Cordillera’s Joan Carling wins UN Champions of the Earth Award

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Joan Carling of the Kankanaey tribe in the Cordillera region has been recognized by the United Nations with its highest environmental distinction. Image from the United Nations Environment Programme.

Cordillera native Joan Carling has been awarded as a United Nations Champion of the Earth for her life’s work of fighting for environmental and indigenous people’s (IP) rights.

Carling was recognized with the UN Award – the UN’s highest environmental distinction for a lifetime achievement – in ceremonies held at the Earth Gala in New York coinciding with the annual UN General Assembly meeting.

The Filipino UN laureate was cited for 20 years of “her tireless environmental action at the forefront of the fight for land and the environment.”

A member of the Kankanaey tribe of the northern region of Cordillera which sits on a mineral belt, rich in gold, copper and manganese, Carling has fought against mining practices which take away the rights and resources of her indigenous people community.

She reveals in the UN announcement of her award that she was inspired in her youth by the struggles of Macli-ing Dulag, a Kalinga tribal leader who was killed while fighting against development on the Chico River.

The UN body acknowledged Carling’s impact on environmental protection efforts despite continuous threats to her life. She has twice served as the Secretary General of the Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact (AIPP) and Chairperson of the Cordillera People’s Alliance.

“Joan Carling has shown us all the immense dedication and courage that has fueled her in her decades-long fight for environmental rights,” head of UN Environment Erik Solheim said.

”Unlike her adversaries, she is standing on the right side of history, and it’s our privilege and responsibility to stand alongside her.”

“Through my work with communities in the Philippines, in Asia and beyond, I have realized that this is a global issue. We need to bring voices of indigenous peoples to the debate and raise them in front of policymakers.

Indigenous peoples are not the enemies. We are not against development. We are conserving our environment for the future of humanity. But we cannot do this alone. The global community, governments, companies and civil society must act in solidarity, and assume responsibility for realizing sustainable development for all,” was Carling’s response to the recognition.

The Filipino IP was appointed by the UN Economic and Social Council as an indigenous expert and served as a member of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues between 2014 and 2016.

She is a member and co-convenor of the Indigenous Peoples Major Group for the Sustainable Development Goals.

“The global community must unite in solidarity and clamp down on tyrannical governments and corporations,” Carling said.

“Defending environmental and human rights around the world must become a priority again. I share this award with every environmental activist, in recognition that there is hope that justice will prevail for our people and the planet,” said Carling of the value of the UN award.

Carling joins UN laureates who have been recognized since the Champions of the Earth Award was founded thirteen years ago – ranging from leaders of nations to grassroots activists – in the categories of policy, science, business and civil society.

WATCH: Joan Carling – 2018 Champion of the Earth:

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