31 Oct 2014: Reaching Out, Touching Lives

The award recipients have shown what can be accomplished when we have a vision. They are all examples of courage, wisdom and action.

rla-1The Right Livelihood Award was established in 1980 by German-Swedish philanthropist Jakob von Uexkull to honour and support people “offering practical and exemplary answers to the most urgent challenges facing us today”, in fields like environmental protection, human rights, sustainable development, health, education, and peace.

Because the RLA was founded indirectly as a reaction to the Nobel Award’s ‘narrow scope’, it has become popularly known as the ‘Alternative Nobel Prize’. To be fair, the RLA accords a different form of ‘prestige’ and recognition, and the Laureates come from all walks of life: they include scientists, activists, farmers, teachers, doctors, celebrities and everyday, concerned citizens.

There are now 158 Laureates from 65 countries, including three from Malaysia. One of the earliest recipients was Dato’ (Dr.) Anwar Fazal in 1982, followed by Sahabat Alam Malaysia in 1988 and the late Irene Fernandez in 2005. The biographies of all RLA recipients from 1980 to 2013 have now been documented in a book aptly titled Reaching Out, Touching Lives, Making a Difference – The Right Livelihood Way. One of the 2014 recipients, Edward Snowden, could not make the publication deadline and had to be left out. Presented annually in Stockholm at a ceremony in the Swedish Parliament, the Right Livelihood Award is usually shared by four Recipients.

rla-2In addition to the awards, the RLA also set up the Right Livelihood College in 2009 to link, share and expand the knowledge of the Laureates with young scholars, academics and civil society organisations. The RLC, headed by Dato’ (Dr.) Anwar Fazal, has seven campuses hosted at universities in Germany, Sweden, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Chile, USA and India.

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