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Lauren Martin
Andrew & Renata Kaldor Centre for International Refugee Law
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The Director of the Andrew & Renata Kaldor Centre for International Refugee Law at UNSW, Scientia Professor Jane McAdam, is the first Australian to be awarded the prestigious 2017 Calouste Gulbenkian Prize, sharing the prize of 100,000 Euros with the Hungarian Helsinki Committee.

Professor McAdam’s work has been fundamental to the creation of safe, lasting and legal solutions to complex contemporary challenges in forced migration, including responding to “those left homeless by the impacts of climate change and natural disasters”, according to the Calouste Gulbenkian Prize jury, chaired by former President of Portugal Jorge Sampaio.

Her pioneering work on climate change and disaster-related displacement has been transformative, the jury found, citing her 2011 and 2016 studies for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and her leading involvement with the most significant international project in this field, the Nansen Initiative on Disaster-Induced Cross-Border Displacement, now the Platform on Disaster Displacement.

Likewise, Professor McAdam’s research on the protection of individuals facing serious human rights abuses (for example, torture) has had repercussions throughout civil society and led to major reform in Australian law, the jury noted.

There are few greater challenges facing the international community today than how to provide safe, durable and legal solutions for refugees and other forced migrants.

In awarding the Prize to an Australian for the first time, the jury highlighted the global scope and impact of Professor McAdam’s ideas, saying their practical effect on legislation, jurisprudence and policy had led to better lives for thousands of refugees and migrants.

Professor McAdam shares the Prize with the Hungarian Helsinki Committee, an organisation that serves as the voice of refugees as well as the “loudest critical voice of the illegal and inhuman policies” put into practice in Hungary, the jury said.

Professor McAdam said: “It is an extraordinary honour to have been selected as the joint recipient of the 2017 Calouste Gulbenkian Prize for Human Rights. There are few greater challenges facing the international community today than how to provide safe, durable and legal solutions for refugees and other forced migrants. With more than 65 million people worldwide displaced from their homes as a result of persecution, conflict and human rights abuses, and another 25 million displaced by the adverse effects of disasters and climate change, we urgently need positive, lasting solutions to ensure that people can live in safety and with dignity.”

The Calouste Gulbenkian Prize was first awarded in 2012 to the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, co-founded by Argentine-Israeli conductor Daniel Barenboim. Winners since then have been the Alexandria Library (2013), the Community of Sant’Egidio (2014), Denis Mukwege, a Congolese doctor who has dedicated his life to tending to rape victims in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (2015), and the Sustainable Amazonas Foundation (2016).

The 2017 jury, comprising Emílio Rui Vilar, José Ramos Horta, Demetrios G Papademetriou, Michel Sidibé, Jody Williams and Asma Jahangir as well as President Sampaio, also awarded national prizes (50,000 Euros each) in the categories of Knowledge, Sustainability, and Cohesion, which went respectively to: the Portuguese Mathematics Society, the Association of Douro Valley Viticulture Development (ADVID), and the Artistic Musical Society of Pousos.

The awards were presented by the President of the Portuguese Republic, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa at a gala ceremony and concert in Lisbon overnight Australian time.

The prizes honour Calouste Gulbenkian, an oil industry pioneer, art collector, diplomat and philanthropist, whose path, from his childhood in Istanbul to the latter years of his life in Lisbon, shaped his personality and influenced the Foundation he created in Portugal, now a Portuguese institution.

The Andrew & Renata Kaldor Centre for International Refugee Law at UNSW is the world’s first and only research centre dedicated to the study of international refugee law. The Centre was founded in October 2013 to undertake rigorous research and contribute to public policy involving the most pressing displacement issues in Australia, the Asia-Pacific region and the world.