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Last week, a number of Right Livelihood Award Recipients went to Lima, Peru, for the UN climate talks: Among them climate, land rights, environmental and human rights activists including 350.org, MST, Bianca Jagger, Nnimmo Bassey, René Ngongo, as well as journalist Amy Goodman.
Their assessment of what negotiators brought to the table at the COP20 is sober:
Nnimmo Bassey, describes in an article published on December 13 that they merely heard platitudes and "paltry voluntary pledges of money and carbon emissions offsets". "This era of voluntarism does nothing to indicate that there is a carbon budget that has to be dealt with."
Bianca Jagger's take is similarly critical on the negotiations failing to tackle questions of climate justice as she writes in the Huffington Post: "I fear this UN climate conference will go down in history as the COP which failed to make provision for the poorest and most vulnerable, that failed to protect the rights of indigenous people and local communities; that postponed REDD+ negotiations, and failed to promote gender equality."
On the positive side, the Laureates noted a strong mobilisation of citizens. "Waves upon waves of citizens took to the streets denouncing the inaction at the COP, destruction of territories, human rights abuses and demanding the desired seriousness," Nnimmo Bassey reports.
Jamie Henn of 350.org notes: "We were pleased to see around 100 countries support the goal of phasing out carbon emissions by mid-century. The goal's inclusion in the draft text is a win for the fossil fuel divestment movement and will add momentum to that growing campaign. But action must begin now, not after decades of delay." Still, he continues, "We must continue to take on the biggest barrier to progress: the fossil fuel industry. (...) We know that companies like Chevron and Shell are working behind the scenes to block action. They don't deserve a seat at the table when they're trying to burn it down."
Amy Goodman (host of Democracy Now!) comments on the role of media in reporting about climate change and climate change movements: "The major media, especially in the United States, fail to report accurately on the growing climate movement, focusing instead the pronouncements of governments leaders. They report on 'extreme weather', but rarely link those events to global warming. Governments will play a major role in tackling the climate crisis, surely. But so, too, will movements - grassroots movements of people around the world, working locally, joining together, creating a sustainable future. We need a media that holds those in power accountable. We need a media that covers the movements - like the movement for climate justice - that make history." (See also her column reporting from Lima).
Eighteen Right Livelihood Award Laureates from 16 countries have signed an open letter requesting Indonesia's newly elected President, Joko Widodo, to fulfill the human rights pledges and promises he made during his election campaign.
The letter calls upon President Widodo to order the police to initiate a new independent investigation into the 2004 murder of Munir Said Thalib (RLA 2000) to ensure that all perpetrators, at all levels, are brought to justice in accordance with international human rights standards, particularly the "mastermind" behind the murder.
Before the ceremony, this year's Laureates commented on the Award and how they plan to use their prize money.
Basil Fernando said the prize money is going to be donated to the Asian Human Rights Commission, "which will use it for its work on protection of human rights." The AHRC works on providing legal assistance to victims of human rights violations and is engaged in advocacy and investigative research activities for prosecution and judicial reforms in 12 countries across the Asian continent.
Asma Jahangir announced the award money is going to be used to set up a web radio, to institute human rights awards in educational institutions in Pakistan and to support human rights defenders under threat. "It is an award that we share. For me, it is an honour but also an added responsibility to support victims of human rights and strengthen support for human rights in Pakistan," said Jahangir.
Bill McKibben said he would fund the work of 350.org and its partner organizations. He stressed that "this recognition comes at a perfect moment after the remarkable success of the People’s Climate March and as we start the strongest push yet against the fossil fuel industry and the politicians it has purchased."
Edward Snowden, recipient of an Honorary Award, recognised the importance of the Right Livelihood Award as "a vindication for everyone who came before to raise awareness to issues" of privacy and mass surveillance. He claimed that we all "have something to protect - our rights" and thanked all activists around the world for their tireless support via this video.
Alan Rusbridger remarked his Honorary Award stands as a recognition for The Guardian's "open journalism." He added that "the combination of Edward Snowden and The Guardian show the value of journalism and how journalist institutions can tell stories and defend them."
This week, a five-member delegation of the RLA Foundation witnessed the impact of "Operation Protective Edge" and the closure of Gaza on human rights defenders’ work inside Gaza. They went to Gaza to reaffirm their fullest solidarity with Raji Sourani (RLA 2013) and his colleagues at the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR), and to inquire into the threats and restrictions Raji Sourani and his colleagues face with regards to their security, rights and fundamental freedoms.
The delegates noted: "What we have witnessed is the aftermath of a manmade disaster. 'Operation Protective Edge' has been the second major offensive on the Gaza Strip in five years and its impact has been devastating. We learned that many people, and particularly children, are severely traumatized after the attacks and are in urgent need of psychological support. From the stories we heard and our own observations, many of these attacks were clearly directed towards civilians and civilian property. They were not collateral damage as a result of attacks against military targets. (…) we fully support the UN Human Rights Council’s on-going investigation of purported violations of international humanitarian law and human rights law in the latest Gaza conflict. We hope that the independent Commission of Inquiry will establish responsibility for these crimes and hold those who have committed them to account."
The European Parliament announced yesterday that Dr. Denis Mukwege has been named Laureate of the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought 2014, which will be awarded in Strasbourg in November. He will receive the Prize for his struggle to protect women.
The RLA Foundation welcomes the decision and congratulates Dr. Mukwege. In 2013, he had received the Right Livelihood Award "...for his courageous work healing women survivors of war-time sexual violence and speaking up about its root causes".
More information about the Sakharov Prize.