Davi Kopenawa / Hutukara Yanomami Association (Brazil)

...for their courageous determination to protect the forests and biodiversity of the Amazon, and the lands and culture of its indigenous peoples.


Indigenous leader in the Amazon announced 2019 Right Livelihood Award Laureate

The Right Livelihood Award, widely known as the ‘Alternative Nobel Prize’, celebrates its 40th anniversary this year. Davi Kopenawa of the Yanomami people, one of Brazil’s most respected indigenous leaders, is one of the 2019 Laureates, the Right Livelihood Foundation announced today in Stockholm, Sweden. He receives the Award jointly with Hutukara Yanomami Association, which is advancing indigenous rights and conserving the rainforest.

Davi Kopenawa and the Hutukara Yanomami Association (Brazil) jointly receive the Right Livelihood Award. They are recognised by the international jury “for their courageous determination to protect the forests and biodiversity of the Amazon, and the lands and culture of its indigenous peoples”.

The 2019 Right Livelihood Award Laureates were announced during a press conference at the International Press Centre at the Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs. The jury has selected four Laureates who will each receive 1 million SEK (94,000 EUR). The prize money is designated to support the Laureates’ work, it is not for personal use.

The other Laureates are human rights defender Aminatou Haidar (Western Sahara), lawyer Guo Jianmei (China), and climate activist Greta Thunberg (Sweden). The jury considered 142 nominations from 59 countries, after an open nomination process.

Ole von Uexkull, Executive Director of the Right Livelihood Foundation, commented:“Davi Kopenawa is, together with Hutukara Yanomami Association, successfully resisting the ruthless exploitation of indigenous lands in the Amazon, protecting our common planetary heritage.”

Davi Kopenawa has dedicated his life to protecting Yanomami rights, their culture and lands in the Amazon. Their territory is among the planet’s most important reservoirs of genetic diversity but high political pressure to exploit the Amazon’s natural resources is instigating invasions of indigenous lands. The violence, devastation and disease that follow are posing a severe threat to both biodiversity and the very existence of indigenous tribes.

The Yanomami people are one of the most populous indigenous tribes in Brazil with about 35,000 members. The combined area inhabited by the Yanomami in Brazil and Venezuela makes it the largest indigenous territory inhabited by one tribe in a tropical rainforest in the world – larger than Greece.

Twenty per cent of the Yanomami died in only seven years during the 1980s and 1990s, after gold miners destroyed villages, shot people and exposed the population to diseases to which they have no immunity. Today, these threats are increasing again.Kopenawa plays a fundamental role in uniting indigenous communities to resist the miners, ranchers and other powerful interests, destroying Yanomami lands and livelihoods for financial gain. He was instrumental in securing the 1992 demarcation of Yanomami lands in Brazil at over 96,000 square kilometres. Kopenawa’s long-running activism has gained him many powerful enemies, and he continuously faces death threats.

Davi Kopenawa is co-founder and President of the Hutukara Yanomami Association. Created in 2004, the organisation unites and represents disparate Yanomami communities in Brazil, advancing indigenous rights in the country. Hutukara is also conserving the rainforest. In light of the rapid decline in biodiversity across the world and the worsening effects of climate change, Yanomami knowledge on how to preserve and sustainably inhabit their lands, for the benefit of all, is significant.

Davi Kopenawa and Hutukara Yanomami Association will receive their prize at the 2019 Right Livelihood Award Celebration in Stockholm on 4 December. As the Award celebrates 40 years, the public is for the first time ever invited to participate in its presentation. Edward Snowden, who received the Right Livelihood Award in 2014, will join the celebration via link from Moscow and the artists José González and AneBrun will perform at the event. Tickets for the Award Celebration are available via Cirkus.se.


Press releases

Notes to Editors:

  • About the Right Livelihood Award
  • How it all began – The Nobel Foundation rejected an environmental prize


For further information and to arrange interviews, please contact:

Further details on the Laureates, alongside high-resolution photographs and videos, are available at: rightlivelihood.org/2019-announcement


About the Right Livelihood Award

Established in 1980, the Right Livelihood Award honours and supports courageous people solving global problems. To date, there are 178 Laureates from 70 countries.

The Swedish Right Livelihood Foundation presenting the Award sees its role as being the megaphone and shield for the Laureates and provides them with long-term support. It seeks to help protect those Award recipients whose life and liberty are in danger. The Foundation has Special Consultative Status with the UN Economic and Social Council.

Anyone can propose candidates to be considered for the Right Livelihood Award. The Laureates are selected by an international Jury after careful investigation by the Foundation’s research team. Unlike most other international prizes, the Right Livelihood Award has no categories. It recognises that, in striving to meet the challenges of today’s world, the most inspiring and remarkable work often defies any standard classification.

How it all began – The Nobel Foundation rejected an environmental prize

In 1979, the Swedish-German philanthropist and stamp collector Jakob von Uexkull turned to the Nobel Foundation with the proposal to create two new Nobel Prizes, one environmental award and one award to promote knowledge and perspectives of people in poor countries. To fund the prizes, he offered to sell his stamp collection, worth more than one million US Dollars, and donate the money to the Nobel Foundation.

Jakob was alarmed by the disconnect between the urgency of global problems and the way the international community was dealing with them. He saw how decision-makers were meeting behind closed doors, out of touch with reality. Activists and civil societyorganisations were at the same time gathering outside the meeting rooms, often presenting constructive solutions to the problems. But their proposals were not taken seriously, and Jakob wanted to do something about it.

“Whoever gets the Nobel Prize will be listened to”, he thought and contacted the Nobel Foundation, which politely rejected the proposal to establish two new awards. There and then, Jakob decided to create the Right Livelihood Award to support people fighting for a just, peaceful and sustainable world. He went ahead and sold parts of the stamp collection, and that was how it all began. The Right Livelihood Award received a lot of attention when it was presented for the first time in 1980, one day before the Nobel Prize. Today, it is one of the most prestigious awards in sustainability, social justice and peace.

Income from the sale of stamps generated sufficient means to kick off the prize but ever since the Right Livelihood Award has been receiving its funding from private donors. A unique feature is that the Award comes with long-term support that includes networking and protection for Laureates under threat. Because of its founding history, it has come to be known as the ‘Alternative Nobel Prize’.

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