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.
Former British soldier Chris Clark and the 990 local and international staff of the United Nations Mine Action Programme in southern Lebanon, for their courageous work in removing tonnes of deadly munitions that had prevented the safe return home of almost 1 million Lebanese civilians displaced during Israel's short conflict with the Hezbollah militia. Clark and the team detected and destroyed large quantities of unexploded ordnance and tens of thousands of mines, including cluster bomblets. Their work allowed people to return home and humanitarian agencies like UNHCR to operate.
A lawyer from Malta, Katrine Camilleri was recognized for her work with the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS). The Nansen Committee praised her exceptional dedication to the refugee cause and her outstanding contribution in protection and assistance to refugees and for lobbying on their behalf despite threats and personal risk
Japanese optometrist Akio Kanai received the Nansen Medal for giving the gift of clear vision to tens of thousands of refugees around the world. He provided free eyesight tests and handed out more than 100,000 pairs of spectacles to forcibly displaced people. Kanai, head of Fuji Optical, started his humanitarian work in 1983 in Thailand with Indo-Chinese refugees, many of whom had lost their spectacles while fleeing their homes.
Marguerite Barankitse, dubbed the "Angel of Burundi," for her tireless efforts on behalf of children affected by war, poverty and disease. Through her work with her organization, Maison Shalom, Barankitse sent a message of hope for the future. The Burundian Tutsi and her team ran four "children's villages" in Burundi as well as a centre for orphans and other vulnerable children in Bujumbura. She said her work was inspired by one goal: peace.
Russia's Memorial Human Rights Centre received the Nansen for helping tens of thousands of refugees and internally displaced people across the Russian Federation. The Nansen Committee was particularly impressed with the wide range of services carried out by Memorial on behalf of forced migrants and internally displaced people as well as refugees from as far afield as Africa, the Middle East and Asia. Memorial emerged during the former Soviet Union's "perestroika," or restructuring period of the 1980s.