Aurora Humanitarian Initiative
What is the Aurora Humanitarian Initiative?
Founded on behalf of the survivors of the Armenian Genocide and in gratitude to their saviors, the Aurora Humanitarian Initiative seeks to empower modern-day saviors to offer life and hope to those in urgent need of basic humanitarian aid and thus continue the cycle of giving internationally. The Aurora Humanitarian Initiative is Gratitude in Action.
It is an eight-year commitment 2015 to 2023 (in remembrance of the eight years of the Armenian Genocide 1915-1923) to support people and promote projects that tackle the needs of the most helpless and destitute, and do so at great risk. Support is offered through the Initiative’s various programs: The Aurora Prize for Awakening Humanity, the Aurora Dialogues, the Aurora Humanitarian Index, the Gratitude Projects and the 100 LIVES Initiative.
Who is the driving force behind the Aurora Humanitarian Initiative?
The Aurora Prize is the philanthropic vision of Noubar Afeyan, Vartan Gregorian, and Ruben Vardanyan
, the co-founders of the Aurora Humanitarian Initiative. Together, they seek to build a humanitarian movement by drawing attention to the issues faced by the world's most vulnerable and recognizing those individuals and organizations who intervene for good.
The Aurora Humanitarian Initiative and its projects are represented by three organizations: Aurora Humanitarian Initiative Foundation, Inc. (New York, USA), the 100 Lives Foundation (Geneva, Switzerland) and the IDeA Foundation
What is the Aurora Community of Supporters?
The Aurora Humanitarian Initiative was founded in 2015, by three people committed to honoring the memory of the survivors of the Armenian Genocide by supporting projects that honor their saviors. Since that time, more than 440 individuals and organizations have been inspired to join the founders in transforming a nation’s gratitude to action.
For further information on Aurora's supporters, please visit the Supporters
sections on our webpage.
How can I support Aurora?
All those who support our vision are welcome to join this movement. With growing resources, the Aurora Humanitarian Initiative will expand programming that tackles new crises and challenges, and offers life and hope to the vulnerable. Aurora will urge those fortunate enough to have been rescued and given a new chance on life to express their own gratitude by becoming the next generation of savior. Thus, the cycle of giving will continue, empathy will replace sympathy and in memory of the survivors, we will embrace all those who believe in a shared humanity.
You can find additional information here
What does the Aurora Humanitarian Initiative do?
The Aurora Humanitarian Initiative creates and supports projects designed to raise public awareness and address the world’s most pressing humanitarian issues. These projects include:
- The Aurora Prize for Awakening Humanity;
- The Aurora Dialogues: a series of thoughtful discussions among leading members of the political, humanitarian, and business communities to raise awareness and address some of the world’s most pressing humanitarian issues;
- The Aurora Humanitarian Index: an international survey exploring the causes and trends behind the “compassion gap” that exists between what the general public says they feel about humanitarian issues and how they actually engage with these crises;
- 100 LIVES, a global media and content creation project aimed at preserving the memory of the victims and survivors of the Armenian Genocide, as well as those who intervened on their behalf a century ago. It is also a platform to present the stories of the Armenian diaspora and its connections to the Armenian heritage, culture and values;
- The Aurora Gratitude Projects: humanitarian and educational initiatives which help children, refugees and other vulnerable citizens around the world.
All projects are designed to honor and support deserving individuals and organizations as an expression of gratitude to the saviors who intervened on behalf of Armenians a century ago.
How is the Aurora Humanitarian Initiative connected to the Aurora Prize for Awakening Humanity and the Aurora Dialogues?
The Aurora Humanitarian Initiative is the umbrella initiative that encompasses the Aurora Prize for Awakening Humanity and the Aurora Dialogues. The projects were established to honor those undertaking extraordinary acts to preserve human life and advance humanitarian causes, and also to foster dialogue among leading experts from the international humanitarian, business, philanthropic and media communities on the most pressing challenges facing the world today.
The projects help to advance the Aurora Humanitarian Initiative’s overall aim of addressing some of the world’s most pressing humanitarian issues.
Aurora Prize for Awakening Humanity
What is the Aurora Prize for Awakening Humanity?
The Aurora Prize for Awakening Humanity is a global humanitarian award established to recognize modern day heroes and the exceptional impact their actions have made on preserving human life and advancing humanitarian causes in the face of adversity. On behalf of the survivors of the Armenian Genocide and in gratitude to their saviors, an Aurora Prize Laureate is honored each year between 2015 and 2023 (in remembrance of the eight years of the Armenian Genocide 1915-1923) with a US$100,000 grant as well as the unique opportunity to continue the cycle of giving by nominating organizations that inspired their work for a US$1,000,000 award.
Who is eligible to receive the Aurora Prize?
Any individual or group that perform(s) an extraordinary act of humanity may be nominated to receive the Aurora Prize. The Aurora Prize Laureate is recognized for the exceptional impact their actions have made in preserving human life in the face of adversity, risking their health, freedom, reputation or livelihood.
How often will the Aurora Prize be awarded?
The Prize will be awarded annually through 2023.
What are the selection criteria for the Aurora Prize Laureate?
Nominations are carefully vetted and reviewed through a rigorous process. The Laureate is determined by the Selection Committee based on the following criteria:
The extent to which the Nominee’s actions demonstrate:
• Courage in helping others survive
• Having overcome significant risks for the sake of helping others survive
• Going beyond the call of duty of professional obligations for the sake of helping others survive
The extent to which the Nominee’s actions demonstrate:
• An explicit intention to help others survive
• A direct involvement in helping others survive
• A commitment to common moral values such as integrity, freedom, justice, honesty, truthfulness, responsibility and compassion
The extent to which the Nominee’s actions demonstrate:
• An impact on saving lives
• A long-term effect in saving lives
• Inspiration to others to save lives, directly or indirectly
• Saving lives of a large number of individuals
Any members of the public, as well as members of national assemblies, governments, academic and other institutions, can nominate candidates for the Aurora Prize.
Who receives the Aurora Prize money?
The Aurora Prize Laureate will be honored with a US $100,000 grant. In addition, that individual will have the unique opportunity to continue the cycle of giving by nominating organizations that inspired their work to receive a US $1,000,000 award.
Qualified organizations will operate on a not-for-profit basis and act in the public interest with a mission to benefit humankind. This could include, but is not limited to, providing relief to the poor, advancing education, improving social welfare, protecting women and children, preserving culture, preserving or restoring the environment, promoting human rights, establishing civil society and/or advancing healthcare.
What is the vetting process for the nominated organizations?
Each nominated organization undergoes a comprehensive due diligence process conducted by a third-party firm to ensure the organization is legitimate and will put the funding to effective use.
Who can nominate candidates for the Aurora Prize?
Members of the public, as well as members of national assemblies, governments, academic institutions and others, may nominate an individual or group of people for the Prize, with consideration of the following requirements:
- The Nominator may not be an officer or employee or any other individual receiving remuneration for his or her services from the Nominee or any party affiliated with the Aurora Prize (Secretariat, Selection Committee, and Independent Observer).
- The Nominator may not be a family member or an officer or employee of the Nominee.
- Self-nominations are not permitted.
- Selection Committee members and their families are ineligible to submit nominations. However, Selection Committee members may invite and encourage nominations from the public and specifically reach out to organizations working in the field.
How can people submit a nomination?
Nominations for the 2019 Aurora Prize are now closed. The next annual nomination period will open after the 2019 Aurora Prize Laureate is announced in Armenia. Further information about the nominations process will be available on the Aurora Prize website under the “Nominate Now” section.
Do nominees have to work in the humanitarian sector?
Nominees are not limited to those who work within the humanitarian field. The Aurora Prize recognizes worthy recipients from any background who have faced significant risks to health, freedom, reputation or livelihood and voluntarily carried out actions to enable others to survive and thrive.
Nominations may span a broad range of sectors in the non-profit field, including economic development, public health, religion, law/justice/human rights, education and capacity building.
Are posthumous entries eligible?
The Aurora Prize does not accept nominations of individuals who are deceased.
How are the nominations assessed?
The nominations are assessed according to the selection criteria by the Aurora Prize Secretariat and expert panel.
Members of the Selection Committee review a shortlist of candidates, drawing upon their own expertise, nomination forms and additional information assembled by the Secretariat to determine the Aurora Humanitarians.
The Aurora Prize’s Independent Observer supervises all processes according to an established protocol to ensure transparency and consistency.
Who makes the selection?
