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Four activists share 2009 'Alternative Nobel'

world Updated: Oct 13, 2009 16:56 IST

Four activists were Tuesday named co-winners of the 2009 Right Livelihood Award, or so-called "Alternative Nobel", for their work in campaigning against nuclear weapons, protecting the rain forests of Congo and raising awareness about climate change.

Alyn Ware of New Zealand, Rene Ngongo of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and David Suzuki of Canada share the award with Australian-born physician Catherine Hamlin who for 50 years has helped treat women in Ethiopia suffering from obstetric fistula.

Ware, Ngongo and Hamlin were each to receive 50,000 euros ($73,000) in cash while Suzuki was to receive an honorary prize.

Swedish-German philanthropist Jakob von Uexkull created the prize in 1980 "to honour and support those offering practical and exemplary answers to the most urgent challenges facing us today".

The awards, which are not connected to the Nobel Prizes that were endowed by Swedish industrialist Alfred Nobel, are to be presented at a ceremony in the Swedish parliament Dec 4.

The jury said the 2009 winners have shown "concretely what has to be done in order to tackle climate change, rid the world of nuclear weapons and provide crucial medical treatment to the poor and marginalised".

In all 82 candidates from 46 countries were nominated this year.

Ware was cited by the jury for his role in promoting peace work in New Zealand, including drafting peace study guidelines that became part of the school curriculum. In 2002, he co-founded the Parliamentarians for Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament (PNND).

Ngongo has since 1994 braved threats to expose "destructive mining and logging" operations that threaten the rain forest that play a key role in the global climate system, the jury said.

"We hope the award will help protect Ngongo," said Ole von Uekkull, director of the Right Livelihood Award Foundation said.

Suzuki was cited for promoting the "socially responsible use of science" and raising awareness about climate change.

Hamlin has helped restore "the health, hope and dignity of thousands of Africa's poorest women," according to the jury.

The 2008 award was shared by Monika Hauser, founder German-based group of Medica Mondiale that has worked with women and girls in war and post-war conflict zones, Krishnammal and Sankaralingam Jagannathan of India and their organisation Land for the Tillers' Freedom (LAFTI), US journalist Amy Goodman who founded the daily grassroots global TV/radio news hour Democracy Now!, and Asha Hagi of Somalia who gave women a voice in the peace process in Somalia.