4 environmental, human rights activists awarded 'Alternative Nobel' prizes

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COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) — The Right Livelihood Award — known as the “Alternative Nobel” — was awarded Thursday to environment activists from Kenya and Cambodia, a human right defender from Ghana and a humanitarian group that rescues migrants in the Mediterranean Sea.

The 2023 laureates “stand up to save lives, preserve nature and safeguard the dignity and livelihoods of communities around the world,” the award foundation said, adding that they "fight for people’s right to health, safety, a clean environment and democracy.”

This year’s prize went to Phyllis Omido from Kenya and the groups Mother Nature Cambodia and SOS Mediterranee. They will share a cash prize but for security reasons its size cannot be disclosed, the award foundation said. The 2023 honorary award was given to Eunice Brookman-Amissah from Ghana.

“They care for their land and each human life connected to it: be it Indigenous communities or people risking their lives to get to safety,” Ole von Uexkull, the head of the Stockholm-based Right Livelihood foundation, said in a statement.

The Cambodian advocacy group was cited for its “fearless and engaging activism to preserve Cambodia’s natural environment in the context of a highly restricted democratic space,” while the non-profit charity that operates in international waters north of Libya was credited with carrying out “life-saving humanitarian search and rescue operations in the Mediterranean Sea.”

Kenyan grassroots environmental activist Omido received the award “for her groundbreaking struggle to secure land and environmental rights for local communities while advancing the field of environmental law,” it said.

The foundation said Brookman-Amissah was honored “for pioneering discussions on women’s reproductive rights in Africa, paving the way for liberalized abortion laws and improved safe abortion access.”

This year there were 170 nominees from 68 countries, the foundation said. It said the laureates will be recognized at an award presentation in Stockholm on Nov. 29.

Created in 1980, the annual Right Livelihood Award honors efforts that the prize founder, Swedish-German philanthropist Jakob von Uexkull, felt were being ignored by the Nobel Prizes. To date, 190 laureates from 74 countries have received the award. Ole von Uexkull is a nephew of the prize founder.

Previous winners include Ukrainian human rights defender Oleksandra Matviichuk, Congolese surgeon Denis Mukwege and Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg. Matviichuk and Mukwege received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2022 and 2018, respectively.