Ales Bialiatski / Viasna (Belarus)
Belarusian pro-democracy activist Ales Bialiatski receives 2020 Right Livelihood Award
Belarusian pro-democracy activist Ales Bialiatski and the non-governmental organisation Human Rights Center “Viasna” are joint recipients of the 2020 Right Livelihood Award, widely known as the “Alternative Nobel Prize,” for their role in fighting for democracy and human rights in Belarus, the Right Livelihood Foundation announced on Thursday.
The Swedish Right Livelihood Award is an internationally renowned prize honouring courageous changemakers since 1980. By recognizing the actions of brave visionaries and building impactful connections around the world, the Award aims to boost urgent and long-term social change.
Bialiatski, who has led a 30-year campaign for democracy and freedom, founded Viasna in 1996 to provide support for political prisoners. It has since become the country’s leading non-governmental organisation contributing to the development of the civil society in Belarus through documenting human rights abuses and monitoring elections.
Bialiatski and Viasna are receiving the distinction “for their resolute struggle for the realisation of democracy and human rights in Belarus.”
Bialiatski and Viasna are the first Belarusian Laureates to receive the Right Livelihood Award.
“Being the recipient of the prestigious Right Livelihood Award imposes an additional obligation,” Bialiatski said. “I fully realise that it is a historical combination of circumstances, namely the tragic and wonderful struggle of my people for justice, their sacrifices and selflessness that have led to the fact that human rights work in Belarus this year has become more necessary and relevant than ever. This award is a sign of moral support for all Belarusians who are striving for democratic change. I hope that the international attention that the prize attracts will help make the work of the Human Rights Center “Viasna” in Belarus more meaningful and less dangerous.”
Ole von Uexkull, Executive Director of the Right Livelihood Foundation, said, “Ales Bialiatski is an outstanding human rights activist, who has had a leading role in the struggle for democracy in Belarus for three decades. Bialiatski and Viasna receive the Right Livelihood Award at a crucial time in the fight for the country’s future. As citizens from all walks of life continue to take to the streets daily to protest President Lukashenko’s dictatorial reign, this recognition to Bialiatski and Viasna is also a sign of international solidarity with all those striving for freedom and democracy in Belarus.”
Bialiatski and Viasna will receive a prize money of 1 million SEK to support their work. As in previous years, the Laureates were nominated in an open process where anyone could submit individuals or organisations for consideration. The Laureates will be honoured during a virtual Award Presentation on December 3, 2020.
The other 2020 Right Livelihood Laureates are:
- Imprisoned human right lawyer and activist Nasrin Sotoudeh of Iran
- Civil rights lawyer Bryan Stevenson of the United States
- Indigenous rights and environmental activist Lottie Cunningham Wren of Nicaragua
- Find more information on the other Laureates here.
- Photos and videos of the new Laureates can be found here.
Short Biography of Ales Bialiatski and Human Rights Center “Viasna”
Belarus, under the rule of President Alexander Lukashenko, is often referred to as “Europe’s last dictatorship.” This reputation rightly stems from his authoritarian rule in which elections are rigged, opposition voices are silenced, and civil society is severely restricted by state institutions which are, in effect, a continuation of the country’s Soviet past. The country is also unique on the continent for its continued use of the death penalty.
Since the mid-1980s, Bialiatski has led a nonviolent and nonpartisan campaign to ensure that democratic freedoms and a vibrant civil society are established in Belarus. As part of this work, Bialiatski has campaigned to end the death penalty. As an active member of the national human rights movement, Bialiatski has been arrested and spent several years in prison on trumped-up charges, as Belarusian authorities tried to impede him. The government has also frequently targeted Viasna and its members.
However, Bialiatski and Viasna’s persistent and long-standing efforts to empower the people of Belarus and ensure their democratic rights have rendered them an unstoppable force for freedom. During pro-democracy protests, including the recent large-scale demonstrations in the aftermath of the 2020 fraudulent presidential elections, Viasna has been playing a leading role in advocating for the freedom of assembly, defending the rights of people arrested for protesting and documenting human rights abuses. Bialiatski is also a member of the Coordination Council, which was set up in August 2020 by opposition and civil society figures with the aim of facilitating a peaceful transfer of power in the country.
Bialiatski and Viasna continue to stand for the multitude of courageous people protesting Lukashenko’s dictatorial reign at high personal risk. Through their commitment to democracy and freedom, Bialiatski and Viasna have laid the foundations of a peaceful and democratic society in Belarus.
Place of Birth: Karelia, Russia
Date of Birth: September 25, 1962
Education: Graduated in 1984 from the History and Philology Faculty at Homiel State University. In 1989, he received PhD from the Literature Institute of the Academy of Sciences in Minsk.
Human Rights Center “Viasna”
Based in: Minsk, with regional offices in a majority of Belarusian cities
International media: Emoke Bebiak, firstname.lastname@example.org, +41 78 333 84 84
German media: Julia Naumann and Nina Tesenfitz, email@example.com,
+49 (0)170 5763 663
Spanish media: Nayla Azzinnari, firstname.lastname@example.org, +54 9 11 5460 9860
Swedish media: Johannes Mosskin, email@example.com, +46 70 437 11 48
About the Right Livelihood Award
Established in 1980, the Right Livelihood Award aims to nurture the human courage needed to achieve peace, justice and sustainability for all. By recognizing the actions of brave visionaries and building impactful connections around the world, the Award aims to boost urgent and long-term social change.
182 Laureates from 72 countries have received the distinction to date.
The Stockholm-based Right Livelihood Foundation presenting the Award sees its role as being a megaphone and shield for the Laureates, providing them with long-term support. The Foundation’s main aims are to raise the profile of the Laureates and their work, provide protection when Laureates’ lives and liberty are in danger, and educate people on the innovative solutions presented by Laureates. The Foundation has Special Consultative Status with the UN Economic and Social Council.
A particular feature of the Award is that anyone can nominate individuals and organisations for consideration. An international Jury selects the Laureates 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.