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.