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Nansen Refugee Award

UNHCR Nansen Refugee Award
Logo of the UNHCR Nansen Refugee Award.
Awarded for Outstanding service to the cause of refugees
Location Geneva
Presented by United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
First awarded 1954
Official website /

The UNHCR Nansen Refugee Award is awarded annually by the refugees, displaced or stateless people. It was established in 1954.


  • Background 1
  • The award ceremony 2
  • The Nansen Panel Discussion 3
  • Nominations 4
  • List of laureates 5
  • Sources 6
  • References 7
  • External links 8


The award is named after the intrepid Norwegian polar explorer, statesman and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Fridtjof Nansen. As the first High Commissioner for Refugees at the League of Nations, Nansen's achievements made significant strides in giving a voice to the forcibly displaced. UNHCR's Nansen Refugee Award consists of a commemorative medal, the Nansen Medal, and a 100.000 USD monetary prize, donated by the governments of Norway and Switzerland, to begin a project in consultation with UNHCR to assist the forcibly displaced. The Swiss and Norwegian governments, the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) and the IKEA Foundation support the UNHCR Nansen Refugee Award programme.[1]

The Nansen Refugee Award is given annually by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in recognition of outstanding service to the cause of refugees. The top of the Nansen Medal reads: "Nestekjærlighet er realpolitikk" (English: Altruism is Realpolitik)

The award ceremony

Each year, the UNHCR Nansen Refugee Award is presented at a dignified ceremony in Geneva, Switzerland, the "world's humanitarian capital".[2] Held at the Bâtiment des Forces Motrices, the ceremony coincides with the annual UNHCR Executive Committee (Excom) meeting.[3]

The Nansen Panel Discussion

In 2011, UNHCR collaborated with the Université of Genève (UNIGE), the Foundation Pour Genève, and the Académie de droit international humanitaire et droits humains à Genève (ADH) to organize the first Nansen panel discussion. Now an annual event, the discussion engages the Geneva intellectual community, media and youth about the refugee cause and the work of UNHCR.

In 2012, the discussion entitled "Les femmes et la reconstruction de la Somalie: du trouble à l'espoir" ("Women and the Reconstruction of Somalia: From Turmoil to Hope") featured Leymah Gbowee, the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Secretary-General of the NRC Elisabeth Rasmusson, and UNHCR Honorary Lifetime Goodwill Ambassador Barbara Hendricks as panelists.[4]


The strongest candidates are those who have gone beyond the call of duty, who have demonstrated perseverance and courage, and who have personally, directly and significantly helped forcibly displaced people.

Nominations must be submitted through the UNHCR Nansen Refugee Award website. Current or former UNHCR staff are not eligible. Self nominations, including intra-organizational nomination, are strongly discouraged.[5]

List of laureates


  • Official homepage for the UNHCR Nansen Refugee Award
  • Merheb, Nada. The Nansen Refugee Award. United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Geneva 2002.


  1. ^ Official homepage for the UNHCR Nansen Refugee Award
  2. ^ Representation of the Netherlands in Geneva
  3. ^ Official homepage for the UNHCR Nansen Refugee Award
  4. ^ University of Geneva Communication Service
  5. ^ Official homepage for the UNHCR Nansen Refugee Award
  6. ^ Article in Al Arabiya News
  7. ^ Congolese nun named winner of prestigious Nansen Refugee Award UNHCR 17 September 2013

External links

  • Official homepage for the UNHCR Nansen Refugee Award
  • Pictures of the 2012 Nansen Refugee Award ceremony
  • Interview with “Mama” Hawa Aden Mohamed, 2012 Nansen Refugee Award, by Global Education Magazine, in the special edition of World Refugee Day.
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