COPENHAGEN – The former attorney general of Guatemala and the head of an international anti-corruption commission were named on Monday as the winners of the prestigious Right Livelihood Award, popularly known as the “Alternative Nobel Prize.”
The jury honored Guatemala’s ex-top prosecutor, Thelma Aldana, and Colombian jurist Ivan Velasquez, who has headed the CICIG since 2013, for what it described as their tireless work against corruption.
Aldana and Velasquez won the 2018 Honorary Award – which does not carry a cash prize – “for their innovative work in exposing abuse of power and prosecuting corruption, thus rebuilding people’s trust in public institutions,” the Right Livelihood Award Foundation said in a press release.
The investigations launched by Aldana and Velasquez have resulted in more than 60 indictments and the arrests of Guatemala’s former president, Otto Perez Molina, and his vice president, Roxana Baldetti.
Aldana now lives outside the country out of fears for her personal safety, while Velasquez has been banned from entering the Central American nation by the current president, Jimmy Morales.
The foundation’s executive director, Ole von Uexkull, and board and jury member Amelie von Zweigbergk announced the winners of the Honorary Award plus three additional cash awards worth 1 million Swedish Krona ($113,870) during a press conference at the Swedish ministry of affairs’ headquarters in Stockholm.
The cash awards were given to three Saudi jailed human rights defenders, a farmer from Burkina Faso and an Australian agronomist.
Abdullah al-Hamid, Mohammad Fahad al-Qahtani and Waleed Abu al-Khair, lawyers at the Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association (ACPRA), have been sentenced to 10-15 years in prison for their advocacy for universal human rights and calls for political reform in the absolute Middle Eastern monarchy.
Yacouba Sawadogo, a Burkinabe farmer in the arid Sahel region, was awarded “for turning barren land into forest and demonstrating how farmers can regenerate their soil with innovative use of indigenous and local knowledge,” after transforming almost 40 hectares of desert into a diverse forest.
Tony Rinaudo, an agricultural scientist from Australia known by his nickname of “the forest maker,” was recognized for his innovative efforts to fight deforestation in Africa by creating underground tree root networks.
“The laureates’ trailblazing work for accountability, democracy and the regeneration of degraded land gives tremendous hope and deserves the world’s highest attention,” Von Uexkull said. “At a time of alarming environmental decline and failing political leadership, they show the way forward into a very different future.”