2023 Right Livelihood Laureates after the Award Presentation in Stockholm.

2023 Right Livelihood Laureates show that protecting human rights and nature “is not only possible but it is our duty”

Press releases 29.11.2023

STOCKHOLM –  Recipients of the 2023 Right Livelihood Award reaffirmed their commitment and the global need for the protection of lives, human rights and the natural environment as they accepted the Award in Stockholm on Wednesday.

For over 40 years, the Right Livelihood Award has honoured and supported courageous people solving global problems. The televised Award Presentation celebrated this year’s Laureates. They are now part of a network of 194 Laureates from 76 countries, including Ukrainian human rights defender Oleksandra Matviichuk and Congolese gynaecologist and women’s rights advocate Dr Denis Mukwege.

Facing imprisonment, harassment and constant threats by the Cambodian government, Mother Nature Cambodia activists have persevered in calling for environmental protection and democracy. Speaking at the Award Presentation, activist Sun Ratha called on the young generation in her country to keep up this important work.

“Building a Cambodia that is truly free and democratic, where nature is protected and respected: is not only possible, but it’s our duty,” she said.

Kenyan environmental defender Phyllis Omido, whose activism resulted in shutting down 17 lead smelting plants across her country, also highlighted the dangers activists face and the need for international cooperation to preserve people’s health and the environment.

“Being an environmental activist is a lifetime commitment that requires resilience and a strong support system,” Omido said. “In times of adversity, we lean on those who share the same struggle.”

Dr Eunice Brookman-Amissah, a Ghanaian medical doctor, received the Right Livelihood Award for ensuring safe abortion access across African countries. She said that reducing maternal deaths from unsafe abortions was her “life’s mission”.

“I hope, indeed believe, that this recognition and public recognition of unsafe abortions will lead the world to come together to do something about a totally preventable cause of death of women,” Brookman-Amissah said.

SOS MEDITERRANEE, a European maritime-humanitarian organisation, will continue its rescue mission at the Mediterranean Sea as long as lives are being lost, said a representative of the organisation, which has saved 39,000 lives since 2016.

“Rescuing people in distress at sea is a legal obligation: whichever vessel is present at sea and is witnessing an embarkation in distress has to rescue them,” said Caroline Abu Sa’da, Executive Director of SOS MEDITERRANEE’s Swiss office.

Answering the question what keeps her organisation going, she said: “There is no choice as long as there are people risking their lives, we need to be there!”

The Award Presentation also drew attention to the plight of 2018 Laureate Mohammad Fahad al-Qahtani, a Saudi human rights defender imprisoned for his activism. After ten years in prison, al-Qahtani was set to be released in November 2022, however, he was forcibly disappeared just before that.

“Despite being imprisoned, Dad called twice a day and was very engaged in our daily lives,” said Abdullah al-Qahtani, his son. “However, in October last year, he stopped calling. That was only one month before his release date. We have not been in touch with him since.”

Right Livelihood, along with al-Qahtani’s family and other human rights organisations, is calling on Saudi authorities to immediately release al-Qahtani.

 

This year’s Right Livelihood Award was presented to:

Eunice Brookman-Amissah from Ghana “for pioneering discussions on women’s reproductive rights in Africa, paving the way for liberalised abortion laws and improved safe abortion access” (Honorary),

Mother Nature Cambodia “for their fearless and engaging activism to preserve Cambodia’s natural environment in the context of a highly restricted democratic space,”

SOS MEDITERRANEE “for its life-saving humanitarian search and rescue operations in the Mediterranean Sea,” and

Phyllis Omido from Kenya “for her groundbreaking struggle to secure land and environmental rights for local communities while advancing the field of environmental law.”

Watch the Award Presentation here.

Access photos of the event here.

Find further photos and videos of the Laureates here.

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