March 21, 1990, the night of Namibian independence. Amathila became Deputy Prime Minister of Namibia in 2005.

Paul Weis, a survivor of the Nazi concentration camps, shared the award posthumously. He escaped from Dachau and found asylum in Britain. As UNHCR's first Protection Director, he was called the "founding father of protection." The Vienna-born Weis was a strong advocate for refugees and worked constantly to remind the world of its responsibility towards them.

1988 Syed Munir Husain

Syed Munir Husain was recognized for his exceptional services to refugees in his capacity as Pakistan's States and Frontier Regions Minister from 1982-87. In this capacity, he headed his government's programme to aid Afghan refugees. This was the world's largest refugee assistance operation.

1987 King Juan Carlos I of Spain

King Juan Carlos I of Spain was awarded the Nansen Medal in recognition of his humanitarian spirit and for his personal contribution to the cause of refugees. Under his leadership, Spain became a country of refuge for thousands of asylum-seekers from around the world, especially Latin America.

1986 The People of Canada

The People of Canada, in recognition of their essential and constant contribution to the cause of refugees within their country and around the world. Canada is a leading contributor to international humanitarian and refugee aid programmes. Canada has, from the beginning, supported international efforts on behalf of refugees. It has one of the best records for resettlement of refugees and is a leading UNHCR donor.

1985 Cardinal Paulo Evaristo Arns

Cardinal Paulo Evaristo Arns, Archbishop of Sao Paolo, who set up commissions in Brazil and other South American countries that became instrumental in promoting the defence of victims of oppression and refugees. The Commission of Justice and Peace promoted the adoption of amnesty legislation in Bolivia and Uruguay. This facilitated the return of thousands of refugees to their homes, as also happened in Argentina.

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