Addressing the root causes of problems has been the defining feature of the Right Livelihood Award from the very beginning. It is also the reason why so many of our Laureates often put themselves in danger. From Afghanistan to Uganda, they work in difficult circumstances, facing repressive governments and operating in war zones . They often oppose powerful political and corporate interests.
Today, one in five Laureates is facing danger in their home countries.
Regular Monitoring of Threats
The Foundation regularly monitors and reacts to news of its Laureates being threatened. In many cases, we work with the Laureate in question to formulate an effective response. Over the past years, we have written to government authorities, published press releases, gathered signatures and issued joint statements initiated by or in support of Laureates.
Advocacy and Engagement with UN Mechanisms and Institutions in Geneva
The Right Livelihood Award Foundation’s presence in Geneva allows it to advocate and engage with UN mechanisms and institutions to protect Laureates at risk, including the UN Human Rights Council, UN Special Rapporteurs and the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.
To strengthen the position of threatened Laureates within their respective countries in the long term, we have implemented numerous strategic initiatives. For example, in April 2014 the Right Livelihood Award Foundation made a contribution towards strengthening the security of Dr Denis Mukwege (2013, Democratic Republic of Congo) and the Panzi Hospital in Bukavu. We have also undertaken a number of solidarity visits to support Laureates at risk in Brazil, Chad, India, Gaza, Russia and Turkey. In June 2016, we also launched the first in a series of public lectures in Moscow addressing the universality of human rights in collaboration with Memorial (2004, Russia).
Emergency Protocols for Immediate Action
The emergency protocols are a series of measures that the Foundation will take in case of a serious, acute and urgent threat to the life, health or liberty of a Laureate. These protocols have been agreed upon with several Laureates at risk. They list inter alia likely sources of possible threats to the Laureate, contact details of persons identified by the Laureate as the best sources of information regarding a possible emergency situation, persons to whom calls should be made and letters should be sent, and the series of initiatives that should be implemented within the first 24-48 hours after information regarding the emergency reaches the Foundation.
Munir Said Thalib (2000, Indonesia) was poisoned with arsenic on a flight from Indonesia to Amsterdam. He was a courageous advocate of human rights in Indonesia and opponent of the oppressive former ruling elite in that country.
Ken Saro-Wiwa (1994, Nigeria) from Nigeria was executed on false allegations following courageous work for the environmental rights of the Ogoni people.
Kasha Jacqueline Nabagesera (2015, Uganda) advocates for the basic human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) persons in Uganda, where homosexuality is illegal. Despite being arrested, attacked, and ostracized, Nabagesera persists in her advocacy and has become one of very few prominent members of the Ugandan LGBTI movement still active in the country.
Swami Agnivesh (2004, India) is a long-standing advocate for inter-religious dialogue, denouncing any kind of religious fundamentalism and discrimination. Arrested many times for civil disobedience, he also routinely faces death threats from religious fanatics yet remains undeterred in advocating the universal values of harmony and respect.
Helen Mack Chang (1992, Guatemala) has been instrumental in rolling back the culture of impunity that dominates Guatemala, acting as a leading judicial reform activists since her sister was brutally assassinated by a military commando in 1990. She and her organisation the Myrna Mack Foundation regularly face hate speech and smear campaigns, their opponents trying to diminish the credibility and the work they do to protect and promote human rights.
Jacqueline Moudeina (2011, Chad) has represented Hissène Habré’s victims since 2000. She was severely injured in a 2001 assassination attempt but remained undeterred from pursuing charges against the former dictator and his accomplices. In 2013, she won an important victory when the Extraordinary African Chambers established in Senegal indicted Hissène Habré for torture, war crimes and crimes against humanity. He was finally convicted in 2016.