2017 Right Livelihood Awards
Honour Inspiring Changemakers and Champions of Justice
The Laureates of this year’s Right Livelihood Award was announced 26 September in Stockholm, Sweden. Get to know the new Laureates in this video.
This year’s honorary award goes to Robert Bilott (USA) “for exposing a decades-long history of chemical pollution, winning long-sought justice for the victims, and setting a precedent for effective regulation on hazardous substances”.
The cash award of SEK 3 million is shared equally by three Laureates:
Colin Gonsalves (India) is honoured by the Jury “for his tireless and innovative use of public interest litigation over three decades to secure fundamental human rights for India’s most marginalised and vulnerable citizens”.
Khadija Ismayilova (Azerbaijan) receives the Award “for her courage and tenacity in exposing corruption at the highest levels of government through outstanding investigative journalism in the name of transparency and accountability”. It is the first time that a Right Livelihood Award goes to a Laureate from Azerbaijan.
Yetnebersh Nigussie(Ethiopia) is recognised by the Jury “for her inspiring work promoting the rights and inclusion of people with disabilities, allowing them to realise their full potential and changing mindsets in our societies”.
Ole von Uexkull, Executive Director of the Right Livelihood Award Foundation, commented: "This year’s Laureates protect the rights and lives of citizens across three continents. With their courageous work for human rights, public health and good governance, they tackle some of the world’s most pressing challenges at their very core. At a time of alarming setbacks for democracy, their successes show us the way forward towards a just, peaceful and sustainable world for all.”
Watch the press conference at the International Press Centre at the Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs here. Read the press release here.
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Robert Bilott is one of the world’s finest environmental lawyers. With a combination of innovative litigation, scientific understanding, and extraordinary perseverance, he has achieved one of the most significant victories for environmental law and corporate accountability of this century.
Upon receiving the Award, Bilott commented: “I hope that this honour helps spread awareness and recognition of the urgent need to take further steps to protect our drinking water, and the ability and power of local residents and communities to ensure that such steps are taken.”
Colin Gonsalves is amongst the most complete human rights lawyers of his generation. He is a Senior Advocate at the Supreme Court of India and the founder of the Human Rights Law Network (HRLN), an Indian national network of public interest lawyers. Gonsalves’ most significant victories in the courtroom include the “Right to Food” case, which saw India’s Supreme Court issue far reaching orders enforcing a free midday meal for all schoolchildren and subsidised grain for over 400 million Indians living below the poverty line.
Upon receiving the Award, Gonsalves commented: “I am both humbled and privileged by the Award. It comes at a time when India is going through a dark period and human rights activists are under siege. The platform the Foundation provides will help us strengthen democratic resistance at this critical stage.”
Khadija Ismayilova is Azerbaijan’s most outstanding contemporary investigative journalist. In the past decade, her investigative reporting has revealed a wide range of corrupt and lucrative business deals involving President Aliyev’s family members. She has provided irrefutable evidence of corruption at the highest levels of Azerbaijan’s government, which also involved multinational companies like TeliaSonera. Significantly, her articles have uncovered how the wealth of the nation has been plundered, routed abroad and used to influence European politicians.
Upon receiving the Award, Ismayilova commented: “It is an honour for me to be chosen for such a prestigious award. I happily accept the award on behalf of all journalists and human rights defenders of my country, who continue to work despite difficult conditions.”
Yetnebersh Nigussie is an Ethiopian activist working for human rights based on her own experience of being discriminated against coming from a “developing country”, being young, a woman – and blind. She is fearlessly pushing for women’s and girls’ rights, inclusive education and a vibrant civil society. Nigussie is an outstanding advocate for the rights enshrined in the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). Through her tireless efforts, she has changed perceptions on disability in her own society and internationally.
Upon receiving the Award, Nigussie commented: “It is an absolute honour to receive the prestigious Right Livelihood Award. The recognition provides welcome fuel to the disability and development community’s ongoing call for inclusion and full participation of people with disabilities in all spheres of life.”
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