LOS ANGELES, Oct. 1 /PRNewswire/ -- The International Rescue Committee (IRC) was named the winner of the 1997 Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize, the world's largest humanitarian award. The presentation was made by former President Jimmy Carter and Barron Hilton, director of the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, to Winston Lord, IRC vice-chairman and former US. Secretary of State for Asia and Pacific Affairs, who accepted on behalf of IRC. The prize is in recognition of IRC's outstanding rescue work, which has helped tens of millions of people escape persecution, war or famine. Established in 1996, the annual Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize recognizes the efforts of a voluntary, charitable or non-governmental organization that has made extraordinary contributions toward alleviating human suffering. At $1 million, it equals the Nobel and MacArthur Prizes. Carter said, "This prestigious award recognizes the extraordinary contributions of organizations and individuals who are on the front lines of helping the world's forgotten people. The Hilton Foundation has recognized a vital need in bringing the refugee issue, one that is often overlooked or understated, to the forefront by honoring the International Rescue Committee. With one out of every 115 people in the world a refugee, we cannot afford to allow this crisis to go unchecked." Mr. Barron Hilton added, "To those who have lost their freedom, IRC often represents the last, best hope to regain it. The International Rescue Committee symbolizes the purpose of the Hilton Prize, to acknowledge great humanitarian work and to inspire others to join forces in improving the lot of the disadvantaged and those in need." The only full service refugee organization in the world, the International Rescue Committee was founded in 1933 in response to an appeal by Albert Einstein to assist opponents of Hitler escape Germany. Today, IRC provides overseas relief, protection and resettlement services for refugees and victims of oppression or violent conflict. In all its programs, IRC pays particular attention to the needs of women and children, who constitute 80 percent of the world's refugees. IRC's diverse array of programs offer primary and preventive health care, water and sanitation assistance, supplemental nutrition, reproductive health care, emergency shelter, educational support, small business development and care of unaccompanied children. IRC is currently active in 23 countries including the former Yugoslavia, Russia, the New Independent States of the former Soviet Union, Asia and Africa. In addition, IRC manages a network of 17 U.S. domestic offices which help resettle refugees in the United States and serve as an advocacy and educational resource on refugee issues. "We are deeply honored," stated Lord. "Last year almost 15 million people were forced to flee their countries and another 19 million internally displaced civilians sought refuge within their own borders. These much needed funds will allow us to respond immediately to erupting refugee emergencies and as a result, be directly responsible for saving and restoring lives." IRC will use a portion of the funds as a dollar for dollar matching grant, which will leverage the prize into a significantly larger gift. Spending about 92% of its revenue directly on program services, IRC consistently ranks among the top charitable organizations for efficient financial management. Judy Miller, director of The Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize, commented, "With this award we honor the International Rescue Committee's tireless and often dangerous efforts to help millions of refugees throughout the world. IRC not only addresses the basic human needs of individuals in crisis, they stay until lives are rebuilt. It is this unwavering tradition of commitment that makes IRC one of the world's preeminent humanitarian organizations." IRC was selected to receive the award from more than 125 organizations nominated by individuals and organizations worldwide. As one of the nominators, Colin Powell said, "IRC goes to -- and stays in -- places no one wants to go. The scope of the organization's work is immense, but the mission remains simple: to help alleviate the suffering of refugees by whatever means necessary." A prestigious international seven-member jury makes the final selection. The 1997 jury members are Ms. Margarita Penon, former chair of the Arias Foundation for Peace and Human Progress; Dr. Francis M. Deng, representative of the U.N. Secretary General on Internally Displaced Persons; Messrs. James R. Galbraith and Eric M. Hilton, directors, Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, Dr. C. Everett Koop, Surgeon General of the United States, 1981-1989; H.E. Anand Panyarachun, former prime minister of Thailand; and Dr. Robert Seiple, president of World Vision. The inaugural Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize was awarded last year to Operation Smile, an international volunteer medical organization that performs free facial reconstructive surgery on disadvantaged children and young adults worldwide. The funds were used to launch surgical missions in three new countries, Honduras, Brazil and Thailand, as well as to expand the organization's United States medical program. Carter is chairman of the nonprofit Carter Center in Atlanta, Georgia. The Center works to prevent and resolve conflict, enhance freedom and democracy, and improve health worldwide. The Hilton Foundation was founded in 1944 by the late hotel entrepreneur, Conrad N. Hilton, who also established a separate fund to support the work of the Catholic Sisters. The Foundation and its related entities, which have assets of $1.8 billion, does not accept unsolicited proposals. Instead, it proactively initiates major long term projects and seeks out appropriate organizations to implement them. The Foundation focuses on worldwide blindness and the multi-handicapped blind; clean water supplies for developing countries; early childhood development for infants and toddlers with disabilities; prevention and intervention efforts to stop domestic violence and combat substance abuse among youth; and services for the mentally ill homeless.
SOURCE International Rescue Committee