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Posted on on October 13th, 2009
by Pincas Jawetz (

From Stockholm, October 13, 2009

30th Right Livelihood Awards: Wake-up calls to secure our common future.

The 2009 Right Livelihood Awards go to four recipients:

The Honorary Award goes to DAVID SUZUKI (Canada) “for his lifetime advocacy of the socially responsible use of science, and for his
massive contribution to raising awareness about the perils of climate
change and building public support for policies to address it”.


Three recipients receive cash awards of EUR 50,000 each:

RENÉ NGONGO (Democratic Republic of Congo) is honoured “for his
courage in confronting the forces that are destroying the Congo’s rainforests and building political support for their conservation and sustainable use”.

ALYN WARE (New Zealand) is recognised “for his effective and creative
advocacy and initiatives over two decades to further peace education
and to rid the world of nuclear weapons”.

CATHERINE HAMLIN (Ethiopia) is awarded “for her fifty years dedicated
to treating obstetric fistula patients, thereby restoring the health,
hope and dignity of thousands of Africa’s poorest women”.


Quote – The Right Livelihood Award Jury gave the following motivation for its choice of Laureates:
“Despite the scientific warnings about the imminent threat and
disastrous impacts of climate change and despite our knowledge about solutions, the global response to this crisis is still painfully slow
and largely inadequate. At the same time, the threat from nuclear
weapons has by no means diminished, and the treatable diseases of
poverty shame our common humanity. The 2009 Right Livelihood Award Recipients demonstrate concretely what has to be done in order to tackle climate change, rid the world of nuclear weapons, and provide crucial medical treatment to the poor and marginalised.”



 Founded in 1980 the Right Livelihood Awards are presented annually
in the Swedish Parliament and are often referred to as ‘Alternative
Nobel Prizes’. They were introduced “to honour and support those
offering practical and exemplary answers to the most urgent
challenges facing us today”.

 Jakob von Uexkull, a Swedish-German professional philatelist, sold
his business to provide the original funding. Since then, the Award
has been supported by individual donors.

82 candidates from 46 countries were proposed for the Right
Livelihood Awards this year, whereof 36 come from industrialized and
46 from “developing” countries.



and from Greenpeace:

Greenpeace’s René Ngongo wins 2009 Right Livelihood Award: 

Alternative Nobel Prize for Congo forest protection. 

Amsterdam/Kinshasa, 13 October 2009 – 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 environmental conservation.  


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 organisation 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 organisations to ensure transparency for on-going forest reforms.  Presenting an open letter to the DRC Minister of Environment, Ngongo recently said 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.”  

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 2015 and promotes local development based on alternatives to industrial logging. (4)  


Dietlind Lerner, Forests-Climate Communications Manager, Amsterdam: Tel: +55 92 8115 8928

Fiona Musana, Communications Director, Greenpeace Africa Tel: +27 79 5129381

John Novis, Greenpeace International Head of Photography  Tel. +44 7801 615 889

Michael Nagasaka, Greenpeace International Video Producer, Tel. +44 7533 625 409 

Notes to Editors: 

   1. The Right Livelihood Award honours and supports those offering practical and exemplary answers to the most urgent challenges facing us today. The Right Livelihood Award, established in 1980 by Jakob von Uexkull, is an award that is presented annually, usually on December 9, to honour those “working on practical and exemplary solutions to the most urgent challenges facing the world today”. An international jury, invited by the five regular Right Livelihood Award board members, decides the awards in such fields as environmental protection, human rights, sustainable development, health, education and peace. The prize money is shared among the winners, usually numbering four, and is SEK2 million (US$310,000).

   2. For more information on the Open Letter to the DRC environment minister, please follow this link

3. For information about Greenpeace’s policy on saving forests to  protect the climate  go to:

4. See also our recent briefing “Why logging will not save the climate”   

For further information about Ngongo and the award please visit: 


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