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Drivers of Change Individual Award: Dr José Negrão

The Drivers of Change award honours individuals, government, civil society and business organizations from southern Africa that go beyond the conventional in making a real impact, especially in developing effective public policies and strategies, to end poverty. It recognises innovative and inclusive strategies, practices, attitudes, approaches and processes that create the best conditions to make a real and lasting difference in the lives of people living in poverty.

The inaugural winner of this award was an individual who inspired the lives of many people in Mozambique and throughout southern Africa who work to end poverty. Dr José Negrão was a professor of Development Economics at the University of Eduardo Mondlane and was a founding member of Cruzeiro do Sul, a research institute addressing a wide range of issues including poverty and rural development.

An advocate of land rights and promoter of an evidence-based approach to development, Dr Negrão put the voices of the poor at the centre of his scholarly work and activism. His research informed a wide range of advocacy and campaigning initiatives to overcome poverty. And he became a distinguished leader in the development of land law for which he is renowned not only in Mozambique but in Africa as a whole.

He demonstrated firm commitment and exceptional ability in bringing together divergent views and interests to ensure that the poor have access to and possess land not only based on the issuance of a title but through acknowledgement of peoples’ historical rights to land as communities on the basis of occupation and oral testimony.

In national and regional dialogue about overcoming poverty, Dr Negrão played an instrumental role in introducing a process whereby the perceptions of people living in poverty were taken into account and used to enrich the understanding of poverty and the appropriate strategies to make a real impact on their lives.

Characteristic of great people of history, Dr Negrão was a man who wore many hats: he was an active member of the G20 in Mozambique, a group that represents the voice of civil society in the national Poverty Observatory, an innovative process that has developed a collective national vision for development in Mozambique; a member of the Mozambican Debt Group; served on the boards of directors of the Southern African Regional Poverty Network (SARPN) and the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (OSISA); and was an ardent participant in the Pan African Programme on Land and Resource Rights.

No stranger to awards, Dr Negrão received the Desmond Tutu Footprints of Legend Leadership Award in 2002 and was named personality of the year by the Mozambican weekly newspaper Savana.

A great communicator, selfless, an innovator, devoted to people-centred policies, and a pragmatist – all distinctive qualities that were seen by the Panel of Judges which unanimously awards, posthumously, Dr José Negrão the Driver of Change award for 2006.