Congo’s Forest Protector receives Right Livelihood Award

René Ngongo, Greenpeace Africa Political Advisor and civil society activist for 18 years, today receives the Right Livelihood Award at the Swedish Parliament for his dedicated, and at times dangerous, work in defending the rights and livelihood of Democratic Republic of Congo’s forest communities. Rene continued his advocacy this week with a joint open letter to the World Bank criticizing their policies that encourage industrial logging in the DRC.

The Right Livelihood Award Foundation recognized Ngongo "for his courage in confronting the forces that are destroying the Congo's rainforests and building political support for their conservation and sustainable use."

 "I humbly receive this honour on behalf of many of the DRC's poor communities for whom the forest is a source of livelihood, a supermarket, a pharmacy and an heirloom," said Rene. "If we do not continue to raise our voices against the destruction of these ancient forests, their future and our very own existence is at stake."

"René Ngongo is a real leader, one who has acted to protect the DRC forests and to protect its people. Just days before the beginning of the UN Copenhagen Climate Summit this award signals the critical importance of working to save the world's forests, not only for the people who depend on them, but also for their role in preventing catastrophic climate change. World leaders must work together to end deforestation as a critical step in any climate saving deal. In the end, it is real leaders who act - politicians just talk," said Dr. Kumi Naidoo, Greenpeace International Executive Director

Yesterday, Ngongo, together with his colleagues at Greenpeace, Global Witness and The Rainforest Foundation, sent a joint open letter to the World Bank (1), principal financier of Congolese forest reform. The letter exposes the environmental and social chaos caused by multinational timber companies in DRC and criticizes the Bank's role in promoting industrial logging of rainforests in the name of development. The NGOs insist that the Bank instead needs to 'promote viable alternatives that benefit the Congolese people and the global climate'. The World Bank's position in favor of logging may also influence the REDD (2) climate negotiations under the guise of so-called 'sustainable forest management'. REDD, as part of the UNFCCC negotiations in Copenhagen, must on the contrary exclude incentives for more forest destruction, such as industrial logging and conversion of forests into plantations and should provide a reliable fund to promote alternatives.

Ngongo has dedicated his life to activism.  In the midst of raging conflict, he tirelessly pushed for an end to illegal exploitation of his country's natural resources, collecting abundant evidence on timber and mineral extraction under sometimes life-threatening conditions. In 1994, Ngongo founded DRC's influential environment organization, OCEAN (3). Ngongo (4) has been able to build a strong network and momentum for better protection of the world's second largest rainforest.

VVPR info: 1. For communications and interviews with René Ngongo, Fiona Musana - Communications Director, Greenpeace Africa + 27 79 5129381, or Dietlind Lerner – Communication at Greenpeace International + 31 6 46 16 20 26 2. For information about the open letter to the World Bank, Greenpeace Political Advisor for Forests and Climate, Africa Specialist - 202-390-5586,; Joe Smyth, 831-566-5647,

Notes: 1. Greenpeace, Global Witness, The Rainforest Foundation UK, “REDD Future or Greenwash?” open letter to Michel Wormser, The World Bank, 3 December 2009, available at 2. Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation 3. Organisation concertée des écologistes et amis de la nature 4.

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