The Right Livelihood Award Foundation has announced its 2018 award laureates.
Often described as the "alternative Nobel Prize," the awards recognize the outstanding contributions of global citizens in the areas of the environment, human rights, peace, democracy, and law. Sharing an award were civil and human rights activists Abdullah al-Hamid, Mohammad Fahad al-Qahtani, and Waleed Abu al-Khair of Saudi Arabia. Currently in jail, the three were recognized "for their visionary and courageous efforts, guided by universal human rights principles, to reform the totalitarian political system in Saudi Arabia." It is the first time a Right Livelihood Award has been given to an individual(s) from Saudi Arabia. In 2013, al-Hamid and al-Qahtani were sentenced to eleven and ten years, respectively, on charges of "inciting disorder by calling for demonstrations" and "forming an unlicensed organization." In 2014, Abu al-Khair was sentenced to fifteen years for "disobeying the ruler" and "harming the reputation of the state by communicating with international organizations."
In addition, smallholder farmer Yacouba Sawadogo of Burkina Faso was recognized for his efforts to "turn barren land into forest and demonstrate how farmers can regenerate their soil with innovative use and local knowledge." Agronomist Tony Rinaudo of Australia was recognized for "demonstrating on a large scale how drylands can be greened at minimal cost, improving the livelihoods of millions of people." And anti-corruption champions Thelma Aldana of Guatemala and Iván Velásquez of Colombia were named as honorary laureates for their "innovative work in exposing abuse of power and persecuting corruption, thus rebuilding people's trust in public institutions."
The awards include a cash payout of one million Swedish Krona (more than $113,000), which must be used to support a laureate's work. The foundation describes its purpose as giving laureates a megaphone while protecting those whose life and liberty are at risk.
"The laureates' trailblazing work for accountability, democracy, and the regeneration of degraded land gives tremendous hope and deserves the world's highest attention," said Ole von Uexkull, executive director of the Right Livelihood Award Foundation. "At a time of alarming environmental decline and failing political leadership, they show the way forward into a very different future."