Nansen Refugee Award
For an outstanding service
Formerly known as the Nansen Medal, this award is named after the late Norwegian polar explorer Fridtjof Nansen, the first League of Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and the 1922 Nobel Peace Prize laureate.
Instituted in 1954, the Nansen Refugee Award is given annually to an individual or an organization in recognition of extraordinary and dedicated service to refugees and is the most prestigious honour conferred by UNHCR. The award consists of a commemorative medal and a US$100,000 monetary prize donated by the governments of Norway and Switzerland.
Anybody can nominate someone or some organization for the Nansen Award, but a special committee selects the annual winner. Recipients have been chosen from many different areas. Whatever their creed, colour, age or profession, every winner put in extraordinary effort and time to help the forcibly displaced around the world.
The monetary prize that accompanies the Nansen Award is intended to enable the recipient to pursue refugee assistance projects drawn up in consultation with UNHCR. To date, so-called Nansen Fund projects have benefited refugees in places such as Cambodia, Botswana and Venezuela. They have contributed towards the setting up of a special ward for refugee children in Pakistan, the building of schools at Katumba in Tanzania and income-generation projects for people displaced by landmines in southern Lebanon.
More than 60 individuals, groups or organizations have won the Nansen Refugee Award since Eleanor Roosevelt became the first winner in 1954.
In 2012, the Nansen Refugee Award went to Hawa Aden Mohamed, a former refugee who was lighting a path for Somalia's recovery. Widely known as "Mama Hawa", she has assisted so far more than 215,000 people in Somalia, mainly displaced women and girls, many of whom were survivors of the worst kind of violence, to recover, heal and restart their lives. "I was encouraged by seeing women all over the world participating in building their countries. I wanted the same for mine. I just couldn't sit down and fold my hands after what I'd seen happen to girls and women in Somalia", said Mama Hawa when she was announced as this year's winner.