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Tuesday, 25 July, 2000, 16:14 GMT 17:14 UK
Activists share 'Asian Nobel Prize'
shanty town Calcutta
Jockin Arputham won an award for his work with slum dwellers
By East Asia reporter Clare Arthurs

A former Philippine town mayor, a Chinese environmentalist, two Indian activists and an Indonesian journalist will share this year's Ramon Magsaysay Award, Asia's version of the Nobel prizes.

The awards are named after former Philippine president Ramon Magsaysay who died in a plane crash in 1957.

women rajasthan
Aruna Roy was recognised for her work in empowering Rajasthan villagers
Mr Magsaysay was revered for his commitment to democracy and improving life for ordinary people.

For more than 40 years, the awards have recognised people committed to community service, but not simply for what they do.

The awards recognise the generosity of spirit which motivates those who receive them.

In the past they have included the Indian charity worker and nun, Mother Teresa, and the former Philippine president Corazon Aquino.

Environment

This year's winner include Jesse Robredo, mayor of the Philippine city of Naga from 1988 to 1998.

The president of the Magsaysay Foundation, Carmencita Abella, said: "It is unusual for a young, non-traditional politician in Asia to be able to apply really sound management in running a city and at the same time genuinely involve people in the whole process of development."

Another winner is Liang Congjie founder of China's first environmental lobby group, Friends of Nature.

"Aside from his courageous leadership in pioneering the environmental movement, Mr Liang Congjie has also given hope to what is a very nascent civil society in China," Ms Abella said.

"How he has done that without alienating the government is what we would like to hold up as a replicable model to other countries."

Slums

Indonesian journalist Atmakusumah Astraatmadja won his award for his work for a free media.

The other two winners are Jockin Arputham, founder of India's National Slum Dwellers Federation, for extending his efforts to poor communities in other parts of Asia and South Africa, and Aruna Roy, for her work in empowering villagers in Rajasthan to stand up for their rights.

All five will receive their awards in a ceremony on 31 August, Ramon Magsaysay's birthday.

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