Journey to Geneva: The Nansen Refugee Award
Hi there! My name is Rebecca and I’ve just joined the Artisan & Fox team here in their London office. I’ll be updating the blog from time to time and you’ll also be hearing from me on Instagram stories.
This week, I was lucky enough to fly to Geneva, Switzerland to meet with our friends at UNHCR as well as attend the Nansen Refugee Award Ceremony! It was a whirlwind of a trip, complete with the opportunity to learn more about the UNHCR mission to help refugee artisans as well as a chance to explore Geneva.
So…what is the Nansen Refugee Award?
The Nansen Refugee Award is a prestigious award granted by UNHCR to honour the exceptional work from individuals, groups, and organisations who go above-and-beyond to improve and protect the lives of refugees, displaced and stateless people.
The award is named after Norwegian scientist and explorer Fridjtof Nansen. A key member of the League of Nations, Nansen recognised the effect of migration and conflict on national identities. The Nansen Award honours his legacy in fighting for the marginalised and under-represented in our society.
Who won the Nansen Award this year?
This year’s recipient is Azizbek Ashurov, a human rights lawyer, who has fought to end statelessness in the Kyrgyz Republic.
The dissolution of the Soviet Union led to widespread statelessness in the region as borders and countries were formed suddenly. People who had previously travelled freely throughout the region now found themselves without proper documentation, denying them access to basic rights and services. Ashurov faced obstacles as well in obtaining Kyrgyz national papers after migrating from Uzbekistan.
In 2003, Azizbek Ashurov co-founded Ferghana Valley Lawyers Without Borders (FVLWB), with the intention to provide free legal advice and assistance to people in Kyrgyzstan.
They formed mobile teams to provide free legal assistance to vulnerable groups in remote areas. Ashurov and his team even travelled around on horseback to ensure that everyone was included in their mission.
As a result of Ashurov’s hard work and determination, statelessness in Kyrgyzstan has now been completely eradicated. Over 10,000 people have become Kyrgyz citizens through Ashurov’s efforts: this means that men and women can access basic services and apply for jobs. Children now have the opportunity to study in school.
Ashurov was presented his Award from UNHCR High Commissioner, Filippo Grandi. As Ashurov said in his acceptance speech, the award is a “symbol of hope,” for the stateless people around the world.
“The difficult takes a little time... the impossible takes a little longer.” - Fridjtof Nansen
The Nansen Award Ceremony was graciously hosted by UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Leanne Manas. The event featured various musical performances: poetry sung by Babak Ghaseem and Usama Elyas to a beautiful ballad on the hardship of leaving behind a loved one in Venezuela from Danny Ocean.
The Nansen Refugee Award serves as a reminder of the exceptional work by artists and people coming together to create a better world. To date, there are over 10 million stateless people left in the world, living behind in the shadows.
We are proud to partner with an organisation like UNHCR for their mission in improving the lives of refugees around the world. To learn more about the UNHCR campaign to end statelessness, read here.