UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, announced on Tuesday 28 November 2023 that Abdullahi Mire – a former refugee and journalist who has championed the right to education while putting 100,000 books in the hands of refugee children in Kenya – will be the UNHCR Nansen Refugee Award’s 2023 global laureate.

“Abdullahi Mire is living proof that transformative ideas can spring from within displaced communities,” said Filippo Grandi, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. “He has shown great resourcefulness and tenacity in strengthening the quality of refugee education.”

Born in Somalia, Mire grew up in the Dadaab refugee camps in Kenya. He was eventually resettled to Norway, but a yearning to serve his community drew him back. He found work in Kenya as a journalist and set up the Refugee Youth Education Hub, a refugee-led organization that has opened three libraries in the camps – stocked with donated books – and expanded learning opportunities for tens of thousands of displaced children and youth.

“The win is not for me alone,” said Mire, 36. “It is for all the volunteers I work with… It is for the children in the schools.”

Several regional winners will also be honoured this year:

•   Elizabeth Moreno Barco (Americas): a human rights defender who advocates for communities affected by armed internal conflict in Colombia;

•   Asia Al-Mashreqi (Middle East & North Africa): founder and chairperson of the Sustainable Development Foundation, which has assisted nearly 2 million individuals in Yemen affected by conflict;

•   Abdullah Habib, Sahat Zia Hero, Salim Khan and Shahida Win (Asia-Pacific): four Rohingya storytellers documenting the experiences of stateless Rohingya refugees; and

•   Lena Grochowska and Władysław Grochowski (Europe): a Polish couple whose hotel chain and foundation provide shelter and training to refugees.

The awards will be presented at a ceremony in Geneva on 13 December at the Global Refugee Forum 2023. Hosted by journalist Ann Curry, the event will showcase the winners’ work and feature performances by Lous and the Yakuza, MIYAVI and Ricky Kej. It will also be livestreamed.

The awards are made possible through support from the Governments of Norway and Switzerland, IKEA Foundation, and the City and Canton of Geneva. They are named after the Norwegian explorer, scientist, diplomat and humanitarian Fridtjof Nansen.