Colin Gonsalves, Yetnebersh Nigussie, Robert Bilott © Wolfgang Schmidt

2017 Right Livelihood Award Laureates Create Real Change for Millions of People

Press releases 01.12.2017

The Laureates of the 2017 Right Livelihood Award, widely known as the ‘Alternative Nobel Prize’, will receive their prizes at tonight’s Award presentation in Stockholm, Sweden. Yetnebersh Nigussie (Ethiopia), Colin Gonsalves (India), Robert Bilott (USA), and Khadija Ismayilova (Azerbaijan) will be celebrated for championing justice for whole populations. Regrettably, Azerbaijani authorities are preventing Ismayilova from taking part in the presentation due to a travel ban.

Colin Gonsalves, Yetnebersh Nigussie, Robert Bilott © Wolfgang Schmidt / Right Livelihood Award Foundation
Colin Gonsalves, Yetnebersh Nigussie, Robert Bilott © Wolfgang Schmidt / Right Livelihood Award Foundation

Ole von Uexkull, Executive Director of the Right Livelihood Award, said: “The 2017 Laureates are fighting injustice across the world in a very concrete and inspiring way. With their courage and creativity, they overcome obstacles put in place by people in power as they create real change on the ground empowering thousands and even millions of people”.

The 38th Right Livelihood Award Presentation will take place tonight (1 December) at 19.30-20.00 (CET) in the Vasa Museum in Stockholm, home to the worlds only preserved 17th century ship. The event will be livestreamed on and members of the media interested in receiving a live signal are encouraged to contact the Right Livelihood Award Foundation. The celebration will continue throughout the evening with dinner and acceptance speeches.

Environmental lawyer, Robert Bilott (USA), received this year’s honorary award “for exposing a decades-long history of chemical pollution, winning long-sought justice for the victims, and setting a precedent for effective regulation on hazardous substances”.

Bilott utilised his award to note the importance of community action: “I hope that the Right Livelihood Award helps spread awareness and recognition of the urgent need to take even further steps to protect our drinking water, and the ability and power of local residents and communities to make those changes happen – regardless of the odds”.

Ethiopian disability rights activist, Yetnebersh Nigussie, received the award “for her inspiring work promoting the rights and inclusion of people with disabilities, allowing them to realise their full potential and changing mindsets in our societies”.

Nigussie used the occasion to draw attention to the difficulties faced by girls with disabilities accessing a quality education: “I describe myself as lucky for having made it to school, but I hope future generations of girls and women with disabilities feel differently. It is their right to be at school, and it always has been. I hope you will consider joining me in their fight to access quality inclusive education, which is your fight too”.

The human rights lawyer, Colin Gonsalves (India), was recognised by the award jury “for his tireless and innovative use of public interest litigation over three decades to secure fundamental human rights for India’s most marginalised and vulnerable citizens”.

Gonsalves, founder of the Human Rights Law Network, said: “Public interest litigation made enormous strides consolidating collective rights and bringing tangible relief – as in the Right to Food case – to millions of people below the poverty line. That we receive the Right Livelihood Award today gives us courage to go ahead regardless of the magnitude of the challenges facing us”.

The investigative journalist, Khadija Ismayilova (Azerbaijan), was commended “for her courage and tenacity in exposing corruption at the highest levels of government through outstanding investigative journalism in the name of transparency and accountability”.

It is the first time that a Right Livelihood Award goes to a Laureate from Azerbaijan. Ismayilova is unable to travel to Sweden to receive her award due to a travel ban imposed by Azerbaijani authorities. Instead, the Azeri journalist, Emin Milli, will represent Ismayilova at the Award presentation. On 30 November, 56 Right Livelihood Award Laureates from across the world protested against the travel ban and the lack of freedom of expression in Azerbaijan in an open letter to the country’s Minister of Foreign Affairs. The letter was delivered to the Azerbaijan Embassy in Stockholm by Colin Gonsalves, Yetnebersh Nigussie and Robert Bilott.

Ismayilova stated: “I am not the only journalist in Azerbaijan who is facing a travel ban and other forms of harassment simply because I dare to criticise the government when they steal people’s money. I happily accept the award on behalf of all journalists and human rights defenders of my country, who continue to work despite difficult conditions.”

For more information and interview requests:
Johannes Mosskin, Public Relations Advisor, mobile: +46 (0)70 43 71 148, email:
Further details on the Laureates, alongside high-resolution photographs and videos are available at:

Award Presentation

The 38th Right Livelihood Award Presentation takes place in Stockholm, Sweden, and is a by-invitation-only event. It is followed by dinner and Laureates’ acceptance speeches. The Award Presentation will be conducted in English.

Location: Vasa Museum, Stockholm
Date: December 1, 2017
Time: Program at 18.00-22.00. Award presentation at 19.30-20.00.
Questions and registration: Johannes Mosskin, see above.

About the Award

Established in 1980, the Right Livelihood Award honours and supports courageous people and organisations offering visionary and exemplary solutions to the root causes of global problems. In total there are now 170 Laureates from 69 countries. In addition to presenting the annual award, the Right Livelihood Award Foundation also supports the work of its Laureates, particularly those whose lives may be in danger due to the nature of their activities.

The Award Week

The 2017 Right Livelihood Award programme covers a full week of events and high-level meetings in Sweden, Germany and Switzerland. Some of them are listed below.

30 Nov Meeting with the Swedish Minister for Foreign Affairs, Margot Wallström.
1 Dec 13.30-15.00 (CET) Seminar in the Swedish Parliament. The event is livestreamed on the Foundation’s website.
1 Dec 19.30-20.00 (CET) Award presentation at the Vasa Museum. The event is livestreamed on the Foundation’s website, live signal is provided to interested media. The Award presentation is followed by dinner and Laureates’ acceptance speeches.

4 December: Yetnebersh Nigussie gives the Key Note Speech at the German Inclusion Day.
4 December: The Governing Mayor of Berlin, Michael Müller, welcomes the Laureates at the Berlin Town Hall (Rotes Rathaus), where they will also sign the Golden Book.
5 December: Ceremony “Celebrating the Right Livelihood Award Laureates in Berlin”, moderated by the German journalist and talk show host, Sandra Maischberger.

6 Dec 18.30-20.00 (CET) Conversation with 2017 Right Livelihood Award Laureates at Maison de la Paix on 6 December, organised in partnership with The Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies. Open to the public, register here.
7 Dec Meeting with the UN Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, Ms Kate Gilmore.

11 Dec 19.00-20.00 (CET) Public lecture at the Zürich City Hall with 2017 Laureate Yetnebersh Nigussie (Ethiopia). Free entrance, more info here.

Media contacts

Emoke Bebiak

English, French & International Media

Phone: +41 (0)78 333 84 84

Marina Shupac

Eastern European Media

Phone: + 373 799 74 628

Mikaela Fredrikson

Multimedia & Copyright

Phone: +46 (0)70 407 0325

Nayla Azzinnari

Spanish Media

Phone: +54 9 11 5460 9860

Nina Tesenfitz

German Media

Phone: +49 (0)170 5763 663

Johannes Mosskin

Swedish Media

Phone: +46 (0)70 437 11 48