The Right Livelihood Award 2021 at Cirkus Arena in Stockholm. Foto: Stina Stjernkvist

A Look Back: Right Livelihood in 2021

News 31.12.2021

2021 has been quite a year – with a number of achievements, challenges and new ambitions. As the year nears its end, we look back on some key highlights with our Executive Director Ole von Uexkull.

Can you walk us through some of the most important moments at Right Livelihood in 2021?

The past year saw a number of ups and downs in Right Livelihood’s community of change-makers. On one hand, there was positive development with the case of 2016 Laureate Mozn Hassan, as Egyptian authorities finally dropped charges against her and her organisation Nazra for Feminist Studies. This came after years of efforts with partners to close her case.

On the other hand, we witnessed the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan, home to 2012 Laureate Sima Samar where she has worked tirelessly to defend the rights of women and girls. Here in Europe, as Belarus tightened its grip on civil society, 2020 Laureate Ales Bialiatski and members of Viasna have been detained since July (join us and other organisations to demand their release). Just this week, Russia’s Supreme Court ordered the closure of 2004 Laureate Memorial International, the country’s oldest and largest human rights organisation.

In the face of mounting challenges, the work of the Right Livelihood Laureates – and our work in supporting them – has become more important now than ever. That’s why earlier this year, we updated our website and our look to make the Laureates’ inspiring stories even more accessible to people, thereby fostering a community of engaged citizens who put these ideas into action.

With escalating global crises, we look to courageous change-makers around the world for inspiration. This year, a record number of 206 nominees from 89 countries were considered for the Right Livelihood Award. In September, we announced the four new Laureates: Marthe Wandou (Cameroon), Vladimir Slivyak (Russia), Freda Huson (of the Wet’suwet’en people, Canada), and Legal Initiative for Forest and Environment (India). They are leaders in advancing the rights of women and girls, environmental protection and reclaiming Indigenous rights through mobilising communities and empowering grassroots initiatives.

Towards the end of the year, we returned to Cirkus in Stockholm for the second time to celebrate the 2021 Laureates. The Award Presentation was also broadcast online, with 199,000 viewers in Sweden alone. Watch the recording (if you haven’t already) and find out how you can take action to support this year’s Laureates!

What is your personal highlight of the year?

Meeting the 2021 Laureates in person in Stockholm – and witnessing them meet and get to know each other.

When they were together, they realised they are fighting the same problems, even though they come from different parts of the world. For example, Ritwick Dutta, a co-founder of LIFE,  showed the others some videos he had just taken of a coal mine in India that was burning under the ground, meaning people in the area are exposed to toxic fumes 24/7. Then Vladimir Slivyak just pulled out his phone and showed us exactly the same kind of pictures from the coal mining regions in Siberia. Moments as such are a reminder that we share the same fight, regardless of where we are.

What are some of the exciting plans in the making for 2022?

While we were together with the new Laureates in Stockholm, we spent a good amount of time strategising about the next steps in our support to them. For instance, our parliamentary support group in the German Bundestag will invite Vladimir Slivyak in April – which is significant as many Germans do not even know that more than 50% of hard coal burnt in Germany comes from Russia! 

In March, we will connect Laureates with the Human Rights Council in Geneva. And the Right Livelihood Centre at the University of Zurich will host a lecture series with Laureates again in the spring. Also, we are planning a project focused on climate activism, drawing strength from the 50+ Laureates working in this context.

Then, the most exciting thing every year is to receive the new nominations. In mid-January, we will officially launch the 2022 call for nominations, but you can already nominate the change-maker that inspires you the most now on our website.

All this work would not be possible without the support of partners and donors. Do find out how you can get involved!

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