The Aurora Prize is awarded by the Selection Committee, a group of exceptional individuals with notable achievements in the field of human rights. The Selection Committee evaluates nominations against a set of pre-agreed criteria to determine the Aurora Prize Laureate, ensuring that the selection process is fair and unbiased. The Selection Committee is independent from, but supported by, the Aurora Prize Secretariat for all functional and operational matters.
Who sits on the Selection Committee?
Current members of the Aurora Prize Selection Committee are:
- George Clooney (Selection Committee Co-Chair) – Co-Founder, Not On Our Watch; Humanitarian, performer and filmmaker
- Oscar Arias – Two-time President of Costa Rica; Nobel Laureate
- Lord Ara Darzi – Director of the Institute of Global Health Innovation at Imperial College London
- Shirin Ebadi – Human Rights Lawyer and Iran's first female judge; Nobel Laureate
- Gareth Evans – President Emeritus of the International Crisis Group; Former Australian Foreign Minister
- Leymah Gbowee – Executive Director of the Women Peace and Security Network (WIPSEN-Africa); Nobel Laureate
- Valery Gergiev – Artistic and General Director; Mariinsky Theatre; Principal Conductor of the Munich Philharmoniker
- Vartan Gregorian – Co-Founder, Aurora Humanitarian Initiative; President of the Carnegie Corporation of New York
- Hina Jilani – Former United Nations Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Human Rights Defenders
- Bernard Kouchner – Médecins Sans Frontières co-founder and former foreign minister of France
- Samantha Power – Former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations
- John Prendergast – Human Rights Activist and Founding Director; Enough Project
- Mary Robinson – Former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights; Former President of Ireland
- Ernesto Zedillo – Director, Yale Center for the Study of Globalization; Former President of Mexico
• Elie Wiesel (1928-2016) – Inaugural Selection Committee Co-Chair, President of the Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity; Nobel Laureate
For further information on each of the members, please visit the Selection Committee
section on our webpage.
How does this relate to Armenia and the 1915 Genocide?
The Aurora Prize is a part of the Aurora Humanitarian Initiative – a philanthropic effort comprised of projects designed to raise awareness and to impact today’s important humanitarian challenges, while honoring the memory of the survivors of the Armenian Genocide and the spirit of the saviors who intervened on their behalf. More than a century ago, 1.5 million Armenians were killed on orders of the Ottoman Turkish government. Those who survived or fled found shelter did so, often, thanks to the help of strangers. Today, the Aurora Prize aims to thank the individuals and institutions whose actions saved lives more than a century ago.
The Aurora Prize was established to raise public consciousness about this and other acts of violence that continue to occur around the globe, honoring survivors and saviors and celebrating the strength of the human spirit that compels action in the face of adversity.
How is the Aurora Prize governed?
The Aurora Prize is governed by the co-founders of the Aurora Humanitarian Initiative – Noubar Afeyan, Vartan Gregorian and Ruben Vardanyan – and the Selection Committee. In 2018 the Aurora Humanitarian Initiative was proud to appoint Dr. Tom Catena as its inaugural Chair. See more information here.
The Aurora Prize Secretariat, which is comprised of Aurora Humanitarian Initiative representatives, is responsible for communicating and implementing all processes and procedures. This includes the initial review of the nominations received during the first stage of the Aurora prize nomination cycle.
An Independent Observer monitors all the selection and communications processes between the Secretariat and Selection Committee.
Who is funding the Prize?
The principal funders are Ruben Vardanyan and Noubar Afeyan, co-founders of the Aurora Humanitarian Initiative, who have been joined by several dozen supporters
Who are the Aurora Prize Laureates?
The 2018 Aurora Prize for Awakening Humanity was awarded to Mr. Kyaw Hla Aung
, a lawyer and activist recognized for his dedication to fighting for equality, education and human rights for the Rohingya people in Myanmar, in the face of persecution, harassment and oppression.
Kyaw Hla Aung has been working tirelessly for decades, using his legal expertise to appeal for basic human rights for the stateless Rohingya people. His commitment to fight for justice for the hundreds of thousands of Muslim refugees in Myanmar persecuted by the government, and for the children who no longer have access to education, remains stronger than ever. He sacrificed a total of 12 years in prison as a result of his mission, at huge personal cost to his own family.
The 2017 Aurora Prize was awarded to Dr. Tom Catena, a Catholic missionary from Amsterdam, New York who has saved thousands of lives as the sole doctor permanently based in Sudan’s war-ravaged Nuba Mountains .
