The alternative awards were founded in 1980 by Jakob von Uexkull who hopes to recognise the work of people he says is ignored by the official Nobel prizes.
This year Daniel Ellsberg is among the winners. He leaked documents which indicated that the US government had deceived the public about whether the Vietnam war could be won, and the extent of casualties.
In giving him the prize, the award committee said it partly wanted to highlight parallels between the Vietnam war and the war in Iraq.
Von Uexkull says: “It is quite clear that decisions are being taken by governments behind our back, where the argument of secrecy is being misused.
“We are facing the same situation, I think, in Iraq. People have been lied to about the reasons for this war.”
Peace and truth
The award citation recognised Ellsberg “for putting peace and truth first, at considerable personal risk, and dedicating his life to inspiring others to follow his example”.
Ellsberg shared the two million kroner ($273,000) Right Livelihood Award with Ruth Manorama, an Indian women’s rights activist, who was honoured for her work to achieve equality for dalit women in India.
Dalits, or untouchables, belong to no caste and have faced centuries of discrimination.
The prize committee also cited the The Festival Internacional de Poesia de Medellin for promoting peace in what it called one of the most violent cities in the world.
The festival was started in the early 1990s, providing a safe haven in the middle of heavy fighting between criminal groups in Medellin, von Uexkull said.
“There is a power there, something that unites people even while they are shooting each other,” he said.
Whitaker Ferreira, a Roman Catholic activist, won the honorary award “for a lifetime’s dedicated work for social justice that has strengthened democracy in Brazil and helped to give birth to the World Social Forum, showing that ‘another world is possible,'” the citation said.
The awards will be presented in a ceremony at the Swedish parliament on December 8, two days before the Nobel prizes are handed out.