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The 2020 Right Livelihood Awards

The Geneva Observer

December 1, 2020



This article was first published as part of our newsletter briefing sent out on Tuesday December 1, 2020. Sign up to our newsletter to get our content the moment it's published, straight in your inbox.


In the late seventies, adventurer Jakob von Uexküll paid a visit to the Nobel Foundation. He had been struck and inspired by the fact that everywhere he went, often working in difficult circumstances, some extraordinary people were courageously overcoming challenges to make the world a better place. In 1969, the Nobel Prize in Economics was created and von Uexküll thought the Nobel Foundation might be willing to creating a prize for environment and poverty. The scope of the Nobel Prizes, he thought, was too restrictive. A more holistic approach was needed. The Nobel Foundation turned him down. Honouring and supporting “people solving global problems,” in 1980, The Right Livelihood Awards were born from that rejection. Jakob von Uexküll created his own foundation and started the awards 40 years ago in Stockholm. Supported since 2007 by a Swiss-based Foundation and by the Swiss Government, the RLA opened its Geneva office in 2015, a natural move as many of its laureates regularly engage with International Geneva. “We honour and support courageous people solving global problems.”

The 2020 Right Livelihood Laureates © Right Livelihood Foundation & Anna Albert

The 2020 Right Livelihood laureates are:

  • Lottie Cunningham-Wren: In Nicaragua and beyond, ignoring frequent threats on her life, she has fought for strengthening indigenous land rights and to advance the rights of women within indigenous communities.

  • Brian Stevenson: In the US, Stevenson has dedicated his life to the pursuit of racial equality and to the abolition of the death penalty.

  • Alex Bialiatski: For almost 25 years, Alex Bialiatski has campaigned for democracy and freedom in Belarus.

  • Nasrin Sotoudeh: Iranian human rights lawyer, Nasrin Sotoudeh, has advocated for the rule of law and the rights of political prisoners, opposition activists and politicians, women and children. She has been imprisoned frequently since 2010. In 2019 she was sentenced to 38 years and 148 lashes. With #StandUp4Nasrin, RLA and Pen America have organized an online campaign demanding her permanent release from jail.

The 2020 Right Livelihood Award Ceremony will be streamed on December 3