UNHCR awards Nansen Refugee prize to the late Senator Edward Kennedy

News Stories, 15 September 2009

© STR New / Reuters
The late Senator Edward Kennedy.

GENEVA, September 15 (UNHCR) The UN refugee agency announced Tuesday that its annual Nansen Refugee Award will go to the late Senator Edward Kennedy for his achievements as an unparalleled champion of refugee protection and assistance for more than 45 years.

Senator Kennedy's work in establishing US refugee admissions, resettlement and asylum programmes directly helped millions of persecuted individuals to find protection and start new lives in the United States. He was the chief sponsor of more than 70 refugee related measures and was instrumental in codifying international refugee obligations into US law.

In announcing the 2009 Nansen award, UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres said: "Senator Kennedy stood out as a forceful advocate for those who suddenly found themselves with no voice and no rights. Year after year, conflict after conflict, he put the plight of refugees on the agenda and drove through policies that saved and shaped countless lives."

From his election to the US Senate in 1962, Kennedy adopted a comprehensive approach in his fight for refugee protection. He effectively utilized his influence in Congress to advance refugee and asylum-related legislation and to raise awareness of refugee crises.

Senator Kennedy met with governments at the highest levels, encouraging them to welcome refugees seeking protection in their territories. His work helped to raise public awareness of the challenges refugees face around the world. He also regularly met with refugees themselves, visiting refugee settings around the globe as well as in local US communities. Throughout, he demonstrated a level of compassion and empathy for individual refugees and their communities unrivalled in the US Congress.

Senator Kennedy's interest in refugee protection did not stop at the US border he was the voice and the hope of persecuted and uprooted individuals worldwide. He brought attention to refugee crises in Africa, Asia, the Middle East, Eastern Europe and Latin America. Most recently, he played a critical role in drawing attention to the needs of Iraqi refugees.

UNHCR is grateful it was able to inform Senator Kennedy of the Nansen Committee's decision in June, and deeply saddened by his passing.

The Nansen Refugee Award is given annually to an individual or organization for outstanding work on behalf of refugees. It includes a US$100,000 prize, funded by Norway and Switzerland, that the winner can donate to a cause of his or her choice. It was created in 1954 in honour of Fridtjof Nansen, the legendary Norwegian polar explorer and scientist, and the first UN High Commissioner for Refugees. In this role, he won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1922.

The Nansen Award Ceremony will take place on October 28 in the US capital, Washington D.C.

• DONATE NOW •

 

• GET INVOLVED • • STAY INFORMED •

A Photo Profile of Nansen Award Winner Edward Kennedy

In recognition of his achievements as a life-long advocate on behalf of the world's most vulnerable people, the recipient of the 2009 Nansen Refugee Award is the late Edward Kennedy. The Senator was a champion for those who suddenly found themselves with no voice and no rights. Year after year, he put the plight of refugees on the agenda and drove through policies that saved and shaped countless lives.

A Photo Profile of Nansen Award Winner Edward Kennedy

Nansen Award presentation for the late Senator Edward Kennedy

UNHCR's annual Nansen Refugee Award was posthumously awarded to Senator Edward Kennedy at a ceremony in Washington DC on October 29 for his life-long commitment to refugee rights. Kennedy's wife, Victoria, accepted the award on behalf of her late husband. In presenting the award, UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres, praised the "vision and commitment" of Senator Kennedy in his support for the displaced.

The prize money of US$100,000 will be donated to the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate, where it will be used to train the next generation of leaders dedicated to the cause of refugee advocacy. The Nansen Award is given to an individual or organization for outstanding work on behalf of refugees. It was created in 1954 in honour of Fridtjof Nansen, Norwegian polar explorer, scientist and the first global High Commissioner for Refugees.

Nansen Award presentation for the late Senator Edward Kennedy

Senator Edward Kennedy - 2009 Nansen Award WinnerPlay video

Senator Edward Kennedy - 2009 Nansen Award Winner

The recipient of the 2009 Nansen Refugee Award is the late Senator Edward Kennedy. He is being honoured posthumously for his tireless work on behalf of refugees during his 40 years in the United States Senate.
2009 Nansen Award winner: Senator Edward KennedyPlay video

2009 Nansen Award winner: Senator Edward Kennedy

In recognition of his achievements as a life-long advocate on behalf of the world's most vulnerable people, the recipient of the 2009 Nansen Refugee Award is the late Senator Edward Kennedy, a champion for those with no voice and no rights.