Nnimmo Bassey, executive director of the Health of Mother Earth Foundation and a global environmental activist, will receive the 2024 Wallenberg Medal from the University of Michigan on Tuesday, September 10th in Ann Arbor. Event details will be announced in the coming months. 

Nnimmo Bassey is an architect, director of the Nigeria-based ecological think-tank, Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF), and 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. Bassey has received honorary doctorate degrees from 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. 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,” said Sioban Harlow, Professor Emerita of Epidemiology and Global Public Health and chair of the Wallenberg Medal Executive Committee. “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.”

The Wallenberg Medal and Lecture honors the legacy of Raoul Wallenberg who graduated from U-M’s College of Architecture in 1935 and saved the lives of tens of thousands of Hungarian Jews near the end of World War II. In 1944, at the request of Jewish organizations and the American War Refugee Board, the Swedish Foreign Ministry sent Wallenberg on a rescue mission to Budapest. Over the course of six months, Wallenberg issued thousands of protective passports and placed many thousands of Jews in safe houses throughout the besieged city. He confronted Hungarian and German forces to secure the release of Jews, whom he claimed were under Swedish protection, and saved more than 80,000 lives. 

Administered by the Donia Human Rights Center, U-M awards the Wallenberg Medal to those who, through their actions and personal commitment, perpetuate Wallenberg’s extraordinary accomplishments and human values, and demonstrate the capacity of the human spirit to stand up for the helpless, to defend the integrity of the powerless, and to speak out on behalf of the voiceless. Recent Wallenberg Medal recipients include Lucas Benitez, a co-founder of the Florida-based labor and human rights organization the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (2023); Safa Al Ahmad, Saudi Arabian journalist and documentary filmmaker (2019); March For Our Lives of Parkland, Florida and The B.R.A.V.E. Youth Leaders of Chicago (2018); and Bryan Stevenson, founder of the Equal Justice Initiative (2017). Notable medal recipients over the past 30 years include Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Miep Gies, John Lewis, Masha Gessen, Elie Wiesel, Denis Mukwege, and His Holiness Tenzin Gyatso, Fourteenth Dalai Lama of Tibet.

The 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. 

Housed within the International Institute’s Donia Human Rights Center, the Wallenberg Medal and Lecture is supported by the Wallenberg Endowment, which was established in 1985. The  Donia Human Rights Center is a forum for intellectual exchange on issues around human rights among scholars, practitioners, students, and the broader public. We aim to promote deeper understanding of human rights issues in the contemporary world and to equip our constituents with the tools to tackle challenging human rights problems around the world. The International Institute brings together distinguished and diverse faculty and scholars with deep area studies and international expertise to enrich the university’s intellectual environment and provide the U-M community with the knowledge, tools, and experience to become informed and active global citizens. We advance this mission through education, engagement, and innovation.