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.
Bishop Helmut Frenz of the Lutheran Evangelical Church in Chile, who was chairman of the Chilean National Committee for Aid to Refugees. Under his courageous and inspiring leadership, the committee established safe havens where thousands of civilians forced to flee persecution could receive shelter, protection and assistance until leaving for resettlement. He was expelled from the country in 1975, but continued working for refugees as head of Amnesty International in his native Germany.
Svana Fridriksdottir, an Icelandic student who devoted her spare time to refugee issues. In early 1972, a day-long fund-raising campaign was held in five Nordic countries to raise money to help African refugees. Fridriksdottir organized a collection in her home town and other urban centres, including Reykjavik. The campaign raised US$6 million.
Princess Princep Shah of Nepal contributed greatly to the establishment of the Nepalese Red Cross in 1964 and became its president. In this capacity, the princess played a major part in promoting and coordinating aid to Tibetan refugees.
Bernard Arcens won the award in recognition of his efforts, together with those of the government of Senegal and the local authorities, to assist thousands of refugees from Guinea Bissau to establish themselves in the Casamance Region of Senegal. He was president of the Regional Committee for Casamance of the Senegalese Red Cross and head of the Senegal Diocesan Catholic Aid.
Charles Jordan, the founding president of the International Council of Voluntary Agencies (ICVA) and a leading figure in the field of assistance to refugees, shared the award posthumously. Dubbed the "father of refugees," Jordan was executive director of the American Joint Distribution Committee, the largest Jewish humanitarian organization in the world. He died under mysterious circumstances in Prague in 1967.
Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands, in keeping with the humanitarian tradition of the Dutch royal family and people of the Netherlands, was instrumental in launching an exceptionally successful fund-raising campaign in 20 European countries and Australia for the benefit of refugees in Asia and Africa. Prince Bernard, a German by birth, was husband of the 1955 Nansen winner, Queen Juliana of the Netherlands.