31/03/2020 Newsletter March 2020

Newsletter March 2020



UN Human Rights Council

Highlights of the 43rd session of the Human Rights Council

From February 24 to March 13, we participated in the 43rd session of the UN Human Rights Council. The session saw the presentation of a number of thematic reports on topics such as human rights defenders, the promotion and protection of human rights while countering terrorism, the use of torture, the right to food, and the right to a sustainable environment.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Human Rights Council was prematurely closed. Therefore, our activities were limited during this time, and the side event that we had been organising – “Sexual and gender-based violence in conflict-affected areas – the situation of girls” – was postponed to a later date.

Despite the circumstances, we took the opportunity to highlight the exemplary work of our Laureates, and to draw attention to the risks and obstacles they face due to the increasingly restrictive environment for civil society in their respective countries.
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Joint letter calling on the Brazilian government to protect indigenous peoples

Together with Survival International (1989 Laureate), we expressed grave concern over the security of indigenous peoples in Brazil in a joint letter sent to Brazilian Minister of Justice Sergio Moro. The letter was signed by 36 Right Livelihood Award Laureates, including Greta Thunberg (Sweden, 2019 Laureate), Vandana Shiva (India, 1993 Laureate), Nnimmo Bassey (Nigeria, 2010 Laureate), David Suzuki (Canada, 2009 Laureate) and Erwin Kraütler (Brazil, 2010 Laureate).

In the letter, we condemned the flagrant human rights violations that continue unabated against indigenous peoples. In particular, the letter warned of growing threats to the lives of indigenous leaders, notably 2019 Laureate Davi Kopenawa Yanomami.

"Without the forest, protected forests, my people cannot survive," Davi said. “Our people take care of the forest, international people must guarantee the protection of the environment and of my people. But importantly for isolated people, you have the power to confront governments, use that power to fight the people who are harming us.”

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The true story behind the Hollywood film "Dark Waters"

For environmental lawyer Robert Bilott (2017 Laureate, USA), news of dying cattle in a small West Virginia town came to be the starting point of a 20-year court battle against chemical giant DuPont. Representing 70,000 people in the communities surrounding Parkersburg, West Virginia, Bilott pursued a class-action lawsuit against DuPont for contaminating the area’s drinking water with Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA).

Bilott’s story is currently gaining recognition through the feature Hollywood film Dark Waters, starring Mark Ruffalo in the lead, and in a documentary, The Devil We Know. Dark Waters premiered in Sweden on March 6. Bilott has also recently published a book, titled Exposure: Poisoned Water, Corporate Greed, and One Lawyer's Twenty-Year Battle Against DuPont, detailing his long fight for justice.

We met with Bilott who shared some insights into what the victory has meant for battling toxic pollution going forward.

Read Full Interview


Dr. Catherine Hamlin, 2009 Laureate

We expressed our deepest condolences over the passing of Dr. Catherine Hamlin, a renowned Australian obstetrician and gynaecologist. Hamlin, who died at the age of 96, received the 2009 Right Livelihood Award for her tireless work of treating women with obstetric fistula in Ethiopia.

She passed away on Wednesday, March 18, in her home in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

Hamlin and her late husband Reginald Hamlin pioneered surgical techniques to treat obstetric fistula, a condition arising from prolonged obstructed labour that leaves the affected woman incontinent of urine, with many of them also suffering from bowel incontinence.
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Stay up to date with how we at the Foundation are continuing our work amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.

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