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1 May 2019

Front Line Defenders Congratulates Winners of the 2019 Goldman Environmental Prize

Front Line Defenders congratulates the six winners of the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize for their courageous, consistent and inspiring efforts towards protecting the planet, often at great personal risk. The award recognizes grassroots leaders in each of the six continents, with a focus on protecting endangered ecosystems and species, combating destructive development projects, promoting sustainability, influencing environmental policies, and striving for environmental justice.

About the winners:

Alberto Curamil, an indigenous Mapuche, organized the people of Araucanía to stop the construction of two hydroelectric projects on the sacred Cautín River in central Chile. In August 2018, Curamil was arrested on charges of robbery (a claim his community maintains is political retaliation) and remains in pre-trial detention today.

Linda Garcia organized Fruit Valley residents to stop the construction of the Tesoro Savage oil export terminal in Vancouver, Washington, in February 2018. By preventing North America’s largest oil terminal from being built, Garcia halted the flow of 11 million gallons of crude oil per day from North Dakota to Washington.

Conservationist Jacqueline Evans led a five-year grassroots campaign to protect the Cook Islands’ stunning marine biodiversity. As a result, in July 2017 the Cook Islands enacted new legislation—Marae Moana—to sustainably manage and conserve all 763,000 square miles of the country’s ocean territory.

Ana Colovic Lesoska led a seven-year campaign to cut off international funding for two large hydropower plants planned for inside Mavrovo National Park—North Macedonia’s oldest and largest national park—thereby protecting the habitat of the nearly-extinct Balkan lynx. Financing for both projects was subsequently revoked.

In April 2016, Bayarjargal Agvaantseren helped create the 1.8 million-acre Tost Tosonbumba Nature Reserve in the South Gobi Desert—a critical habitat for the vulnerable snow leopard— then succeeded in persuading the Mongolian government to cancel all 37 mining licenses within the reserve.

Environmental lawyer and activist Alfred Brownell, currently living in temporary exile in the United States for his safety, stopped the clear-cutting of Liberia’s tropical forests by palm oil plantation developers.

In addition to having the right to food, clean water, suitable shelter, and education, having a safe and sustainable environment is paramount, as all other rights are dependent upon it. Environmental rights defenders are often gravely at risk for their work: of the 321 killings of HRDs reported to Front Line Defenders in 2018, 77% involved defenders working on land, environmental and indigenous peoples’ rights; such defenders are nearly 3.5 times more likely to be killed than HRDs working in other sectors. They are also more likely to be targeted by physical attack and smear campaigns.