'Dr. Angela Merkel, then Federal Chancellor of Germany, works in her office at the Federal Chancellery building in Berlin in 2011. © UNHCR/Steffen Kugler

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 2022 Global Laureate is Dr. Angela Merkel, the Former Federal Chancellor of Germany.

Under Dr. Merkel’s leadership, Germany welcomed more than 1.2 million refugees and asylum seekers in 2015 and 2016, at the height of the conflict in Syria and amid deadly violence in other places. “It was a situation which put our European values to the test as seldom before,” she said at the time. “It was no more and no less than a moral imperative.”

Dr. Merkel called on her fellow Germans to reject divisive nationalism and urged them instead to be “self-assured and free, compassionate and open-minded”.

The selection committee said it was recognizing Dr. Merkel’s “leadership, courage and compassion in ensuring the protection of hundreds of thousands of desperate people”, as well as her efforts to find “viable long-term solutions” for those seeking safety.


Learn more about her story





We are honoured to announce the Regional Winners of the 2022 UNHCR Nansen Refugee Award, each selected from hundreds of nominees for their outstanding work with refugees as well as displaced and stateless people.


This humanitarian organization assists communities in need, including internally displaced people, with emergency items, health care, education, and livelihoods opportunities – while striving to build the capacity of local organizations.

Read about the incredible story


Founded by refugees, this all-volunteer firefighting group in Mauritania has extinguished more than 100 bushfires and planted thousands of trees to preserve lives, livelihoods and the local environment.


 Doña Vicenta, a former midwife, has provided nearly 50 years of service to displaced and other vulnerable people in Costa Rica. Along the way, she established a cacao cooperative to support refugees and host-community women, including survivors of domestic violence.


This Iraqi gynaecologist provides medical and psychosocial care to girls and women who survived persecution, enslavement and gender-based violence at the hands of extremist groups in northern Iraq.


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.