Nansen Medal: winners from four continents

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Kris Janowski to whom quoted text may be attributed at today's press briefing at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

This year's Nansen Medal, UNHCR's annual award, will go to four former exiles who have helped the refugee cause in Africa, Asia, Europe and Latin America. In a departure from the usual practice of awarding only one medal, the Nansen Committee this year granted four decorations to mark the 50th anniversary of UNHCR.

The receipients are:

  • His Holiness Abune Paulos, the Orthodox Patriarch of Ethiopia, renowned scholar and peace advocate and a former exile in the United States who has worked on reconciliation between Ethiopia and Eritrea.
  • Dr. Lao Mong Hay, a leading Cambodian intellectual and pro-democracy activist who had been a refugee in Britain and who now heads the Khmer Institute of Democracy in Phnom Penh.
  • Jelena Silajdzic, a Bosnian film producer and refugee advocate in the Czech Republic who has worked with refugees from the Balkans.
  • Argentine virtuoso pianist, Miguel Angel Estrella, a former victim of the Argentine junta exiled to Paris who has used his stature as an artist to promote the refugee cause.

The four medals will be given in four separate ceremonies in Addis Ababa, Bangkok, Prague and Buenos Aires later this month.

The Nansen Medal Award was launched in 1955 by UNHCR's first High Commissioner, G.J. van Heuven Goedhart. It is named after the famous Norwegian polar explorer and humanitarian, Fridtjof Nansen, the first League of Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and the winner of the 1922 Nobel Prize for Peace.