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The Right Livelihood Award was established in 1980 to “honour and support courageous people and organisations offering visionary and exemplary solutions to the root causes of global problems”. It has become widely known as the 'Alternative Nobel Prize' and there are now 170 Laureates from 69 countries.
Presented annually in Stockholm, the Right Livelihood Award is usually shared by four Recipients. The prize money shared by all Laureates is SEK 3 million (2017) but not always all Laureates receive a cash award. Often an Honorary Award is given to a person or group whose work the Jury wishes to recognise but who is not primarily in need of monetary support. The prize money is for ongoing successful work, never for personal use.
Unlike the Nobel Prizes and most other international prizes, the Right Livelihood Award has no categories. It recognises that, in striving to meet the human challenges of today’s world, the most inspiring and remarkable work often defies any standard classification.
The Right Livelihood Award is not an award for the world’s political, scientific or economic elite, but an award for the people and their work and struggles for a better future. The Laureates come from all walks of life: they are farmers, teachers, doctors, or simply, concerned citizens. The Right Livelihood Award accepts proposals from everyone through an open nomination process.
The presentation of the Right Livelihood Award is only the start of a long relationship between the Laureate and the Foundation. The Foundation sees its role as being the megaphone and shield for the Laureates, and provides them with long-term support.
In 1980, the journalist and professional philatelist Jakob von Uexkull felt that the Nobel Prize categories were too narrow in scope and too concentrated on the interests of the industrialised countries to be an adequate answer to the challenges now facing humanity.
Instead, he wanted to “recognise the efforts of those who are tackling these issues more directly, coming up with practical answers to challenges like the pollution of our air, soil and water, the danger of nuclear war, the abuse of basic human rights, the destitution and misery of the poor and the over-consumption and spiritual poverty of the wealthy”.
The Nobel Prize is considered the highest honour that our society can bestow on an individual. Thus, Jakob von Uexkull approached the Nobel Foundation with the suggestion that it establish two new awards, one for ecology and one relevant to the lives of the poor. He offered to contribute financially but his proposal was turned down. He then decided to set up the Right Livelihood Awards, and provided the initial funding.
In 1980, the first Right Livelihood Awards were bestowed in a rented hall. Five years later, the invitation to present them in the Swedish Parliament in Stockholm followed. During this time, the public began referring to the Award as the “Alternative Nobel Prize”.
The first Recipients in 1980 were Plenty International/Stephen Gaskin, USA, and Hassan Fathy, Egypt. They shared the total prize money of USD 50,000.
Over the years, the Right Livelihood Award Foundation has grown thanks to the support of other private and institutional donors. The prize money in 2017 was SEK 3 million.
The Right Livelihood Award first presented in Stockholm. The "Right Livelihood Foundation” registered on the Isle of Man.
Award office established in the School of Peace Studies at the University of Bradford. Paul Ekins becomes its Executive Director.
The office of the Right Livelihood Award Foundation moves to Sweden, first full-time paid staff in Sweden recruited.
2009 Establishment of the Right Livelihood College on the initiative of 1982 Laureate Anwar Fazal.
Geneva office established, Stockholm office moves to the Right Livelihood House in Gamla Enskede.