Frequently Asked Questions


What is the Nansen Refugee Award?

The Nansen Refugee Award is presented every year to an individual or organization who has dedicated their time to help people forcibly displaced from their homes. The winner receives USD 150,000 generously donated by the governments of Norway and Switzerland. Four regional finalists are also recognized.

The Award is named after Fridtjof Nansen, Norwegian explorer and humanitarian. Through its recipients, the Nansen Refugee Award aims to showcase Nansen’s values of perseverance and commitment in the face of adversity.

Who was Fridtjof Nansen?

Fridtjof Nansen was a Norwegian explorer, scientist, diplomat, humanitarian and Nobel Peace Prize laureate who served as the first High Commissioner for Refugees at the League of Nations. The legacy of his work for the aid and protection of displaced persons is still present in the UN system today.

When was the Nansen Refugee Award instituted?

The first Nansen Refugee Award Ceremony took place in 1954, honouring Eleanor Roosevelt as the recipient.


Who can be nominated for the award?

Any individual, group of people or organization that has displayed extraordinary humanitarian work on behalf of refugees, displaced or stateless peoples is eligible to be nominated. Former and current UNHCR staff, including United Nations Volunteers (UNVs) working for UNHCR offices, are ineligible.

Can I nominate myself?

Self-nominations are strongly discouraged. This includes individuals and organizations nominating themselves.  

What criteria will be considered to determine the winner?

Nominees are considered in the following light:

  • The deed for which the person/ entity is nominated should take place outside the framework of normal professional duties and go beyond the call of duty;
  • It should demonstrate courage;
  • It should raise awareness for displaced people; and
  • It should reflect the values of UNHCR.

Who selects the winner?

The Nansen Refugee Award Selection Committee comprises:

  • A member designated by the Norwegian Government;
  • A member designated by the Swiss Government;
  • The Secretary General of the Council of Europe;
  • Executive Director of the International Council of Voluntary Agencies;
  • The Chairperson of Executive Committee; and
  • A guest member.

Is the selection process confidential?

Yes, the selection of the winner and finalists is completely confidential.

When is the deadline for nominations?

Nominations are now closed.

How do I obtain a nomination form?

Nominations are now closed.

How do I submit a nomination? How can I be sure it has been received?

All nominations must be submitted online. Once the nominations are closed, you will receive a response from the Nansen Secretariat to confirm we have received the nomination.

Must the nomination be in English?

No. Nominations can be submitted in any of the official languages of the United Nations (English, French, Spanish, Arabic, Russian, and Chinese).

What do I need to provide to supplement my nomination?

Nominations consist of a description of the nominee’s work and how they fulfil the selection criteria. This includes details of why the nominee should be considered, evidence that they have positively impacted the lives of the forcibly displaced and links to articles and publications as evidence. Additional information supporting the nomination, including websites, news articles, social media posts and other awards bestowed on the nominee, is welcome.

Do I need to provide references?

Nominations will not be considered if three references are not included. These referees should be diversely selected and have the ability to verify the nominees’ work with or for refugees, displaced people, stateless people, asylum seekers and resettled refugees and why their work has made a significant impact on their lives.

How many winners are honored with the Nansen Refugee Award annually?

As a general rule, one recipient is chosen each year. In exceptional circumstances more than one winner has been awarded.

Are runners-up recognised?

In 2017, for the first time ever, five runners-up to the Award were recognised. In 2018 and 2019, four regional finalists will be selected, from different geographical locations around the world.

The Winner

How is the winner honoured?

Every year the winner is honoured at a dignified ceremony in Geneva in front of an audience from across the globe.

The winner also receives USD 150,000 prize money which is used to further their work through a specific project designed with the support of UNHCR staff.

When will the winner be announced?

Each year the winner is announced in the month of September, ahead of the ceremony in October.


Are other nominees recognised?

Yes. Four regional finalists will be recognized for their humanitarian work in 2020.

The Ceremony

Where and when does the Ceremony take place?

The official Ceremony presided over by the High Commissioner for Refugees is held annually in October in Geneva, Switzerland, the world’s humanitarian capital.

Can I attend the Nansen Refugee Award Ceremony?

Unfortunately, the event is not open to the general public. However, public broadcasts of the Ceremony take place in tandem.


Are members of the media allowed to attend the Ceremony?

Yes, media are welcome to attend the event. Journalists should contact the Nansen Refugee Award Secretariat beforehand to gain entry and will be accredited upon arrival at the venue. Please note that possible restrictions, including on recording, photography and copyright, may apply.

I am working on a feature article/broadcast story. How do I obtain an interview with the appropriate person?

Please contact the Nansen Refugee Award Secretariat at [email protected] for further information.

Is there a media package?

Yes. Please contact the Nansen Refugee Award Secretariat at [email protected] for further information.

Contact us

Our address:
Nansen Committee Secretariat
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)
Case Postale 2500
CH-1211 Genève 2 Dépôt

Email: [email protected]

Connect with us:
Use the hashtag #NansenRefugeeAward to share stories, videos and articles and keep up to date with the latest news.


How can I partner with the Nansen Refugee Award?

Thank you for your interest in supporting the Nansen Refugee Award program. Please contact the Nansen Refugee Award Secretariat at [email protected] for further information.

Our current partners: