During the 2022 Aurora Prize Ceremony weekend in Venice, a special event titled “Conversation with the Aurora Co-Founder Dr. Noubar Afeyan” took place at the Ca' Foscari University on October 16, 2022. The discussion featured Dr. Noubar Afeyan, Co-Founder of the Aurora Humanitarian Initiative, Founder and CEO of Flagship Pioneering and Co-Founder and Chairman of Moderna, and Riccardo Clerici, Senior Government Liaison Officer, UNHCR, and was moderated by Marina Sapia, Chief, International Desk Rai TG1.
A day before the conversation, at the 2022 Aurora Prize Ceremony, it was announced that $300,000 of the 2022 Aurora Prize award funds will be directed to Yemen to combat one of the most acute and overlooked ongoing humanitarian crises. The decision was made jointly by the Aurora Prize Laureates and Humanitarians of the previous years.
After welcoming the guests and the speakers, Marina Sapia delved into the topic of directing a portion of the Prize to the UNCHR to support the catastrophic humanitarian situation in Yemen, willing to gain a deeper understanding of the Aurora’s approach and impact.
To clarify and explain where this need for change came from, Noubar Afeyan went back to the 2020 Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh) war. In the aftermath of the conflict, the Aurora Humanitarian Initiative decided that a portion of the Prize funds should be allocated to support the people from Artsakh. “We decided that we should identify a current crisis – in this case, it was in Artsakh – to bring humanitarian assistance as part of the mission in order to connect both the projects that are important for the Laureate, but also a universal kind of current crisis. The results were quite important, significant, and we decided to continue that,” said Noubar Afeyan.
After that, it was a matter of identifying the place in the world that needs help the most, so Aurora consulted the members of its humanitarian community. “The overwhelming respond we got from Laureates and Humanitarians was Yemen. How large the crisis is and how much the need is for intervention, how urgent it is and how overlooked it is, these are the categories to choose. And Yemen was the most overlooked in their view,” explained Noubar Afeyan.
Aurora’s humanitarian intervention will be made in cooperation with the UNHCR, an organization working daily to help the unrooted, including those in Yemen and beyond. Riccardo Clerici, Senior Government Liaison Officer at UNHCR, quoted a few numbers to make it evident how devastating the conflict there was. He referred to the UN estimates saying that 70% of affected Yemeni children are below age of 5; some of them are also used as soldiers. That was just a glimpse of the atrocities happening in Yemen, which is also facing a dire humanitarian situation with 24 million people, 80% of the population, living below the poverty line.
“We are facing a lot of challenges to meet the needs of the people we serve. Nobody should be left behind. We are grateful for Aurora’s donation, and we will do our best to deliver and to try to bring that hope and dignity for these people. And I’ll try to convey the spirit of the Initiative to my colleagues in the sense of Gratitude in Action,” said Riccardo Clerici.
For a better grasp of Aurora’s approach to empowering modern-day heroes and addressing on-the-ground humanitarian challenges across the world, the participants had an opportunity to watch an excerpt from Noubar Afeyan’s speech at the Clinton Global Initiative event in September 2022. In it, he covered a series of topics regarding current humanitarian challenges and highlighted Aurora’s role as a leading humanitarian organization.
In conclusion of the discussion, Marina Sapia thanked Noubar Afeyan for the insightful conversation and the comprehensive presentation of all the ways to build a global community of like-minded people, which Aurora has been doing for the last years. “For those who don’t know much about the personal experience of Noubar Afeyan, you probably understood it’s huge and it’s about going through crisis, and surviving, and rebuilding, starting again, and bringing this strength worldwide,” said Marina Sapia.
You can watch the full video of the event below.