Winners gather to receive Right Livelihood Prize

The Right Livelihood prize, the so-called 'alternative Nobel prizes', was set to be awarded on Friday evening in Stockholm to peace and environmental activists from Sri Lanka, Kenya, Canada and Bangladesh.

The award ceremony, timed to coincide with the start of Nobel festivities, was due to start at 6pm on Friday at Sweden’s parliament. The ceremony is hosted by an all-party committee of Swedish parliamentarians.

One recipient of the two million Swedish kronor ($310,000) prize is Sri Lankan Christopher Weeramantry, a former Vice-President of the International Court of Justice. He was praised for his “groundbreaking work to strengthen and expand the rule of international law.”

Dekha Ibrahim Abdi, a ‘global peacemaker’ from Kenya is being awarded the prize for her “effective peace work and conflict resolution” in many divided countries. A practicing Muslim, she was praised by the prize committee for her work in encouraging dialogue between faiths.

Percy and Louise Schmeiser of Canada were set to be awarded the prize for their battle against US seed giant Monsanto. The Schmeisers, farmers from Saskatchewan, had been accused by Monsanto of using the company’s seeds without a licence. The couple claimed that they never intended to use the company’s seeds, but that they had blown over from their neighbours’ land or from passing trucks. Monsanto claimed $400,000 in compensation from the couple, leading to a long series of court cases that is still continuing.

The prize committee said the Schmeisers had given the world “a wake-up call about the dangers to farmers and biodiversity everywhere from the growing dominance and market aggression of companies engaged in the genetic engineering of crops.”

Grameen Shakti, a company in Bangladesh, was awarded the prize for showing “that solar

energy applications can be scaled up massively and rapidly to provide an affordable and climate-friendly energy option for the rural poor”.

The award, established in 1980, was announced in Stockholm by its founder Jacob von Uexkull, a former member of the European parliament. It is awarded to people “offering practical and exemplary answers to the most urgent challenges facing us today”.

Prizewinners are chosen from a shortlist of 70-100 nominees by an international jury composed largely of senior figures in major non-governmental organizations (NGOs).