The Right Livelihood Award, widely known as the ‘Alternative Nobel Prize’ goes to five human rights activists this year. Among them is Aminatou Haidar of the Western Sahara.
Ms. Haidar receives the Right Livelihood Award “for her steadfast nonviolent action, despite imprisonment and torture, in pursuit of justice and self-determination for the people of Western Sahara”, according to organizers of the event in Stockholm, Sweden this week.
It is the first time that a Right Livelihood Award goes to a Laureate from Western Sahara.
Aminatou Haidar commented:
“I feel very honored to receive the renowned Right Livelihood Award. This is a recognition of my non-violent struggle and the just cause of the Sahrawi people. Despite military occupation and violations of fundamental human rights, they continue their peaceful struggle. The Sahrawis deserve to be supported by all so that, one day, they will achieve independence and freedom.”
Aminatou Haidar was born in El-Ayoun in July 1967 when Western Sahara was under Spanish colonial rule. Only two years earlier, the UN General Assembly adopted its first resolution on Western Sahara requesting Spain to decolonize the disputed territory. In the following years, the UN General Assembly repeatedly requested Spain to organize a referendum on self-determination, under UN supervision. In the meantime, the neighbouring countries Morocco and Mauritania claimed the territory.
The indigenous people of Western Sahara, the Sahrawis, have repeatedly been promised the right to self-determination by the UN, Spain and Morocco. But more than 40 years have passed without a referendum being held, with the international community indifferent or even complicit in the occupation.
The four other awards went to Guo Jianmei (China), Greta Thunberg (Sweden) and Davi Kopenawa / Hutukara Yanomami Association (Brazil).
The Right Livelihood Award was established in 1980 to “honor and support courageous people solving global problems”. It has become widely known as the ‘Alternative Nobel Prize’ and there are now 178 Laureates from 70 countries. It comes with a substantial monetary award.