Liisa Kauppinen was Executive Director at the Finnish Association of the Deaf from 1976 to 2006, and became the first female president of the World Federation for the Deaf in 1995.
She has worked for the World Health Organisation and UNESCO, among other global NGOs. She becomes the first Finnish recipient of the award. Previous winners include Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King and Jimmy Carter.
“This is a big surprise,” said Kauppinen. “I really appreciate this prize and I see it as recognition for all the deaf people, sign language users, women, people with disabilities, and Finns.”
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon will present Kauppinen with the award in New York on 10 December.