Threatened Philippine environmental defender awarded with UN Champion of the Earth Award
Joan Carling, Phillipine indigenous leader and partner of IUCN NL, is recognized with the UN Champion of the Earth lifetime achievement award for her work as one of the world’s most prominent defenders of environmental and indigenous rights. Earlier this year, Carling was earmarked as 'terrorist suspect' by the Philippine government. For safety reasons she hasn’t been able to return to the Philippines since.
The award recognizes Carlings tireless and selfless fight for the rights of the indigenous Kankanaey tribe in Cordillera, in the northern part of the Philippines. “The land of gold”, says Carling. “Our land sits on a mineral belt, rich in gold, copper and manganese. It belongs to us, the indigenous peoples of the Cordillera. Yet, our natural resources and way of life are threatened by mining companies and other so-called development projects.”
Mining causes huge pollution, environmental damage and human rights violations.
Carling has been at the forefront of the conflict for land and the environment for more than 20 years. She has actively participated in global processes, including at UN level. IUCN NL supports the protection of Cordillera’s nature since 2007 through partnering with the Cordillera Peoples Alliance, that was chaired by Carling.
Environmental defenders such as Carling regularly face threats against their life. Last year, the Philippines was declared the world's second deadliest country for environmental defenders in 2017 with at least 41 cases of environment-related killings recorded.
Carling herself has not been home since February this year, after she was placed on a list of alleged armed rebels in the Philippines. “I fear for the safety of my family and friends. But I need to stay more motivated than ever. I cannot give up the fight for my people.”
Realizing sustainable development
Carlings work is aimed towards building alliances: with governments, companies, civil society and the global community. “Indigenous peoples are not the enemies. We are not against development. We must act all in solidarity, and assume responsibility for realizing sustainable development for all.”