In 2016, Marguerite Barankitse from Maison Shalom and REMA Hospital in Burundi was named as the inaugural Laureate
of the $1 million Aurora Prize for Awakening Humanity. At a ceremony held in Yerevan, Armenia, Barankitse was recognized for the extraordinary impact she has had in saving thousands of lives and caring for orphans and refugees during the years of civil war in Burundi.
Who are the Aurora Prize Humanitarians?
2018 Aurora Prize
The 2018 Aurora Prize has recognized three Aurora Humanitarians who were chosen by the Selection Committee for their exceptional impact:
- Mr. Kyaw Hla Aung, Lawyer and Rohingya Leader, Myanmar – A Rohingya Muslim who, despite being imprisoned for a collective 12 years for peaceful protests against systematic discrimination and violence, uses his legal expertise to fight for equality, improvements in education and human rights for his community. He has nominated international organizations that provide medical aid and assistance to refugees in Myanmar.
- Fr. Héctor Tomás González Castillo, Founder of La 72, Mexico – A Franciscan friar who has provided shelter, food, water, counseling and legal assistance to more than 50,000 Central American immigrants along their often-harrowing journeys through Mexico, providing aid to all, including those who suffer traumatic attacks, attempted kidnappings and expulsions from their own countries. He has nominated organizations working to promote human rights for those living with HIV/AIDS and to provide cultural education to Mayans in Mexico.
- Mrs. Sunitha Krishnan, Co-Founder of Prajwala, India – A gang rape survivor turned women’s rights advocate who used her trauma as motivation to rescue, rehabilitate and reintegrate victims of sex trafficking and forced prostitution back into society, creating an organization that has positively impacted the lives of more than 17,800 women and children. She has nominated organizations that fight gender imbalance and sexual violence and trafficking throughout India.
2017 Aurora Prize
In addition to the Laureate, 2017 Aurora Prize also recognized four Aurora Humanitarians who were chosen by the Selection Committee for their exceptional impact:
- Ms. Fartuun Adan and Ms. Ilwad Elman, Founders of the Elman Peace and Human Rights Centre, Somalia – Mother and daughter who are unwavering in their mission to protect human rights, women’s rights, and facilitate peace building, development and the rehabilitation of child soldiers amidst insecure and dangerous conditions.
- Ms. Jamila Afghani, Chairperson of the Noor Educational and Capacity Development Organization, Afghanistan – a polio victim who accidentally received the gift of reading and has dedicated her life to bringing reading and education to girls and women, while enlisting the help of Muslim leaders of faith in her mission.
- Mr. Muhammad Darwish, Medical Doctor at the Madaya Field Hospital, Syria – A student of dentistry returned to his hometown and took on the full responsibilities of a medical doctor, began to perform medical procedures, offered care and maintained meticulous documentation of the conditions of patients, many of them children, affected by persisting violence, thus bringing international attention to the besieged area.
- Dr. Denis Mukwege, Gynecological Surgeon and Founder of the Panzi Hospital, The Democratic Republic of the Congo – An obstetrician turned gynecological surgeon who is providing physical, psychological and legal support to more than 50,000 survivors of sexual violence in the war-torn country while fearlessly seeking to bring to justice those responsible.
2016 Aurora Prize
In addition to the Laureate, 2016 Aurora Prize also recognized three Humanitarians who were chosen by the Selection Committee for their exceptional impact:
- Dr. Tom Catena, the sole doctor at Mother of Mercy Hospital in the Nuba Mountains in Sudan. An American physician, Dr. Catena is the only doctor permanently based near the country’s border with South Sudan, and is therefore responsible for serving over 500,000 people in the region. Despite several bombings by the Sudanese government, Dr. Catena resides on the hospital grounds so that he may be on call at all times. In 2017, Dr. Catena was nominated for the Aurora Prize for the second time and became the Aurora Prize Laureate.
- Syeda Ghulam Fatima has worked tirelessly to eradicate bonded labor, one of the last remaining forms of modern slavery. Fatima is the general secretary of the Bonded Labour Liberation Front Pakistan (BLLF), which has liberated thousands of Pakistani workers, including approximately 21,000 children, who were forced to work for brick kiln owners in order to repay debts. Fatima has survived attempts on her life and repeated beatings during the course of her activism.
