Nansen Refugee Award

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UNHCR Nansen Refugee Award
Nansen refugee award.jpg
Logo of the UNHCR Nansen Refugee Award
Awarded forOutstanding service to the cause of refugees
Presented byUnited Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
First awarded1954

The UNHCR Nansen Refugee Award is awarded annually by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to an individual, group, or organization in recognition of outstanding service to the cause of refugees, displaced or stateless people. It was established in 1954.[1]


The UNHCR Nansen Refugee 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. The award consists of the Nansen Medal and a $150,000 US dollar monetary prize donated by the governments of Norway and Switzerland in support of a project of the recipient's choice to assist displaced people, developed in consultation with UNHCR. The Swiss and Norwegian governments, the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) and the IKEA Foundation support the UNHCR Nansen Refugee Award programme.[2]

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 Practical Politics (Realpolitik))

The award ceremony[edit]

Every year, the UNHCR Nansen Refugee Award is presented at a dignified ceremony in Geneva, Switzerland, the "world's humanitarian capital".[3] Held at the Bâtiment des Forces Motrices, the ceremony coincides with the annual UNHCR Executive Committee (Excom) meeting.[4]

The Nansen panel discussion[edit]

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.[5]


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.[3]

List of laureates[edit]

Prof. Aqeela Asifi in 2015


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


  1. ^ Refugees, United Nations High Commissioner for. "Our Winners". UNHCR. Retrieved 2017-12-18.
  2. ^ "Nansen: The man, the inspiration, the legacy" (PDF). United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. 2014. p. 32.
  3. ^ a b "UNHCR - Frequently Asked Questions". United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
  4. ^ "The UNHCR Nansen Refugee Award 2021" (PDF). United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
  5. ^ "Une ancienne réfugiée somalienne primée par le HCR". (in French). University of Geneva. 2012.
  6. ^ Schlein, Lisa (18 September 2012). "Somali Humanitarian Wins Prestigious Nansen Refugee Award". Voice of America.
  7. ^ Congolese nun named winner of prestigious Nansen Refugee Award UNHCR 17 September 2013
  8. ^ "Nansen Refugee Award: Butterflies take wing to help others". United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. 12 September 2014.
  9. ^ "Aqeela Asifi: A life of teaching Afghan refugee girls". BBC. 16 September 2015.
  10. ^ "The Hellenic Rescue Team". Retrieved December 3, 2016.
  11. ^ Greek Volunteers share UNHCR Nansen Refugee Award
  12. ^ "Visionary Nigerian teacher wins UNHCR Nansen Refugee Award". 18 September 2017. Retrieved September 19, 2017.
  13. ^ "South Sudanese surgeon wins 2018 Nansen Refugee Award". UNHCR. Retrieved 25 September 2018.
  14. ^ "South Sudanese doctor wins prestigious UN prize for lifetime spent tending to refugees". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 25 September 2018. Retrieved 7 October 2018.
  15. ^ "'Tenacious' Kyrgyz lawyer and statelessness champion, wins prestigious UNHCR prize". UN News. October 2019. Retrieved December 27, 2019.
  16. ^ Barber, Harriet (1 October 2020). "Woman who provides a safe haven for child trafficking victims is honoured by the UN". The Telegraph.
  17. ^ "Yemeni humanitarian organization wins Nansen Refugee Award". UN News. 29 September 2021. Retrieved 26 November 2021.

External links[edit]