The Gulbenkian Prizes – winners 2017

18 jul 2017

The Calouste Gulbenkian 2017 Prize, with the sum of 100,000 euros, is ex-aequo awarded to the Hungarian Helsinki Committee, a non-governmental organisation that provides legal support to migrants and refugees in Hungary and to Professor Jane McAdam, an influential Australian researcher in the field of law. The two winners divide this award between them in the light of their invaluable respective contributions towards defending human rights, in particular those of refugees.

As regards the national winners of the Gulbenkian 2017 Prize, in the categories of KnowledgeSustainability and Cohesion, they respectively are: the Portuguese Mathematics Society, ADVIDthe Association of Douro Valley Viticulture Development and the Artistic Musical Society of Pousos. The three Award categories (50,000 euros each) correspond to the priority fields in which the Foundation is intervening in the next few years.

The prizes are to be awarded at a ceremony presided over by the President of the Republic, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, taking place in the Open Air Amphitheatre, on Calouste Gulbenkian Day, 20 July, at 6pm, at an event culminating with a concert by the Gulbenkian Orchestra conducted by the maestro José Eduardo Gomes featuring works by Ludwig van Beethoven and Jennifer Higdon. At 9.30 pm, the fado singer Gisela João takes to the stage of the Foundation’s Grand Auditorium for a concert that also commemorates the closing of the Jardim de Verão program. Entrance is free for both performances subject to collecting a ticket and the seating available.


Calouste Gulbenkian Prize  – Human Rights

Dedicated this year to recognising worthy actions in defence of refugees, the Calouste Gulbenkian 2017 Prize distinguishes the Hungarian Helsinki Committee for the “unique and exemplary” character of this organisation that provides regular and free legal assistance to asylum seekers, refugees and stateless persons in Hungary. Founded in 1989 with the mission to defend human dignity, this organisation, according to the Prize jury, has served as the “voice of refugees”, as well as the “loudest critical voice of the illegal and inhuman policies” put into practice in Hungary. Assisting refugees, detainees and victims of police violence “in a profoundly adverse panorama”, this organisation represents an “incentive for resistance by the civil society of that country”.

The work of this organisation led to the opening of two infraction processes by the European Commission against Hungary for violating EU legislation on asylum related issues as well as various extremely critical declarations from the European Parliament, the Council of Europe and the United Nations.

In 2004, with the support of academic specialists, this organisation launched the “Refugee Law Reader”, the only existing online database with complex tools for supporting the teaching of refugee law and which provides access to the specialist literature on international refugee law as well as program models and methodological support tools for teachers and educators.


Statement by Hungarian Helsinki Committee:

“The Hungarian Helsinki Committee is profoundly honoured to be awarded the prestigious Calouste Gulbenkian Prize in Human Rights. For us, the prize is an important encouragement to continue our 25-year old tradition of being a leading voice for the right to seek asylum and human rights protection in Hungary, even in an increasingly xenophobic environment and growing political pressure on independent civil society. Where those whose duty is to offer protection willfully turn their back on human rights and on people fleeing war and terror, human rights defenders must courageously stand up for these fundamental values and for the most vulnerable. The prize will enable us our strengthen our long-term capacities to continue our work for upholding human rights and refugee rights in Hungary and beyond”.

The jury also decided to recognise the contributions made by Jane McAdam towards improving the life of thousands of refugees and migrants, highlighting the scope and impact of the ideas of this young lawyer who runs the Kaldor Centre of International Refugee Law at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, with practical effects on the legislation, on the jurisprudence and on the policies applied in the field. The research of this international law award winner, according to the jury, has proven fundamental to the “creation of safe, lasting and legal solutions” in response to current questions and complex issues in forced migration, such as “those left homeless by the impacts of climate change and natural disasters”. In 2011, Jane McAdam undertook a research study on these matters for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), and was also closely involved with the most significant international project in this field: “The Nansen Initiative on Disaster-Induced Cross-Border Displacement”, which has now transformed into the “Platform on Disaster Displacement”. In 2016, she was commissioned by UNHCR to create recommendations for its institutional strategy on climate change and those left homeless by natural disasters. Her research on the protection of persons facing serious human rights abuses (for example, torture), has had repercussions throughout civil society and led to major reform in Australian law.


