Once a year, Henley & Partners honors an inspirational global citizen who has made extraordinary achievements in improving the global community. Harald Höppner, a German entrepreneur and founder of the refugee aid project Sea Watch, was presented with the 2015 Global Citizen Award at a Gala Dinner in the iconic Burj Al Arab Hotel in Dubai.
In November 2014, Höppner, together with his colleague Matthias Kuhnt, purchased a century-old fishing boat and began to patrol the Mediterranean Sea out of growing concern for the number of refugee boats capsizing in the waters.
In June 2015, after nearly six months of planning, preparation and renovations, the boat, now named Sea Watch, began to provide rescue efforts and first aid to refugees off the Libyan coast, rescuing 600 people in their first mission alone.
The project’s concept is simple: to notify the Coast Guard when they spot a migrant boat in distress. If the authorities do not arrive in time, Sea Watch will take action. The vessel is equipped with first aid kits, drinking water and life boats, as well as satellite phones.
Refugees who are rescued by European coast guards are usually transported to camps on EU soil and are then able to apply for asylum.
Höppner says, “I accept the Global Citizen Award on behalf of Sea Watch and all the people of our young, non-governmental organization. One hundred per cent of the prize money will go to Sea Watch to help save lives in the Mediterranean Sea.”
The Global Citizen Award consists of a specially made commemorative medal, an Award Certificate signed by the President of the Award Committee and a USD 50,000 monetary prize, of which USD 25,000 is donated to UNHCR to support the global refugee cause and USD 25,000 is donated to another international humanitarian cause of the recipient’s choice.
For 2015, Antonio Nocera’s artwork graced the Global Citizen Award commemorative medal. Nocera, master of sculpture, is an Italian internationally renowned artist with a strong focus on the plight of refugees and raising awareness of their situation.