The four winners of the sixth annual Ockenden International Prizes for refugee projects were IPSDI Burundi, Health Equity Initiatives, Malaysia, Safe Passage UK, and Taawon, Lebanon.

Each winner received GBP25,000, rewarding and recognizing innovative work that has promoted self-reliance among refugees and internally displaced people (IDPs) – the hallmark of Ockenden International since its inception in 1951. More than 50 projects were entered from 27 nationalities, working with refugees and IDPs in 43 countries. The four winning projects are from Burundi, Malaysia, Lebanon and the United Kingdom.

From Burundi, land-locked in east Africa between Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and the DRC, comes the Initiative for Promoting Rural Health and Integrated Development (IPSDI). This project addresses the well-being of ‘returnees’, people who have come back to their ancestral lands after fleeing the genocides of 1993. The very local project is working in two Burundi communes in the provinces of Bubanza and Cibitoke. The judges commended “the local response to local needs of IDP/returnees in a challenging place”.

In Malaysia, Health Equity Initiatives, won for its enterprising Kiang Valley-based mental health well-being project that trains selected refugees and asylum seekers as Community Health Workers. The judges applauded a “constructive approach to the often neglected mental health issues among refugees/IDPs and training of health workers”.

Safe Passage, a Citizens UK project, operates in France, Greece, Italy, Belgium and the UK. It works across European borders, opening routes to enable refugee children from displacement camps and detention centres to reach safe places where they can lead a full and productive life. The judges said: “It is an important initiative in a politically-resistant, post-Brexit referendum environment”. A ‘just do it’ attitude, using legal means, practical advocacy and mentorship to unite child refugees with their families in Europe and help with resettlement was also highlighted.

The Lebanon Branch of Taawon (Welfare Association), won for LIFE: Learn I Inspire I Focus I Engage. This project is focused on skills education for Palestinian children refugees struggling against second-class citizenship and the exclusion from social, political and economic life entailed in getting by in Lebanon. The judges said: “A successful skills education program for the largely excluded Palestinian refugee community struggling – socially, politically and economically – in Lebanon”.

The annual prizes are open to projects or programmes focused on IDP/refugee self-reliance anywhere in the world. Ten initiatives, operational in 15 countries, were shortlisted for this year’s Prizes. They operate in a range of areas including agriculture and food security, education and community-learning, livelihoods and employment support, advocacy and legal assistance, and psycho-social support. They are working with a variety of displaced populations (including refugees and asylum-seekers, internally displaced, environmentally displaced and returnees) to improve the lives of more than 40,000 people in Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America and the Middle East.

The other finalists, their projects and project locations:

Project / Theme
Community Learning Hubs
Kenya / Uganda
Xavier Project
Building refugees’ self-resilience through vocational training and income-generation initiatives
Combating hunger and building resilience within poor and vulnerable IDP communities in West Darfur State
Concern Worldwide
Livelihoods Programme for migrant people
Colombia-Ecuador border
Misión Scalabriniana Ecuador
Future Forest Project
Green Asia Network

The 2018 judges were:

  • Michael Buerk, Broadcaster (chair)
  • Dr. Dawn Chatty, Emerita Professor of Anthropology and Forced Migration, Oxford and former director of the Refugee Studies Centre, 2011-2014
  • Dr. Georgia Cole, Joyce Pearce Junior Research Fellow, Refugee Studies Centre/LMH, Oxford
  • Dr. Jeff Crisp Research Associate, Refugee Studies Centre, Oxford
  • Dr. Avila Kilmurray, Trustee, Conciliation Resources and consultant with The Social Change Initiative
  • Dame Frances Lannon, former Principal and Honorary Fellow of Lady Margaret Hall, University of Oxford
  • Dr. Alice Nah Lecturer at the Centre for Applied Human Rights, University of York, and independent expert on forced migration in Asia
  • Mr Danny Sriskandarajah Secretary-General of CIVICUS, a global alliance of civil society organisations
  • Mr Mike Wooldridge, OBE

Submissions for the new annual £25,000 prizes must be from non-profit organisations, which can also elect to nominate a project by a partner or affiliate organization. There are no geographical limits on the locations of submitted projects but Ockenden International invites entries for projects initiated no earlier than 36 months prior to the annual ‘call for entries’, scheduled this year for September 1, 2018. The organizers also expect evidence of properly measured and evaluated outcomes.

The Ockenden International Prizes remain focused on identifying solutions to the challenges faced by displaced people, raising awareness of their needs, and rewarding outstanding projects.

The 2017 prize was won by St Andrew’s Refugee Services (StARS) in Cairo, Egypt, for a programme designed to assist young unaccompanied adults. StARS’ ‘Youth Bridging Program’ is providing them with practical reasons, including education and other support, to further their careers in Egypt.

The two 2017 runners-up were the ‘Consolidation of Legal Aid Services to Forced Migrants’ from the School of Law, Makerere University, Kampala, Uganda and ‘IDPs Support Project in Rasuwa’, a post-earthquake recovery programme from Parivartan Patra, Nepal (nominated by Cordaid, The Netherlands).