Olivier Ndoole Bahemuke wins prestigious award for human rights defenders

Olivier Ndoole Bahemuke is a Congolese environmental and human rights defender who has dedicated his life’s work to advocating for environmental rights, land rights and land justice, especially in and around Virunga National Park. Last week, Olivier was awarded the Front Line Defenders Award 2023.

Header photo: Olivier Ndoole Bahemuke receives the Front Line Defenders Award © Conor McCabe

In 2008, Olivier co-founded the NGO Alerte Congolaise pour l’Environnement et les Droits de l’Homme (ACEDH), through which he has actively supported and represented local communities, groups and individuals working on the environment for over 15 years.

Green lawyer in Virunga

Olivier is known as the ‘’Green Lawyer’’ in North Kivu because of his defence of Virunga Park and its workers and people. The communities he has represented face economic expropriation and exploitation of their land and resources.

Nearly a decade of support from IUCN NL

‘We have been supporting Olivier Ndoole and ACEDH for almost 10 years with programs and projects working on land grabbing, wildlife trafficking and illegal natural resource exploitation activities,’ says Paul Villaespesa, Expert East Africa at IUCN NL.

It is a great honor to see his work, which we proudly support, being put forward. The innovative approach of ACEDH to support and train the Congolese judicial system in North Kivu, in order to put an end to the impunity of crimes against the environment, which has brought about many positive results. This award recognises the skills and quality of ACEDH and its founder Olivier.

‘Defending the environment in the Democratic Republic of Congo is the riskiest job on earth.
But it is the most crucial work for humanity because we defend the cause of all, including those who threaten us and exploit this nature.’

Olivier Ndoole Bahemuke

Safety of environmental defenders

IUCN NL is working on concrete interventions that improve the safety of environmental defenders. We do this in our projects Forests for a Just Future, Amazon Rights in Focus and PIDDA.

We provide safety training, offer legal aid and provide tools people can use to protect their environment safely, such as risk analyses and communication protocols.

We also ensure that swift action can be taken when conservationists are in need. We do this, for example, by making funds available so that people can be brought to safety or receive legal assistance acutely.

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