PNG and Amazon Forest campaigners win global environment prize

Press release - 2006-04-25
A Papua New Guinean lawyer and a Brazilian activist are among six people to have been named as winners of the world’s top grassroots environmental award, in recognition of their work to protect some of the last ancient forests on earth.

Close-up of group of white hooded fungi.

Tarcísio Feitosa da Silva from Brazil, and Anne Kajir from Papua New Guinea – both working intensively in separate parts of the globe – have risked their lives and livelihoods to protect some of the world's last remaining forests. The $125,000 Goldman Environmental Prize, now in its 17th year, is awarded annually to six grassroots environmental heroes and is the largest award of its kind in the world.

"These winners are among the most important people you have not heard of before," said Goldman Prize founder Richard N. Goldman. "All of them have fought, often alone and at great personal risk, to protect the environment in their home countries. Their incredible achievements are an inspiration to all of us."

Anne Kajir, 32, uncovered evidence of widespread corruption and complicity in the Papua New Guinea government, which allowed rampant, illegal logging that is destroying the largest remaining intact block of tropical forest in the Asia Pacific region. In 1997, her first year practising law, Kajir successfully defended a precedent-setting appeal in the Supreme Court of Papua New Guinea that forced the logging interests to pay damages to indigenous land owners.

Tarcísio Feitosa da Silva, 35, led efforts to create the world's largest group of protected tropical forest regions in a remote, lawless region in northern Brazil threatened by illegal logging. Despite death threats, Feitosa worked with local organizations to create protected lands for local residents and exposed illegal logging activities to the Brazilian government.

Greenpeace joined with the Goldman Foundation in congratulating the winners, and in particular Tarcísio and Anne, who have both been involved in Greenpeace forest campaigns in the past.

Greenpeace International Forests campaigner, Gavin Edwards congratulated both activists for their magnificent work in protecting the last Ancient Forests and their people. "It takes a special kind of person to speak out against those logging companies that destroy the last of the world's ancient forests, given the high likelihood of personal threats and intimidation that may follow. Annie & Tarcísio are 2 such people - the worlds forests are a little safer because of their work".

"Without lawyers like Anne, and her organisation - the Environmental Law Centre - PNG's resource owners would stand no chance against the corruption and human rights abuses inflicted on them. Through her fearless commitment, Anne has made it possible for communities to protect their land and develop ecologically sustainable solutions that safeguard their forests and traditional way of life", concluded Edwards.

Greenpeace is currently working in the heart of the Amazon campaigning to prevent it being cleared to grow agricultural product such as soy and with customary land owners and partner NGOs, including the Environmental Law Centre, in the Western Province of PNG marking land boundaries and preparing the way for eco-forestry projects as an alternative to large-scale illegal logging.

Notes:

Detailed biographical information and photographs of all winners are available at www.goldmanprize.org/2006media. Also available are broadcast-quality video and audio of the winners in their home countries. Additional information about the Prize and previous winners is at www.goldmanprize.org.

Greenpeace volunteers are currently working with customary landowners in Lake Murray, Western Province, Papua New Guinea to mark the boundaries of their land. This is a first step towards protecting it from the logging industry and a basis for eco-forestry projects in the area.

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