OSLO (AFP) – The Rafto Prize, a Norwegian human rights award, was awarded to Nigerian environmentalist Nnimmo Bassey on Thursday for his campaigning on behalf of victims of climate change and environmental damage.
“Nnimmo Bassey links human rights to the climate by demonstrating how climate change has the greatest effect on the world’s most vulnerable people, the very people who have contributed least to the problem in the first place,” the Rafto Foundation said.
Heading up several environmental organisations, 54-year-old Bassey has been a vocal champion of the rights of people in the Niger Delta, a region heavily polluted by oil production.
Life expectancy in the area is only 41 years, compared with 48 years in the rest of Nigeria, the foundation noted.
“Africa needs soil, not oil,” Bassey was quoted as saying in a statement.
“By awarding its annual prize to Nnimmo Bassey, the Rafto Foundation underlines how the challenges we face regarding climate and the environment also have a human rights aspect,” the foundation said.
The winner was revealed a few hours before the official announcement due to a technical glitch that resulted in Bassey’s name being published on the foundation’s website.
The Rafto Prize, founded in 1986 and named after Thorolf Rafto, a Norwegian professor who devoted much of his life to the defense of human rights, is often given to people who are not well known to the general public.
The prize sum of $20,000 will be awarded to the winner on November 4 in Bergen in southwestern Norway.
Bassey has already won several awards, including the Sophie Prize for environment and sustainable development in 1998, Time magazine’s Heroes of the Environment Award in 2009, and the Right Livelihood Award in 2010.
Four Rafto laureates have gone on to win the Nobel Peace Prize (Aung San Suu Kyi, Jose Ramos-Horta, Kim Dae-Jung and Shirin Ebadi), which is also awarded in Norway.
This year’s Nobel Peace Prize winner will be announced on October 12.