(San Francisco, April 27) — Just days after initiating the United Nations’ first discussion on recognizing “the rights of Mother Earth”, Bolivian Ambassador to the UN Pablo Solón has been announced as the international winner of Global Exchange’s 2011 Human Rights Awards.
Amb. Solón has long championed an innovative legal concept known as the “rights of nature”, which grants legal standing not just to individuals and businesses adversely affected by the exploitation and damage to natural resources, but also to ecosystems and nature itself.
The idea has been codified in the federal laws of Bolivia and Ecuador, and adopted by more than a dozen American municipalities. On April 20, Amb. Solón presented a proposal to the General Assembly to implement a new international legal framework to formalize natural rights.
The Bolivian government pledged to promote the rights of nature at an historic conference of more than 35,000 climate change activists in Cochabamba in April 2010. It followed through eight months later by being the only country that refused to sign the final declaration at the UN Climate Change Conference in Cancun, Mexico, because it lacked binding commitments.
“This year’s Human Rights Awards honor individuals whose work confronts climate change and seeks to prevent further human-caused environmental damage”, said Carleen Pickard, associate director of Global Exchange. “Amb. Solón refused to approve the climate change conference declaration last December because it did not recognize the rights of nature.”
This year’s domestic HRA winner, scientist Wilma Subra, has played a key role in helping to expose the full extent of the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico last year, and the harmful effects of the disaster on the health of communities and the environment along the Gulf coast.
Amb. Solón has also contributed to a new book on natural rights, The Rights of Nature: A Case for A Universal Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth. It includes essays and interviews with scientists, environmental activists, lawyers, social justice leaders, and farmers ranging from Maude Barlow, Nimo Bassey, Shannon Biggs, and Cormac Cullinan to Edwardo Galleano, Thomas Goldtooth, Vandana Shiva, and Desmond Tutu.
Global Exchange is a San Francisco-based human rights organization founded in 1988. It inaugurated the Human Rights Awards (HRA) in 2001 to recognize the efforts of exceptional individuals and organizations fighting for human rights around the world. Past HRA winners have included Harry Belafonte, Paul Farmer, Eduardo Galeano, Van Jones, and Alice Walker.
In addition to Solón and Subra, a “People’s Choice” HRA winner is chosen from among candidates nominated and voted on by the general public, and will be announced May 3.
All three Human Rights Award recipients will be honored at a June 1 event in San Francisco, which will include a video presentation on each winner and acceptance speeches by Amb. Pablo Solón and Wilma Subra. The event is open to the public.
Global Exchange is an international human rights organization dedicated to promoting social, economic, and environmental justice around the world. For more information on the 2011 Human Rights Awards, visit www.humanrightsaward.org . For more information on Global Exchange, visit www.globalexchange.org .