NEW YORK, Oct. 14, 2015 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The Conrad N. Hilton Foundation announced that its distinguished panel of independent international jurors has selected Landesa, a Seattle-based land rights organization, as the recipient of the largest humanitarian prize in the world – the Hilton Humanitarian Prize. As the 2015 Hilton Humanitarian Prize recipient, Landesa will receive $2 million in unrestricted funding and join the Hilton Prize Coalition, which was established in celebration of the 20th anniversary of the Hilton Prize and is comprised of all 20 Hilton Prize Laureate organizations.
"Landesa's vision is a world free of extreme poverty—a vision made possible by securing land rights for some of the most vulnerable and disadvantaged people throughout the world," said Conrad N. Hilton Foundation President and CEO Steven Hilton. "We are proud to recognize Landesa for its dedication to lifting individuals, their families, and entire communities out of poverty, and we know that the organization will put the Hilton Prize to good use."
More than one third of the world's population, 2.5 billion people, survive on less than $2 a day. The majority of these people are poor rural farmers who depend on the land to survive, but many have no legal control over that land. By partnering with governments in more than 50 countries, Landesa has promoted land-related laws, policies and programs that free women and men to climb out of poverty, feed their families, and send their children to school. Since its founding in 1967, Landesa has partnered with governments on reforms that have provided secure land rights for an estimated 115 million rural families across the globe.
The organization has also taken on the role of elevating land rights on the global development agenda. It has been a champion of land rights within the Sustainable Development Goals and speaks at global policy forums, from the G-8 to Davos. In this work, Landesa has made great strides in raising the international profile of land rights issues, and as a result, the UN now includes land in three of its Sustainable Development Goals.
"We are incredibly grateful that the Conrad N. Hilton Prize jurors have selected Landesa as the recipient of the 20th Hilton Humanitarian Prize," said Landesa President and CEO Chris Jochnick. "Secure land rights are transformational for the world's poor."
"Land rights as a foundation for broad-based economic development are too often overlooked," Jochnick continued. "In India, for instance, the greatest predictor of poverty isn't illiteracy or low caste. The greatest predictor of poverty is landlessness. There are an estimated 18 million rural families who are completely landless, and many times that number of families who have insecure rights to the land on which they rely. With secure land rights, women and men have the opportunity, incentive and security to improve their harvest, and thereby their lives. We look forward to leveraging the Hilton Humanitarian Prize to bring more attention to this work, which can bring much-needed economic security for the world's most vulnerable populations."
"In the world's poorest rural societies, secure rights to land are everything," said Conrad N. Hilton Foundation Vice President and Prize Director Judy Miller. "Land serves as a source of food, housing, income and credit, and it can both empower individuals, and provide social status and influence."
"Land rights are especially important for women," Miller continued. "Women make up almost half the agricultural labor around the world, and in some countries produce more than half the food. However, in many countries, discriminatory laws and customs mean they have no legal control over the land they farm. If widowed or separated from the men in their lives, they can lose their only source of food, income and shelter."
Landesa has worked tirelessly to increase opportunity and equal rights for women by creating the Center for Women's Land Rights, connecting policymakers and researchers from around the world to find innovative solutions to women's land rights issues. It was instrumental in establishing India's first Women's Support Center, which connects divorced, widowed and abandoned women and their children with government services, including land distribution programs. Furthermore, Landesa piloted the India Girls Project, through which more than 40,000 young women are learning about their rights to land, and their rights to stay in school and avoid early marriage. Landesa is currently expanding the program to reach more than 1 million girls over the next three years. The organization also works with governments in countries such as Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Tanzania, China, Myanmar, and India to strengthen legal protection for women's land rights. Additionally, it established the Visiting Professionals Program, which trains the developing world's next generation of women's land rights activists.
Landesa adapts its interventions to each country's unique cultural standards and policies to create practical, durable solutions to some of the most pressing problems of our era. Through Landesa's partnerships, national land laws have been reformed in Russia, Ukraine, Kyrgyzstan and Moldova. In addition, tenant farmers in Vietnam and El Salvador have become legal owners of the land they farm. Women have learned of their equal rights to land through Landesa's partnerships in India, Rwanda and Kenya.
Each year, the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation reviews hundreds of nominations from notable nonprofit organizations from across the globe, and an independent, international panel of distinguished jurors makes the final selection after a rigorous vetting process. Nominations for the 2016 Hilton Humanitarian Prize are now being accepted and should be submitted through the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation website before Oct. 31.
About the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation The Conrad N. Hilton Foundation was created in 1944 by international business pioneer Conrad N. Hilton, who founded Hilton Hotels and left his fortune to help the world's disadvantaged and vulnerable people. The Foundation currently conducts strategic initiatives in six priority areas: providing safe water, ending chronic homelessness, preventing substance use, helping children affected by HIV and AIDS, supporting transition-age youth in foster care, and extending Conrad Hilton's support for the work of Catholic Sisters. In addition, following selection by an independent international jury, the Foundation annually awards the $2 million Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize to a nonprofit organization doing extraordinary work to reduce human suffering. From its inception, the Foundation has awarded more than $1 billion in grants, distributing $100 million in the U.S. and around the world in 2014. The Foundation's current assets are approximately $2.5 billion. For more information, please visit www.hiltonfoundation.org.