Greenpeace’s René Ngongo wins 2009 Right Livelihood Award:

Alternative Nobel Prize for Congo forest protection

Media release - October 13, 2009
Washington/Kinshasa, October 13, 2009 – Greenpeace Africa Political Advisor, René Ngongo has been awarded the 2009 Right Livelihood Award - commonly known as the "Alternative Nobel Prize" - for championing forest protection and social justice in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). (1).

Ngongo, 48, founded the influential "Organisation Concertee des Ecologistes et Amis de la Nature" (OCEAN) in 1996 to give a voice and infrastructure to Congolese civil society in its fight against forest destruction. A University of Kisangani graduate, he is a renowned ecologist, environmentalist and human rights campaigner.  Ngongo is an expert on the impacts of environmental destruction in the Congo Forest Basin. He has also worked extensively with forest communities informing them of their rights with respect to both forest protection and environmental conservation.

Born in Goma, eastern DRC, he lives in Kinshasa with his wife and four children, whom he sees as an inspiration for his work. Commenting on the award he said: "We need to protect the Congo Basin forests to ensure the livelihoods of future generations. Beyond that we also know that we need to save the forests to save the climate. The rich biodiversity our forests house might very well help us and our children adapt to a changing climate, which sadly is increasingly necessary. But, we will only manage to save the forests of the Congo Basin by working together locally, nationally and internationally - hopefully this award will help bring more attention to the issue."

Ngongo's collaboration with Greenpeace began in 2004 and he has worked for the international environmental organization since 2008. He was the obvious choice to oversee the opening of Greenpeace's first office in Kinshasa. Since then Ngongo has continued to challenge government and international organizations to ensure transparency for on going forest reforms.  In a recent open letter to the DRC Minister of Environment, Ngongo wrote on behalf of Greenpeace: "It is not too late to save the intact forests of the DRC and to support truly sustainable development models that benefit the Congolese people. But the time to act is now."(2) The Congo Basin is home to the second largest rainforest in the world, after the Amazon.

Welcoming the award, Greenpeace International Executive Director Gerd Leipold said: "While we hope President Obama turns his Nobel Peace Prize into real action for climate protection at this December's United Nations climate conference in Copenhagen, it is people like Rene Ngongo who have already started the heavy lifting. People like René are the real climate leaders and it is good to know that at the very least one climate hero will be honored in Scandinavia this December."

In June 2007, René visited Washington DC with Adrien Sinafasi, a leader in the DRC Pygmy community, to draw attention to the plight of the Congo rainforest. The visit prompted US Senators, including then-Senator Barack Obama, to send a letter to the President of the World Bank urging a stop to the destruction of the Congo rainforest by uncontrolled industrial logging.

The Right Livelihood Award will be presented in Stockholm, Sweden on December 2, 2009 three days prior to the start of the crucial United Nations Climate talks in Copenhagen. Deforestation is responsible for twenty percent of our annual greenhouse gas emissions - more than the global transport sector. Ngongo and the rest of Greenpeace ask that the international community agree at Copenhagen on a forest protection mechanism (3) that brings gross tropical deforestation to an end by 2020 and promotes local development based on alternatives to industrial logging. (4)

VVPR info: CONTACTS: Joe Smyth, Greenpeace USA Media Officer: 831-566-5647, Susanne Breitkopf, Greenpeace Political Advisor for Forests and Climate, Africa Specialist: 202-390-5586, Photos available at http://usaphoto.greenpeace.org/20091013Ngongo High resolution images available, contact

Notes: Notes to Editors: 1. The Right Livelihood Award honors and supports those offering practical and exemplary answers to the most urgent challenges facing us today. The Right Livelihood Award, established in 1980 by Jakob von Uexkull, is an award that is presented annually, usually on December 9, to honor those "working on practical and exemplary solutions to the most urgent challenges facing the world today". An international jury, invited by the five regular Right Livelihood Award board members, decides the awards in such fields as environmental protection, human rights, sustainable development, health, education and peace. The prize money is shared among the winners, usually numbering four, and is SEK2 million (US$310,000). http://www.rightlivelihood.org/ 2. For more information on the Open Letter to the DRC environment minister, please follow this link http://www.greenpeace.org/africa/news/forests-of-the-democratic-repu 3. For information about Greenpeace's policy on saving forests to protect the climate go to: http://www.greenpeace.org/raw/content/international/press/reports/greenpeace-policy-on-saving-fo-2.pdf 4. See also our recent briefing “Why logging will not save the climate” http://www.greenpeace.org/raw/content/international/press/reports/why-logging-will-not-save-the.pdf For further information about Ngongo and the award please visit: www.rightlivelihood.org