- Father Bernard Kinvi left his home country of Lome, Togo to Bossemptele, a small town just inside the border of the Central African Republic, to head a Catholic mission. In 2012, civil war broke out in the Central African Republic between Muslim Seleka rebels and the anti-balaka Christian militia. Amidst the violence, Father Kinvi’s mission provided refuge and health services to those on both sides of the conflict, saving hundreds of people from persecution and death.
What are the Aurora Dialogues?
The Aurora Dialogues provide a platform for the world’s leading humanitarians, academics, philanthropists and members of civil society to come together for a series of insightful discussions about some of today’s most pressing humanitarian challenges. In keeping with the spirit of the Aurora Prize for Awakening Humanity, the Aurora Dialogues shine a light on the people who are working to address today’s atrocities in a real and substantial manner and seek to identify ideas that will deliver tangible change. The Dialogues encourage collaborative conversations to explore the importance of learning from the past, acting in the present, and fostering a better future.
When are the Aurora Dialogues held?
The Core Programming of the Dialogues is held annually in Armenia as part of a weekend of events culminating with the presentation of the Aurora Prize for Awakening Humanity. The Additional Aurora Dialogues Programming includes conferences and public lectures that are held internationally aiming to bring together leaders with the unique expertise and contribute to finding solutions to the world’s most pressing humanitarian challenges.
Who attends the Aurora Dialogues?
The annual forum in Armenia and international Dialogues are attended by leading humanitarians, academics, philanthropists and civil society representatives. Speakers include members of the esteemed Aurora Prize Selection Committee, influential leaders and thinkers from around the world who are committed to advancing humanitarian causes.
How can I find out more about the Aurora Dialogues?
Visit the Aurora Prize website under the “Aurora Dialogues
” section for further information and for recordings
of previous Dialogues.
What is the Aurora Humanitarian Index?
The Aurora Humanitarian Index is a special survey that examines public perceptions of major humanitarian issues. It explores the international public’s attitudes toward both responsibility and effectiveness of humanitarian intervention, as well as the motivations that urge people to intervene on behalf of others.
Further information about the Humanitarian Index is available on the Aurora Prize website under the “Humanitarian Index
100 LIVES Initiative
What is the 100 LIVES Initiative?
The 100 LIVES Initiative was launched in March 2015 to commemorate the centennial anniversary of the Armenian Genocide, in which the overwhelming majority of the Armenian population perished. Those who survived did so thanks to the benevolent intervention of institutions and individuals – often strangers. In recognition of their humanity and courage, 100 LIVES seeks and shares the stories of Armenian Genocide survivors, their saviors and their descendants. Each story captures the unique transformation of each victim to a valuable contributor to society.
Additional information can be found here.
Aurora Gratitude Projects
What are the Aurora Gratitude Projects?
The Aurora Gratitude Projects are humanitarian and educational initiatives which help children, refugees and other vulnerable citizens around the world. Through these projects, the descendants of the survivors of the Armenian Genocide seek to express thanks to the memory of those who helped save the victims of genocide, by providing educational initiatives and scholarships, grants to humanitarian projects and promoting public awareness of humanitarian efforts.
In cooperation with the Near East Foundation, 100 academic scholarships are given to at-risk youth from the Middle East who have been affected by conflict, displacement, and poverty. The scholarship program runs between 2015 and 2023 (in remembrance of the eight years of the Armenian Genocide 1915-1923) and will offer recipients an internationally recognized education within the United World College (UWC) network of schools, including in Armenia-based UWC Dilijan—a co-educational boarding school currently hosting students from over 82 countries. It has individual scholarships named after Lamya Haji Bashar (given to Yazidi students), Amal Clooney (given to a female student from Lebanon who demonstrates strong interest in human rights) and Charles Aznavour (awarded annually to students from France – and Francophone countries – to study at UWC Dilijan).
In addition, in cooperation with Scholae Mundi Armenia, scholarships are granted to students from Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Jordan and Egypt to study at the American University of Armenia.
The scholarship program is valued at $7million.
Additional information can be found here.
How can I contact the Aurora Humanitarian Initiative?
2/2, Melik-Adamyan Street,
0010 Yerevan, Republic of Armenia
e-mail: [email protected]
For all media enquiries:
E-mail: [email protected]
Tel.: + 374 60 700 800 ext. (119)
+44 7711 765 807
For German media enquiries:
E-mail: [email protected]
Tel.:+ 49 30 4081 7660