The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Ruud Lubbers, has been awarded the Freedom Prize 2002 by the Max Schmidheiny Foundation.
The prize worth SFr100,000 was handed to the former Dutch prime minister at a ceremony at the University of St Gallen for "relaunching the Dutch economy" and for stimulating employment.
The Max Schmidheiny Foundation seeks to promote "outstanding scientific, political and entrepreneurial initiatives and achievements that safeguard individual freedom and responsibility."
In a statement the foundation said that Lubbers had succeeded in modernising the Netherlands with the collaboration of the "political, economic and social" spheres. It added that the former premier had been sensitive to society's needs at all times.
In his current role as head of the UN Refugee agency, the foundation said that Lubbers was working to defend the rights of 22 million refugees.
He "accords victims of armed conflicts and conflict-ridden regions justice, protection and aid," the foundation said.
The award ceremony took place at the 32nd International Students' Committee (ISC) symposium at the University of St Gallen in eastern Switzerland.
The forum attracts leaders from the world of politics, business and science, and includes some 250 students from top business schools and universities.
swissinfo with agencies