For Immediate Release
Washington DC: (202) 462-1177
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Greenpeace’s René Ngongo wins 2009 Right Livelihood Award
Alternative Nobel Prize for Congo forest protection
WASHINGTON - 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
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
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