As one of the world’s leading sustainability awards, it is with great pleasure we present the winner of the 2021 award. The prestigious award – along with 1 million SEK (120 000 USD) – goes to the Icelandic whistleblower Jóhannes Stefánsson who, with his life at stake, led the revelation of a widespread corruption scandal connected to fishing quotas in Namibia. The prize will be handed over to the winner at the award ceremony in Gothenburg, Sweden in October.
The jury’s motivation:
Corruption is one of the greatest obstacles to global sustainable development. It affects the world’s most vulnerable the hardest and has a negative impact on society as a whole, as well as the planet itself.
Jóhannes Stefánsson is the whistleblower who exposed the ‘Fishrot Files’, an extensive corruption scandal with connections to Iceland and Namibia. In 2016 he stepped back from a leading management position within Icelandic fishing company Samherjis in Namibia, in protest against the company’s improper procurement of fishing quotas in exchange for financial services. Jóhannes Stefánsson has since been living under constant threats and even attempts on his life. His bravery highlights the importance of individual acts of integrity, not least within the sectors of industry and commerce. Jóhannes Stefánsson has demonstrated great courage and selflessness in his fight against misuse of power and corruption.
It is our honour to present this year’s WIN WIN Gothenburg Sustainability Award to Jóhannes Stefánsson.
Between 2011 and 2016 Jóhannes Stefánsson had a leading position in the Icelandic fishing company Samherji. After some time, it was clear to Stefánsson that the company was involved in widespread corruption connected to fishing quotas in Namibia. With thousands of data files on his computer, he left his position in protest. In 2019 WikiLeaks published the beginning of the ‘Fishrot Files’ – a revelation that came to shake business leaders and the political elite. Despite being harassed, threatened and poisoned, whistleblower Stefánsson demonstrates that individuals in the corporate world can join the fight against corruption.
Jóhannes Stefánsson is the winner of the 2021 WIN WIN Gothenburg Sustainability Award. The prize will be presented at the award ceremony in October later this year.
The jury sought nominations from individuals and organisations that actively combat corruption and thereby improve the opportunities for the world’s countries to achieve the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. Besides the winner, here are the other esteemed finalists whose work we greatly admire.
– This year’s finalists all show great integrity and impressive social responsibility. Fighting corruption often involves risks and requires courage. We are very proud to present a wide range of finalists who, in different ways and in different parts of the world, fight for a more fair and sustainable world, says Emma Dalväg, chairperson of the WIN WIN Award jury.
Nicola Gratteri is the lead prosecutor in Italy’s largest anti-mafia trial, overseeing the prosecution of over 350 people with alleged links to the southern Italian mafia organisation ‘Ndrangheta’. The jury nominates Gratteri for his determination to put the safety of the collective before his own while being forced to live under constant threats of reprisals from the criminal syndicates he has set out to fight. Gratteri’s story shows the importance of countries having well-functioning formal institutions that are taken seriously and used correctly.
Integrity Watch Afghanistan (IWA) is a non-profit organisation in Afghanistan that works to shed light on corruption through revelations, surveillance and advocacy. The jury nominates Integrity Watch Afghanistan for its range of efforts to systematically combat corruption, such as the mobilisation of local volunteers to monitor government projects, in the dangerous and corrupt country of Afghanistan.
Hamzat Lawal is a Nigerian anti-corruption activist and co-founder of the organisation Connected Development and the Follow the Money initiative. The jury nominates Hamzat Lawal for his tireless commitment to strengthening the local civil society and for his large-scale campaigns which have succeeded in creating transparency about public spending and ensuring that international aid funds end up where they should.
International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) is a global network of reporters and media houses working together to expose corruption among those in power. The jury nominates ICIJ for their work in highlighting international money laundering and publishing stories such as The Panama Papers and China’s detention camps for the Muslim minority group Uighurs. ICIJ contributes to strengthening the journalist corps as an important social group in the fight against corruption by working together and making the individual journalist less vulnerable.
Around the world, corruption is one of the biggest obstacles to sustainable development. Corruption can be defined as “the abuse of entrusted power for private gain” and occurs in many ways, including government employees stuffing their own pockets with money set aside for environmental and sustainability projects and the bribing of state officials to get around legal restrictions.
In countries characterized by widespread corruption, citizens are often forced to pay for healthcare they are legally entitled to receive for free. Important medicines are sold on the black market and people without enough money and friends in the right places never secure the most influential jobs. Corruption usually strikes the most vulnerable people the hardest.
Corruption is also detrimental to the environment, as large-scale bribing can give environmental criminals the political power to hinder inconvenient environmental legislation. Also, corruption on a smaller scale can effectively render various rules and laws useless.
The scientific community and organizations such as the UN and the World Bank agree that the costs to society of the rampant corruption around the world are enormous, although they are difficult to quantify with any reasonable precision. Some attempts have been made, however. For example, Interpolrecently estimated that natural resources worth at least 100 billion US dollars are lost every year due to corruption-related activities. Yet this is just the tip of the iceberg – the total costs to society and the world are much higher. Thus, successful sustainable development at a global scale will require focused efforts to combat corruption. For the theme, WIN WIN will be collaborating with Transparency International Sweden, a leading organisation in the fight against corruption. Ulrik Åshuvud, Chair of Transparency International Sweden says:
“Transparency International Sweden is looking forward to partner with the WIN WIN Gothenburg Sustainability Award in the work of highlighting corruption and its negative effects on the Global Goals.”
Against this background, the jury for the WIN WIN Gothenburg Sustainability Award is accepting nominations of people or organizations that by effectively fighting corruption have contributed towards the achievement of one or several of the UN Sustainable Development Goals. The jury expects nominees to have created change that will inspire others and to have shown what is necessary and possible on our journey toward a sustainable future.
If you have a nominee in mind within the theme of anti-corruption who is between 13-29 years old, they can be nominated for the WIN WIN Youth Award.
Theme 2021 Collaboration
Each year, the WIN WIN Award collaborates with actors who possess expert knowledge within the specific theme of the year. The theme of 2021 is Anti-corruption and WIN WIN Award has therefore teamed up with Transparency International Sweden.
Transparency International Sweden is part of a global movement working in over 100 countries to end the injustice of corruption. The organisation focuses on issues with the greatest impact on people’s lives and hold the powerful to account for the common good. Through our advocacy, campaigning and research, Transparency International Sweden works to expose the systems and networks that enable corruption to thrive, demanding greater transparency and integrity in all areas of public life.
The Sustainable Development Goals are the blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all. They address the global challenges we face, including those related to poverty, inequality, climate change, environmental degradation, peace and justice. The 17 Goals are all interconnected, and in order to leave no one behind, we must achieve them all by 2030. Every year WIN WIN Gothenburg Sustainability Award select a theme that can be connected to one or more of the 17 SDGs.
The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) now make an explicit link between corruption and peaceful, just and inclusive societies. SDG 16 and its targets on reducing bribery, strengthening institutions and accessing information are not only valuable aspirations in their own right, they are also vital conditions for the achievement of all the 17 goals. UNDP’s approach aims at strengthening anti-corruption institutions and systems, supporting the implementation of UNCAC, mitigating corruption risks in essential sectors, and strengthening the collective actions of governments, civil society and the private sector in fighting corruption.