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Alternative Nobel Prize awarded

Richard ConnorNovember 30, 2015

Winners of this year's Alternative Nobel Prize have been honored. Awards went to advocates of two communities threatened by climate change, as well as a gay rights campaigner and an Italian surgeon working in war zones.

Sheila Watt Cloutier Porträt
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/S.Lowe

Right Livelihood Award 2015

As the Paris climate change conference was underway, advocates of two of the world's worst-affected communities were honored in a ceremony at the Swedish parliament on Monday. "We are here tonight to celebrate visionary and exemplary solutions that offer practical hope for a better tomorrow," said Founder President of the Right Livelihood Award, Jakob von Uexkull.

"Our laureates' work has truly global ramifications and this year's award recipients are no different."

Marshall Islands Foreign Minister Tony de Brum was one of the four winners of this year's Right Livelihood Award, also known as the "Alternative Nobel Prize." The people of the Marshall Islands were joint recipients.

De Brum spoke in person, addressing threats past and present to his home archipelago, which was once the site of US weapons testing and which is now particularly vulnerable to the threat of rising sea levels.

"The Marshall Islands is a low-lying nation, with an average height of little more than two meters (6.5 feet) above sea level. Atolls are often so narrow that one can stand on the lagoon side and look clearly across to the ocean side where waves break."

Canada's Shiela Watt-Cloutier (pictured above), recognized as one of the foremost advocates for the right of Arctic Inuit people, also scooped an award. The former Inuit Circumpolar Council president was recognized for a lifetime of work about the human impact of climate change, including a 2015 book "The Right to Be Cold."

"The meaning I take from this, is that my on-going life's work on protecting Inuit culture and the Arctic's environment as it relates to the rest of the world is timeless," said Watt-Cloutier in an acceptance statement.

Kasha Jacqueline Nabagesera was also awarded the prize as "one of the most courageous and outspoken human rights activists in Africa." For years, Nabagesera has campaigned for the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people in Uganda, which ranks among the world's most homophobic nations.

Meanwhile, Italian surgeon Gino Strada picked up the award for his work providing medical and surgical services to injured people in war zones from Afghanistan to Sudan. Emergency, the organization that he cofounded in 1994, runs more than 60 hospitals worldwide.

Among past winners of the awards is US whistleblower and former intelligence contractor Edward Snowden.

The prize was established in 1980 by German-Swedish philanthropist Jakob von Uexkull, with accolades presented annually. Awards - decided by an international panel - are given to pioneers in fields such as environmental protection, human rights, sustainable development, health, education and peace.