Last week, on Thursday 27 September, Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) was awarded one of the four Right Livelihood Awards for 2012 for our “innovative and effective campaigning against the arms trade”.
Needless to say we were overjoyed about receiving the award, both for the international public recognition that it creates and the substantial cash award of 50,000 euros that comes with it. While CAAT staff had known of the award for over a week we had to stay silent as the announcement was under strict embargo. So it was a relief for us all when the Right Livelihood Awards were officially announced and we could tell the world.
Also honoured were three other recipients – Hayrettin Karaca, for his lifetime of tireless advocacy and environmental activism in Turkey, Gene Sharp of the USA, for developing, articulating and applying the principles of non-violent resistance around the world, and Sima Samar, for her long-standing dedication to human rights, especially women’s rights, in Afghanistan – the first winner from Afghanistan,CAAT has campaigned to expose and challenge the arms trade since 1974. This award honours the hard work of thousands of activists around the UK, and we hope the publicity it generates will help us get our argument across: that it is not OK for the government to promote weapons sales. We also hope the publicity the award creates will help our partners in other countries to get their message across.
Although the Right Livelihood Award Foundation is well known in Scandinavia, Germany and central Europe, it is much less known in the UK, where CAAT is based and does most of its work. So while the award received lots of media attention in these countries, its only appearance so far in the UK media has been in The Independent and The Morning Star (thanks to both).
What is the Right Livelihood Award?
So what is the award all about? The Right Livelihood Award Foundation is based in Stockholm, and honours organisations and individuals “offering practical and exemplary answers to the most urgent challenges to us today.” It is often referred to as the “Alternative Nobel Prize”.
It was founded in 1980, when the Swedish journalist and professional philatelist Jakob von Uexkull felt that the Nobel Prize categories were too narrow in scope and too focused on the interests of the industrialised countries to face new challenges. He proposed that the Nobel Foundation establish awards for ecology and for development, and offered to fund the new awards.
When the Nobel Foundation rejected his offer, he sold his stamp collection and established the Right Livelihood Award Foundation to administer his “Alternative Nobel Prizes”. Since then other donors have added to the prize fund.
Unlike the Nobel Prizes, the Right Livelihood Award has an open nomination process (anyone can nominate organisations or individuals). The shortlist and winners are decided by an international jury which considers achievements in areas of environmental protection, sustainable development, human rights, peace, health and education. Each year there are four winners, usually three individuals and an organisation. Some receive an honorary award but most also receive a cash award to help continue their work.
With the 2012 winners, the number of Right Livelihood Laureates rises to 149 from 62 countries. So far there have been nine UK winners, six individuals and three organisations. CAAT is the first UK winner since 2001, when Trident Ploughshares was honoured for their non-violent direct actions against the Trident “nuclear deterrent”. Other recipients include Carmel Budiarjo of TAPOL and Survival International. CAAT is in very good company.
The Right Livelihood Awards are presented in a formal ceremony in the Swedish Parliament, just days before the traditional Nobel Prizes. This year the presentation will take place on 7 December 2012. CAAT will be proud to be there.