Nansen Refugee Award

Established in 1954, the UNHCR Nansen Refugee Award honours individuals, groups and organizations who go above and beyond the call of duty to protect refugees, displaced and stateless people.

We are delighted to announce that the 2023 Global Laureate is Abdullahi Mire.

UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, announced that Abdullahi Mire – a former refugee and journalist who has championed the right to education while putting 100,000 books in the hands of refugee children in Kenya – will be the UNHCR Nansen Refugee Award’s 2023 global laureate.

“Abdullahi Mire is living proof that transformative ideas can spring from within displaced communities,” said Filippo Grandi, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. “He has shown great resourcefulness and tenacity in strengthening the quality of refugee education.”

Born in Somalia, Mire grew up in the Dadaab refugee camps in Kenya. He was eventually resettled to Norway, but a yearning to serve his community drew him back. He found work in Kenya as a journalist and set up the Refugee Youth Education Hub, a refugee-led organization that has opened three libraries in the camps – stocked with donated books – and expanded learning opportunities for tens of thousands of displaced children and youth.

“The win is not for me alone,” said Mire, 36. “It is for all the volunteers I work with… It is for the children in the schools.”




We are honoured to announce the Regional Winners of the 2023 UNHCR Nansen Refugee Award, each selected from hundreds of nominees for their outstanding work with refugees as well as displaced and stateless people.

Europe: Lena Grochowska and Władysław Grochowski

This Polish couple have marshalled their hotel chain and private foundation to provide shelter and livelihoods training to refugees, including many living with disabilities, and leveraged their influence in the business community to rally support for people forced to flee.

Middle East and North Africa: Asia Al-Mashreqi 

This female leader is the founder and CEO of the Sustainable Development Foundation, which has provided humanitarian assistance to nearly 2 million individuals in Yemen, including refugees, returnees, internally displaced people, and host communities.

Americas: Elizabeth Moreno Barco

This human rights defender and peace builder has spent decades advocating for communities affected by armed internal conflict in Colombia – especially women and children, Afro-descendants, indigenous groups, and internally displaced people.

Asia-Pacific: Rohingya Storytellers

These four content creators – Abdullah Habib, Sahat Zia Hero, Salim Khan, and Shahida Win – use photography, video, and poetry to share vital information, document the experiences of stateless Rohingya refugees, and share their perspectives with the world.


Formerly known as the Nansen Medal, this award is named after the late Norwegian arctic explorer Fridtjof Nansen, who was appointed by the League of Nations, predecessor of the United Nations, to be the very first High Commissioner for Refugees in 1921. The award, consisting of a commemorative medal and a US$100,000 monetary prize is given annually to an individual or organization for outstanding work on behalf of refugees.

Born in 1861, Nansen was a scientist, a diplomat, a statesman and a humanist with a deep compassion for his fellow human beings. Eager to learn, Nansen became a pioneer in the field of applied science ranging from zoology, marine biology, oceanography and geology to anthropology and sociology. While still in his twenties, he acquired fame by crossing Greenland on skis in 1889.

But it is for his pioneering work on behalf of refugees that Nansen is most fondly remembered. After the First World War, the League of Nations asked Nansen in 1920 to organize the repatriation of some 450,000 prisoners of war. He succeeded by enlisting the support of governments and voluntary agencies.

Recognized as a charismatic leader, he was made the first High Commissioner for Refugees in 1921 – a post specially created by the League of Nations. He immediately undertook the formidable task of helping hundreds of thousands of refugees to survive, to acquire legal status and to attain economic independence. For the stateless refugees under his care, Nansen created the “Nansen passport,” which was ultimately ratified by 52 countries.

The International Red Cross and a number of governments then asked him to organize a relief programme for millions of victims of the Russian Famine of 1921-1922. Nansen won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1922. He was involved in the negotiations which led to the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne between the Greek and Turkish governments and later tried to help find a solution to the Armenian crisis. Nansen died in 1930.

To promote greater interest in the refugee cause and keep alive the humanitarian spirit of Nansen, the first UN High Commissioner for Refugees, G. H. van Heuven Goedhart, instituted the Nansen Refugee Award in 1954. The award is given out yearly to a person or group deemed to have performed outstanding services in supporting refugees. The aim of the Nansen Award is to focus attention on the plight of refugees and to encourage international assistance and cooperation for them.

The monetary prize that comes with the Nansen Award is donated by the governments of Norway and Switzerland to support a refugee project of the laureate’s choice.