Philanthropy is a topic that goes to the heart of the Right Livelihood Award, which is financed primarily by individual donors. The first one was Jakob von Uexkull, when he set up the prize in 1980. He had asked himself what was needed to best support change-makers in their work. His answer was: publicity and protection. Nearly 40 years on, that answer is still valid. At the same time, as governments around the world tighten their belts, philanthropic giving is today even more important.
Egyptian human rights defender Mozn Hassan, who shared the 2016 Right Livelihood Award with her organisation Nazra for Feminist Studies, received the prize in Cairo on 25 March. The event was attended by some 150 guests, including civil society leaders, European and Egyptian parliamentarians, fellow Laureates, diplomats and other dignitaries. Hassan, who is under a travel ban and facing up to 25 years in jail in connection with the so-called 'NGO funding case', said: "The decision of the Right Livelihood Award to hold this ceremony in Cairo is truly significant as it means that appreciation and solidarity can reach you despite travel bans."
The Right Livelihood Award Foundation strongly condemned the illegitimate use of anti-terrorism legislation against its 2016 Laureate Cumhuriyet for exercising freedom of expression guaranteed under Turkish and international law. On 4 April, the Istanbul Chief Prosecutor's Office announced it is seeking lengthy jail sentences – up to 43 years – for 19 Cumhuriyet executives and columnists for allegedly 'helping an armed terrorist organisation'. "The indictment against the Cumhuriyet journalists is an indictment against democracy in Turkey," said the Foundation's Executive Director Ole von Uexkull.
2012 Right Livelihood Award Laureate Dr Sima Samar, Chair of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC), became the first Afghan woman to brief the UN Security Council on the situation in her country on 10 March. While in New York, Samar also pushed for the recognition of women's rights as human rights at 61st session of the Commission on the Status of Women. According to AIHRC, up to 80 per cent of all marriages in Afghanistan take place without the consent of the bride, who is often a minor. Meanwhile, fellow Laureate Dr Monika Hauser, whose organisation medica mondiale has been working in Afghanistan for over a decade, has warned that many girls and young women see suicide as their only escape from forced marriage.
Syria Civil Defence volunteers were the first responders following the horrendous attacks on 4 April, which killed more than 80 people, mostly women and children, and caused symptoms of severe chemical weapons exposure in over 500 others. The White Helmets teams from Khan Sheikhoun and Al Habeet provided decontamination, first aid and medical evacuation to those affected. Along with the international community, the Right Livelihood Award Foundation has condemned these cowardly attacks that constitute an egregious violation of international humanitarian law.
1991 Laureate Movimento dos Trabalhadores Rurais sem Terra (MST), whose 16 members are currently detained as political prisoners, will share their struggle for agrarian reform in Brazil at this year's EDGE Funders Conference taking place in Barcelona from 25-28 April. Under the title Re/Organising Power for Systems Change, the conference will explore the question of system change in particular through the lenses of power, privilege and emancipatory struggles.