Aminatou Haidar (Western Sahara)

“Sahrawi Gandhi” announced 2019 Right Livelihood Award Laureate

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“Sahrawi Gandhi” announced 2019 Right Livelihood Award Laureate

The Right Livelihood Award, widely known as the ‘Alternative Nobel Prize’, celebrates its 40th anniversary this year. Aminatou Haidar from Western Sahara is one of the 2019 Laureates, the Right Livelihood Foundation announced today in Stockholm, Sweden. Over 30 years of peaceful campaigning for the independence of her homeland have earned Haidar the byname “Sahrawi Gandhi”.

The outstanding nonviolent activist and human rights defender Aminatou Haidar is recognised by the international jury “for her steadfast nonviolent action, despite imprisonment and torture, in pursuit of justice and self-determination for the people of Western Sahara”. It is the first time that a Right Livelihood Award goes to a Laureate from Western Sahara.

Upon receiving the news, Aminatou Haidar commented:

“I feel very honored to receive the renowned Right Livelihood Award. This is a recognition of my non-violent struggle and the just cause of the Sahrawi people. Despite military occupation and violations of fundamental human rights, they continue their peaceful struggle. They deserve to be supported by all so that, one day, Sahrawi will achieve independence and freedom.”

The 2019 Right Livelihood Award Laureates were announced during a press conference at the International Press Centre at the Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs. The jury has selected four Laureates who will each receive 1 million SEK (94,000 EUR). The prize money is designated to support the Laureates’ work, it is not for personal use.

The other Laureates are lawyer Guo Jianmei (China), climate activist Greta Thunberg (Sweden) and indigenous leader Davi Kopenawa who jointly receives the award with the Hutukara Yanomami Association (Brazil). The international jury considered 142 nominations from 59 countries, after an open nomination process.

Ole von Uexkull, Executive Director of the Right Livelihood Foundation, commented: “The Sahrawi people have been suffering under Moroccan occupation for more than 40 years and any opposition is brutally punished. Aminatou Haidar’s courage and determination to organise nonviolent resistance and speak up internationally is an inspiration for everyone who believes in justice.”

Aminatou Haidar is one of the most respected leaders among the Sahrawis. She started her activism as a teenager and is one of the founders of the Sahrawi human rights movement. She has organised demonstrations, documented cases of torture and carried out several hunger strikes to raise awareness about the violations suffered by her people. Haidar is the co-founder and President of the human rights organisation Collective of Sahrawi Rights Defenders (CODESA). She plays a crucial role in drawing international attention to the unresolved Western Sahara issue, which for long has been neglected by the UN, the EU and the media.

Spain, the former colonial power, abandoned the disputed territory in 1975, and Morocco immediately annexed it. The indigenous people of Western Sahara, the Sahrawis, have repeatedly been promised the right to self-determination by the UN, Spain and Morocco. But more than 40 years have passed without a referendum being held, with the international community indifferent or even complicit in the occupation.

Since the first days of its occupation, Moroccan authorities have suppressed Sahrawis demanding the right to self-determination and respect of fundamental human rights. Like many other Sahrawi activists, Aminatou Haidar has been beaten, tortured and detained without charges or trial. She spent four years in a secret prison, isolated from the outside world.

Despite death threats and harassment, directed at herself and her two children, Aminatou Haidar tirelessly campaigns for a political solution to one of the world’s longest frozen conflicts and tries to instil the merits of non-violent action in the next generation of Sahrawis.

Aminatou Haidar will receive her prize at the 2019 Right Livelihood Award Celebration in Stockholm on 4 December. As the Award celebrates 40 years, the public is for the first time ever invited to participate in its presentation. Edward Snowden, who received the Right Livelihood Award in 2014, will join the celebration via link from Moscow and the artists José González and Ane Brun will perform at the event. Tickets for the Award Celebration are available via Cirkus.se.

Biography

Press Releases

Notes to Editors:

  • About the Right Livelihood Award
  • How it all began – The Nobel Foundation rejected an environmental prize

Contact

For further information and to arrange interviews, please contact:

International & Swedish-speaking media: Johannes Mosskin, Director of Communications, mobile: +46 (0)70 43 71 148, johannes@rightlivelihood.org

 

About the Right Livelihood Award

Established in 1980, the Right Livelihood Award honours and supports courageous people solving global problems. To date, there are 178 Laureates from 71 countries.

The Swedish Right Livelihood Foundation presenting the Award sees its role as being the megaphone and shield for the Laureates and provides them with long-term support. It seeks to help protect those Award recipients whose life and liberty are in danger. The Foundation has Special Consultative Status with the UN Economic and Social Council.

Anyone can propose candidates to be considered for the Right Livelihood Award. The Laureates are selected by an international Jury after careful investigation by the Foundation’s research team. Unlike most other international prizes, the Right Livelihood Award has no categories. It recognises that, in striving to meet the challenges of today’s world, the most inspiring and remarkable work often defies any standard classification.

How it all began – The Nobel Foundation rejected an environmental prize

In 1979, the Swedish-German philanthropist and stamp collector Jakob von Uexkull turned to the Nobel Foundation with the proposal to create two new Nobel Prizes, one environmental award and one award to promote knowledge and perspectives of people in poor countries. To fund the prizes, he offered to sell his stamp collection, worth more than one million US Dollars, and donate the money to the Nobel Foundation.

Jakob was alarmed by the disconnect between the urgency of global problems and the way the international community was dealing with them. He saw how decision-makers were meeting behind closed doors, out of touch with reality. Activists and civil society organisations were at the same time gathering outside the meeting rooms, often presenting constructive solutions to the problems. But their proposals were not taken seriously, and Jakob wanted to do something about it.

“Whoever gets the Nobel Prize will be listened to”, he thought and contacted the Nobel Foundation, which politely rejected the proposal to establish two new awards. There and then, Jakob decided to create the Right Livelihood Award to support people fighting for a just, peaceful and sustainable world. He went ahead and sold parts of the stamp collection, and that was how it all began. The Right Livelihood Award received a lot of attention when it was presented for the first time in 1980, one day before the Nobel Prize. Today, it is one of the most prestigious awards in sustainability, social justice and peace.

Income from the sale of stamps generated sufficient means to kick off the prize but ever since the Right Livelihood Award has been receiving its funding from private donors. A unique feature is that the Award comes with long-term support that includes networking and protection for Laureates under threat. Because of its founding history, it has come to be known as the ‘Alternative Nobel Prize’.

Media Contacts

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International & Swedish Media

Johannes Mosskin
Email Johannes

M +46 70 437 11 48

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Espanol Médias

Nayla Azzinnari
Email Nayla

M +54 9 11 5460 9860

Nina Tesenfitz

German Media

Nina Tesenfitz
Email Nina 

M+49 (0)170 5763 663