Statement by Jane McAdam:

“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.”

Chaired by Jorge Sampaio, the Calouste Gulbenkian Prize jury is made up of the following national and international dignitaries; Emílio Rui Vilar, José Ramos Horta, Demetrios G. Papademetriou, Michel Sidibé, Jody Williams and Asma Jahangir.

The Calouste Gulbenkian Prize was awarded for the very first time in 2012 to the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, the formation led by Daniel Barenboim, having in the following years gone respectively to the Alexandria Library (2013), the Community of Sant’Egidio (2014), Denis Mukwege (2015), the Congolese doctor who has dedicated his life to tending to victims of rape in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Sustainable Amazonas Foundation (2016).


National Prizes – Knowledge, Sustainability and Cohesion

Underlying the jury’s decision to award the Gulbenkian Prize for the field of Knowledge to the Portuguese Mathematics Society, is the Maths Olympiads, a benchmark education initiative with a major national impact and that has been continuously promoting this field for the last three decades. Organised since 1983, in an increasingly “broad and solid” fashion, according to the jury, this initiative has proven able to get tens of thousands of primary and secondary students into contact with mathematics “in a stimulating and creative environment”. The jury also highlighted the fact that these Olympiads provided precious opportunities for teachers to develop in their students, in parallel with classes, “a more profound interest in this subject” thereby also enabling the identification of young talents in this area.

In the field of Sustainability, the efforts undertaken by ADVID – the Association for the Development of Douro Valley Viticulture to reduce the ecological footprint of its wine producing members drew applause from the Gulbenkian Prize jury. ADVID brings together 175 wine companies from the Douro demarcated region and works in partnership with 75 academic, public and business association entities. The projects and studies that the association has brought about within the scope of these partnership has contributed, the jury emphasised, to the “sustainable development of viniculture”. With sustainability serving as a constant criteria, the jury highlighted the projects and studies related to soil conservation, the rational usage of phytopharmaca and fertilisers, means of integrated and organic production, the mitigation of climate change impacts, the preservation of biodiversity and the fostering of a circular economy alongside eco-efficiency. 

Finally, in the Cohesion area, the jury awarded the prize to the Artistic Musical Society of Pousos, an institution with 143 years of history that develops projects within the field of social integration through art. The jury highlighted “the originality, the consistency and the innovative character” of its actions with a particular highlight for programs dedicated to the elderly, ranging from musical therapy for persons with Alzheimer’s or in need of palliative care through to musical engagement in the community. The jury emphasised the New Springs programs, which offer artistic experiences, enjoyment and practice for teams of two professionals that regularly visit elderly homes, day centres and accompanying domestic care services; Here With You, designed for persons facing terminal diagnoses; and Stage in Home, short concerts for elderly persons living alone in rural territories.

One of the projects developed by this Society received support from the Gulbenkian Foundation under the auspices of its Partis Program. This was the Opera in Prison program that involved inmates at the Regional Prison of Leiria who, conducted by the Society’s artistic director, Paulo Lameiro, participated in a production of the opera Don Giovanni by Mozart, which culminated in an unforgettable performance on the Grand Auditorium stage last summer.

The jury for the national prizes features leading figures from various different areas of national life. Presided over by António Feijó, sitting on the jury are Henrique LeitãoMiguel TamenJoão FerrãoPaula Guimarães, Teresa Mendes and Sofia Guedes Vaz.


Read more




Márta  Pardavi
Hungarian Helsinki Committee co-chair


Centre for International Refugee Law, UNSW

Lauren Martin
Communications Officer
[email protected]   

Cookies settings

Cookies Selection

This website uses cookies to improve your browsing experience, security, and its website performance. We may also use cookies to share information on social media and to display messages and advertisements personalised to your interests, both on our website and in others.