RFK Center - Defending Human Rights In This World
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Awards (News)
2012 RFK Human Rights Award: Make a Nomination


RFK Human Rights Award:

Robert F. Kennedy believed that each individual holds the power to invoke change, that a single voice has the ability to declare an iniquity, and that each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope. In the spirit of Robert Kennedy’s ideals, The Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award was established in 1984 to honor these courageous and innovative individuals who stand up to oppression at grave personal risk in the nonviolent pursuit of human rights.

Each year, the RFK Center invites the public to nominate creative and courageous non-governmental human rights defenders and organizations. In 2012, the RFK Center is seeking nominations of individuals advancing human rights here in the United States.

The recipients are chosen through an extensive annual selection process. An independent panel of judges, all experts in the field of human rights, selects the honoree after exhaustive research, analysis, and outreach conducted by the RFK Center. The recipients are awarded based on their dedication and accomplishments toward social justice and their non-violent and creative tactics used to achieve their goals as well as the potential of the RFK Center to further their goals.

Click here to learn more about the Human Rights Award selection process and eligibility criteria.

The deadline for nominations is February 17, 2012. To nominate a human rights defender for the award, follow the steps below.

  1. The Form
  2. Fill out the form, answering all questions with as much detail as possible. Incomplete forms will not be considered.
  3. Submit the form by emailing Diana Damschroder at  This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Nomination & Selection Process


Persons and, in exceptional cases, organizations working non-violently to promote and protect human rights of all are eligible for the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award. In 2012, the RFK Center is seeking nominations for human rights defenders advancing social justice in the United States.

Those working for social change within their country of origin and who have worked strategically and effectively to address serious human rights problems are given the highest priority. Often these human rights defenders and movements are working against tremendous odds and at grave personal risk.


  1. The nominee does not need to be widely known. Ordinary individuals are made extraordinary by circumstances and principles of championing widespread and meaningful change. Working locally or in obscurity requires great courage. Although the RFK Center greatly respects and admires long-serving human rights defenders, this is not a lifetime achievement award.
  2. The nominee should have an established reputation for integrity, creativity, and commitment to human rights principles.
  3. The nominee should be associated with or lead a non-governmental organization which is a major contributor to a social movement working to achieve a specific social change. Persons who have or are currently working for a government or semi-government institution are not eligible.

Monetary Prize

A one-time total cash prize of U.S. $30,000 will be given to the nominee selected to receive the Award. While it is preferable that one nominee is given the Award, if more than one recipient is selected in a year, the cash prize will be divided equally among the recipients.

Human Rights Support

RFK Partners for Human Rights engages in sustained, strategic partnerships with recipients of the Award, or RFK Human Rights Award Laureates, and their organizations. RFK Partners works under the direction of the human rights defenders on the ground using a rights-based approach with innovative tools to achieve sustainable social change, including litigation, technical initiatives, public awareness campaigns, advocating to governments, UN, regional bodies, and other international entities and NGOs, and generating domestic and international support for the growing ranks of RFK Human Rights Award Laureates. Together we develop and implement programs, striving to realize the recipient’s social change goals and to ultimately enhance the worldwide human rights movement.

Award Ceremony

The Award ceremony will be held in Washington, D.C., in November. The recipients are expected to travel to the United States to receive the Award at the Human Rights Award ceremony, unless there are extenuating circumstances.

Procedures for Nomination

  1. Anyone can nominate a human rights defender for the RFK Human Rights Award. While the RFK Human Rights Award Judges may not nominate candidates for the Award, they may consider candidates who were nominated, but not selected in the previous year.
  2. There is no limit to the number of nominations an individual can make, but no self-nominations will be accepted.
  3. The RFK Center will conduct extensive research, outreach, and analysis for nominations falling within the established criteria. Findings will be presented to the judges for close consideration. Nominations that are not eligible, and fall outside the established criteria, will not be presented to the judges.

Selection Process

  1. The Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award Judges shall select recipients of the Award.
  2. There will be a panel of five independent judges, all experts in the human rights field, who will select the honoree for the RFK Human Rights Award. Judges will serve five-year terms that may be renewed one time at the discretion of the Board.
  3. The purpose of the RFK Human Rights Award is to recognize and support the power of individual moral courage to stop injustice and to advance the cause of human rights. While the judges may select, when appropriate, an organization or more than one individual to receive the Award, the RFK Center strongly reaffirms its judgment that the selection of an individual best reflects and advances the values for which the Award was established. Nominees other than those selected as recipients will remain confidential; there will be no public identification of finalists or of an honor roll of selected nominees.
  4. There are no limitations on factors the Judges may consider. The RFK Center’s Board recognizes the prestige of the Award, the value of the cash prize to the nominee’s work, and the significance of the partnership and the RFK Center’s commitment to devote time and resources to work that supports or complements the nominee’s efforts. The Board encourages the Judges to consider the potential impact of the Award in enhancing and advancing the nominee’s work. The Judges should consider the RFK Center’s capacity to implement a meaningful collaborative program with the nominee, the potential of the RFK Center’s work to advance the nominee’s causes, and the impact that selection of a particular nominee may have on the resources and work of the RFK Center.

*The nomination deadline for the 2012 RFK Human Rights Award is February 17, 2012.*

*For more information please contact Diana Damschroder at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .*

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