Sweden: Award for Congo champion


rene ngongo in brussels from greenpeaceGreenpeace Africa's Political Advisor, René Ngongo, who grew up near the Virunga National Park received the Right Livelihood Award (sometimes called the 'Alternative Nobel') a week ago at the Swedish Parliament for his dedicated work in defending the rights and livelihood of Democratic Republic of Congo's forest communities.

© Greenpeace

The Right Livelihood Award Foundation recognised Ngongo 'for his courage in confronting the forces that are destroying the Congo's rainforests and building political support for their conservation and sustainable use.'

"I humbly receive this honour on behalf of many of the DRC's poor communities for whom the forest is a source of livelihood, a supermarket, a pharmacy and an heirloom," said René. "If we do not continue to raise our voices against the destruction of these ancient forests, their future and our very own existence is at stake." 

"René Ngongo is a real leader, one who has acted to protect the DRC forests and to protect its people." It's also good timing: as delegates thrash out negotiations in Copenhagen. "World leaders must work together to end deforestation as a critical step in any climate saving deal. In the end, it is real leaders who act - politicians just talk," said Dr. Kumi Naidoo, Greenpeace International Executive Director.

Ngongo, together with his colleagues at Greenpeace, Global Witness and The Rainforest Foundation, sent a joint open letter to the World Bank - the principal financier of Congolese forest reform. The letter exposes the environmental and social chaos caused by multinational timber companies in DRC and criticises the Bank's role in promoting industrial logging of rainforests in the name of development. The NGOs insist that the Bank instead needs to 'promote viable alternatives that benefit the Congolese people and the global climate'. The World Bank's position in favour of logging may also influence the REDD climate negotiations under the guise of so-called 'sustainable forest management'. REDD, as part of the UNFCCC negotiations in Copenhagen, must on the contrary exclude incentives for more forest destruction, such as industrial logging and conversion of forests into plantations and should provide a reliable fund to promote alternatives.

Ngongo has dedicated his life to activism.  In the midst of raging conflict, he tirelessly pushed for an end to illegal exploitation of his country's natural resources, collecting abundant evidence on timber and mineral extraction under sometimes life-threatening conditions. Ngongo has been able to build a strong network and momentum for better protection of the world's second largest rainforest.

Related links:

Virunga National Park

Greenpeace Africa

Rainforest Foundation

Global Witness

World Bank