Nnimmo Bassey Wins 2024 Wallenberg Medal

The University of Michigan in the United States of America has announced Nigerian environmental leader, architect and poet, Nnimmo Bassey as the recipient of the 2024 Wallenberg Medal.

Nnimmo Bassey, the executive director of the Health of Mother Earth Foundation, will become the first Nigerian and the fifth African to receive such an honour, following in the footsteps of Paul Rusesabagina from Rwanda, and Denis Mukwege from the Congo.

The Wallenberg Medal is awarded to outstanding humanitarians whose dedicated efforts on behalf of the vulnerable and oppressed mirror the heroic commitment and sacrifice demonstrated by Raoul Wallenberg.

Wallenberg, a Swedish diplomat, saved tens of thousands of Jews in Budapest during the final months of World War II.

Previous recipients of the award include the 14th Dalai Lama, Romanian American Nobel Laurette and holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel; American politician and civil rights activist John Robert Lewis and Burmese Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, among others.

Bassey will receive the Wallenberg Medal as the 30th global recipient and deliver the Wallenberg Lecture on September 10 in Ann Arbor City, Michigan.

The university, in a statement, said event details would be announced in the coming months.

Apart from being a director of the ecological think-tank and a multiple award winner, Bassey is also a member of the steering committee of Oilwatch International, a network resisting the expansion of fossil fuel extraction in the Global South. He chaired Friends of the Earth International (2008-2012), was a co-recipient of the 2010 Right Livelihood Award, also known as the “Alternative Nobel Prize,” and received the Rafto Human Rights Prize in 2012.

Nnimmo Bassey received honorary doctorate degrees from the University of York (UK) in 2019 and from York University (Canada) in 2023. Bassey’s books include To Cook a Continent: Destructive Extraction and The Climate Crisis in Africa and Oil Politics: Echoes of Ecological War. His poetry collections include “We Thought It Was Oil But It Was Blood (1998), I Will Not Dance to Your Beat (2010), and I See the Invisible (2024).”

As an architect, poet, writer, and human rights advocate, Nnimmo Bassey works to address root cause issues driving climate migration, environmental and social impacts of extractive production, and hunger in the Niger Delta.

According to Sioban Harlow, Professor Emerita of Epidemiology and Global Public Health and chair of the Wallenberg Medal Executive Committee:

“His commitment to socio-ecological justice connects large-scale issues of climate change, exploitation of natural resources, and political/corporate intransigence to the lives of individuals in the Niger Delta and beyond.

Just as Raoul Wallenberg trained as an architect at the University of Michigan before bringing his multifaceted skills to humanitarian work, Bassey’s background as an architect undergirds his environmental leadership.”

According to the organisers, the 2024 Wallenberg Medal and Lecture ceremony “is free and open to the public. Tickets are not required. Please direct any inquiries about the event and requests for event accessibility accommodations to wallenberglecture@umich.edu or 734-936-3973.”

Meanwhile, Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa (CAPPA) has congratulated, Bassey on the well-deserved recognition.

Akinbode Oluwafemi, Executive Director of CAPPA, said:

“This award is yet another proof of Dr. Nnimmo Bassey’s phenomenal impact and global excellence. CAPPA, together with a long list of environmental advocates in Nigeria, Africa, and around the world, is excited to celebrate this recognition. We doubly testify of Dr. Bassey’s pristine work and relentless pursuit of environmental justice and accountability, even in the face of formidable challenges.”

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