NEWS 2005


‘Alternative Nobel’ goes to international HR activists

Friday September 30, 2005

STOCKHOLM: The Right Livelihood prize, dubbed the "alternative" Nobel Peace Prize, was awarded on Thursday to activists from Canada, Malaysia, and Botswana for their work to promote fair trade and the rights of migrant workers and indigenous peoples.

The prize of two million Swedish kronor (257,000 dollars, 213,000 euros) will be shared by Canadian free trade defenders Maude Barlow and Tony Clarke, Malaysian migrant workers’ rights advocate Irene Fernandez, and Roy Sesana, an advocate for the rights of the Kalahari indigenous people of Botswana, the Right Livelihood Award Foundation said.

The award, established in 1980, was announced in Stockholm by its founder Jacob von Uexkull, a former member of the European parliament.

"For many people this is no longer an alternative (to the Nobel Prize), this is the new mainstream," he told reporters, emphasising that the laureates do not just offer "hope and inspiration, but actual practical support and solutions".

Barlow and Clarke won the prize "for their outstanding, world-wide work for trade justice and their recognition of the fundamental human right to water," von Uexkull said.

Fernandez, who founded an advocacy group called Tenaganita, is being honoured for her "outstanding and courageous work to stop violence against women, to stop abuses of migrants and poor workers in Malaysia."

Sesana, the founder of the First People of Kalahari, will receive the prize for his "resolute resistance against (the Kalahari people’s) eviction from their ancestral lands," von Uexkull said.

An honorary award will also be given to Mexican artist Francisco Toledo "for devoting himself and his art to the protection ... of the architectural and cultural heritage, natural environment and community life of the natives in Oaxaca," in southern Mexico.

The head of the Right Livelihood Award Foundation, Kerstin Bennett, told AFP she was especially pleased that Fernandez had won the prize. "She is a very brave woman who has continued to work for poor workers even after she was sentenced to one year in prison," she pointed out.

After publishing a report in 1995 on the abuse of migrant workers, revealing incidents of beatings, sleep deprivation, and sexual humiliation, Fernandez was arrested and charged with "maliciously publishing false news." The prizes will be awarded at the Swedish Parliament on December 9. The Nobel Peace Prize is set to be announced October 7 in Oslo.