The Right Livelihood Award for a more just world

Article, 23.12.2015

The Right Livelihood Award is presented annually to men and women who engage in initiatives defending human rights, often at the risk of their lives. The SDC supports the award, which is in line with its own work and is often referred to as the «Alternative Nobel Prize».

Four laureates received the Right Livelihood Award in 2015.
The four laureates of the 2015 Right Livelihood Award © Right Livelihood Stiftung

Ugandan human rights activist Kasha Jacqueline Nabagesera fights against discrimination towards lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people in Africa. Italian surgeon Gino Strada has saved countless lives in dozens of war-torn countries. Tony De Brum, Foreign Minister of the Marshall Islands, defends the interests of his people and campaigns against nuclear testing and climate change. Inuit leader Sheila Watt-Cloutier is an advocate for the rights of Inuit communities and campaigns against climate change in the Arctic. 

All are laureates of the 2015 Right Livelihood Award. The award honours exemplary and inspiring actions that promote sustainable development, peace and human rights. The laureates were presented with their awards in Stockholm on 30 November, before travelling to Geneva for a conference of congratulations and debate at the Maison de la paix (House of Peace) on 2 December. 

Geneva has been home to the Swiss offices of the Right Livelihood Award Foundation since summer 2015. 

«I hope this award will inspire many others» 

The SDC is providing CHF 2.25 million of support to the Right Livelihood Foundation for the period 2015-2020. Like the SDC, the award's laureates champion the rights of the most vulnerable people and advocate sustainable development, mostly in developing countries. Half of the laureates live in developing countries, including fragile states, and a quarter are women. 

«The SDC benefits primarily from the opportunity to engage in in-depth discussions on development policy issues with the laureates. This dialogue takes place both at a global level and locally in our partner countries, as half of the laureates come from developing countries,» explains SDC Director General Manuel Sager, who attended the conference in Geneva. 

The main aim of the funding is to support networking and partnerships. «This enables the SDC to better understand local challenges and contexts and further strengthen thematic expertise. As the foundation has a base in Geneva, we also promote in-depth exchange with the UN institutions and civil society organisations located there. This benefits the laureates, the various stakeholders in Geneva and their target groups, as well as, ultimately, Switzerland's international cooperation.» 

The laureates' work does not end at the award ceremony. On the contrary, the resulting networking amplifies the tremendous energy of their actions thanks to increased support and additional resources. 

Two laureates explain their fight 

What motivates these exceptional individuals to risk their own lives to save the lives of thousands of others? We spoke to two of them at the ceremony held in the foundation's new offices at the Maison de la paix in Geneva. 

Kasha Jacqueline Nabagesera
Kasha Jacqueline Nabagesera © RLAF

Kasha Jacqueline Nabagesera (Uganda)
 Laureate of the 2015 Right Livelihood Award

«I believe that through court judgments, through advocacy and through sensitising our people on the full meaning of fundamental human rights, we shall overcome. And that the day is not far when discrimination against people based on who they love will also be left behind in the wastebasket of history.»

Gino Strada
Gino Strada © Emergency

Gino Strada, Emergency (Italy)
Laureate of the 2015 Right Livelihood Award 

«War, just like deadly diseases, has to be prevented and cured. Violence is not the right medicine: it does not cure the disease, it kills the patient.»




Speech by Manuel Sager, Director General of the SDC, at the laureates' conference in Geneva on 2 December 2015.

The Right Livelihood Award

The Right Livelihood Award was established in 1980 to honour and support those offering exemplary answers to the most urgent challenges facing the planet. Laureates work on a wide variety of issues, including social justice, human rights, peace and disarmament, minority rights, the fight against poverty, access to healthcare and environmental protection. All are committed to bringing about a more sustainable and just world. Each year the Right Livelihood Award Foundation receives around 100 nominations from all five continents. Anyone can submit a proposal and all are treated confidentially. The foundation's staff carry out careful research before selecting the laureates. The award is presented in December of each year in the Swedish parliament. Over the past 35 years, 166 people from 67 countries have been honoured. The Swiss agronomist/entomologist Hans Rudolf Herren received the award in 2013.