Archive of Past Nansen Winners
Past Winners of the Nansen Award
More than 60 individuals, groups or organizations have won the Nansen Refugee Award since it was inaugurated in 1954. The first winner was Eleanor Roosevelt, the first chairperson of the UN Human Rights Commission and wife of legendary US President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
She has been followed by an illustrious group of individuals, including French President Valéry Giscard d'Estaing, Tanzania's President Julius Nyerere, King Juan Carlos I of Spain, Graça Machel and late Italian tenor Luciano Pavarotti.
A number of humanitarian organizations, and partners of UNHCR, have won the award, which has included a cash prize since 1979. Among them are the League of Red Cross Societies. Médecins sans Frontières, Handicap International and the UN Volunteers. In 1986, the Nansen went to the people of Canada - the only country to have received the award as a nation.
Four young Englishmen, Christopher Chataway, Colin Jones, Trevor Philpott and Tim Raison were recognized for their work in the World Refugee Year (WRY) of 1959, a little remembered but vastly successful campaign to help the world's refugees. WRY, which involved 45 countries and raised tens of millions of dollars, is said to have helped inspire later campaigns such as Live Aid in 1985. Chataway, also a noted athlete, and Raison later became Conservative government ministers.
Oskar Hellmer, as Austrian Interior Minister, was instrumental in persuading his country to throw open its doors to refugees from Hungary in 1956 without knowing how many would come and how long they would stay. It was the first movement in which refugees were recognized en masse.
The British pacifist and humanitarian, David Hoggett, was paralysed from the waist down while building homes for refugees in Austria in 1956. When he was awarded the Nansen for his work with refugees, Hoggett accepted it on behalf of all volunteers who did such work.
Pierre Jacobsen was announced posthumously as co-winner of the 1958 Nansen Award for his work as one of the principal architects of internationally planned migration of refugees and migrants. Jacobsen, who made his mark while Deputy Director of the Intergovernmental Committee for European Migration and assistant Director General of the International Refugee Organization, died in a motor accident in 1957.
The League of Red Cross Societies has gained a huge reputation for helping the victims of natural and man-made disasters. It demonstrated the impact of international solidarity through its immediate response to the exceptional demands made in 1956 during the Hungarian refugee crisis. The award also honoured its member societies.
Dorothy Houghton, the third Nansen Medal winner, worked tirelessly to enhance the interest of voluntary agencies in the plight of refugees. She also played a leading role in encouraging the admission of refugees to her country and in carrying out the United States Escapee Programme, launched in 1952 to assist those fleeing Eastern Bloc countries.
Gerrit Jan van Heuven Goedhart won the award posthumously for his valuable work on behalf of refugees as the first United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. He put much of his energy into securing funds to help the hundreds of thousands of people still displaced after World War II. UNHCR won the Nobel Peace Prize under his watch in 1954.