Distinction in travel journalism
Is independent travel journalism important to you?
Click here to keep it independent

1 Oct, 2018

Filipina environmental and indigenous rights activist wins Champions of the Earth Award

United Nations, 26 September 2018, UNEP media release — Joan Carling, one of the most prominent fighters for environmental and indigenous rights in the Philippines, has been recognized for her work with a Champions of the Earth Award for lifetime achievement, the UN’s highest environmental distinction. 

For more than 20 years, Carling has been at the forefront of the conflict for land and the environment, fighting for communities worldwide locked in deadly struggles against governments, companies and criminal gangs exploiting land for products like timber, minerals and palm oil, often bringing her into conflict with businesses and the Philippine government.

In her youth, Carling was inspired by the struggle against the construction of hydropower dams along the Chico River. If developed, these dams would have affected 16 towns and villages and displaced 100,000 tribal peoples, tearing apart their livelihoods and social fabric. Over the years, she has seen first-hand the environmental devastation caused by large dams and gold mining, and stood up against these projects.

“Joan Carling has shown us all the immense dedication and courage that has fueled her in her decades-long fight for environmental rights,” head of UN Environment Erik Solheim said. ”Unlike her adversaries, she is standing on the right side of history, and it’s our privilege and responsibility to stand alongside her.”

In February 2018, Carling’s name was added to a government list designating her a terrorist, outlaw, and threat to national security. Regardless of the threats she experiences in her home country, Carlin has continued to fight for environmental rights for decade, and is not even considering backing down.

“The global community must unite in solidarity and clamp down on tyrannical governments and corporations,” Carling said. “Defending environmental and human rights around the world must become a priority again. I share this award with every environmental activist, in recognition that there is hope that justice will prevail for our people and the planet.” 

Global Witness, an international organization aiming to protect human rights and the environment, found that almost four environmental defenders on average, are being killed per week, with many more harassed, intimidated and forced from their lands. Around 25 percent of the 207 environmental defenders killed in 2017 came from indigenous communities.

The award was presented during the Champions of the Earth Gala in New York coinciding with the annual UN General Assembly meeting, which brings heads of states, ministers, and leaders of the public and private sector together to discuss some of the most urgent global issues.

The gala, attended by over 400 guests centered around some of the most radical positive forces for environmental change around the world.

Other winners of the Champions of the Earth Award were: Impossible Foods and Beyond meat, creating high-quality vegetarian meat-alternatives; the Zhejiang River Chiefs program, tackling water protection, pollution prevention, and ecological restoration; and Cochin International Airport, the world’s first fully solar-powered airport.

About UN Environment

UN Environment is the leading global voice on the environment. It provides leadership and encourages partnership in caring for the environment by inspiring, informing, and enabling nations and peoples to improve their quality of life without compromising that of future generations. UN Environment works with governments, the private sector, the civil society and with other UN entities and international organizations across the world.

About Champions of the Earth

The annual Champions of the Earth prize is awarded to outstanding leaders from government, civil society and the private sector whose actions have had a positive impact on the environment. Since being founded thirteen years ago, the awards have recognized 84 laureates – ranging from leaders of nations to grassroots activists – in the categories of policy, science, business and civil society. Visit the website here: http://web.unep.org/champions.