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'Alternative Nobels' Honor Human Rights, Global Struggles

FILE - The 2015 Livelihood Award honors the Marshall Islands prime minister and people for suing nuclear powers over their failure to disarm. Shown here is a South Korean marine LVT-7 landing craft sailing through a smoke screen during joint U.S.-South Ko

The Marshall Islands’ people and foreign minister were honored Thursday for taking legal action against nine countries with nuclear weapons for failing to meet disarmament obligations.

The Pacific island group’s residents and official Tony de Brum shared the honorary portion of the 2015 Right Livelihood Award, sometimes referred to as the "alternative Nobel."

The Marshall Islands group in April sued countries with established nuclear arsenals, including the United States, Russia, China, France and the United Kingdom. It also sued those with arsenals that are declared (India, North Korea and Pakistan) and undeclared (Israel), according to Britain’s The Guardian website.

The group brought the case to The Hague, saying Marshall islanders had suffered health and environmental consequences from the nuclear arms race, including nuclear testing in the area from 1946 to 1958.

This year's 3-million-kronor ($358,500) cash award was shared by three activists: Canada's Sheila Watt-Cloutier, for her supports to Inuit causes; Uganda's Kasha Jacqueline Nabagesera, for her struggle for sexual minorities' rights; and Italian surgeon Gino Strada, for providing medical assistance to victims of war.

The awards will be presented in the Swedish Parliament on November 30.

Created in 1980, the annual Right Livelihood Award honors efforts that the prize’s founder, Swedish-German philanthropist Jakob von Uexkull, felt were being ignored by the Nobel Prizes.

Foundation director Ole von Uexkull, the award creator's nephew, said this year's winners “stand up for our basic rights,” including those of indigenous peoples, and gay and other sexual minority groups, and “the right of all citizens to live in a world free from the scourges of war and climate chaos.''