Risking Your Life for the Forest: Liberian Activist Wins Goldman Prize
Washington DC, April 24, 2006—Friends of the Earth is proud to announce that Silas Siakor, Director of the Sustainable Development Institute in Liberia, is one of six winners of this year’s Goldman Environmental Prize. Friends of the Earth nominated Siakor for the Goldman Prize to honor his outstanding work to preserve the forests of Liberia, operating in the midst of a brutal 14-year civil war that left 150,000 dead. The Goldman Prize, the world’s most prestigious prize for grassroots environmental leaders, gives $125,000 each year to activists from six continents.
In Liberia, Silas Siakor risked his life over a period of many years collecting evidence that Charles Taylor, then President of Liberia, siphoned vast sums of money from illegal logging and used the proceeds to finance the purchase of arms for the country’s civil war. Siakor’s findings were presented to the United Nations Security Council, which subsequently banned the export of Liberian timber, part of wider trade sanctions that remain in place today.
“Silas has shown incredible courage and vision in his work, often risking his own life in order to protect the people and forests of Liberia,” said Michelle Medeiros, senior campaigner with Friends of the Earth. “His dedication and passion have been, and continue to be, an enormous inspiration to me.”
“The evidence Silas Siakor collected at great personal risk was vital to putting sanctions in place and cutting the links between the logging industry and conflict,” said Arthur Blundell, chairman of the U.N. Panel of Experts on Liberia.
Siakor insists that the battles he has fought are about more than the forests: “Our struggle for the environment is not about trees. It is a campaign for social justice and respect for human rights. It is about our right to have a healthy and safe environment.”
Demonstrating the power of the sanctions and the evidence Siakor exposed, the first presidential order issued by new President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf cancelled all of Liberia’s forest concessions. Johnson-Sirleaf, the first democratically elected female president in Africa, vowed that new forest use agreements will not be issued until a range of forest reforms has been carried out.
About the Goldman Environmental Prize
The Goldman Environmental Prize allows individuals to continue winning environmental victories against the odds and inspires ordinary people to take extraordinary actions to protect the world. The Goldman Environmental Prize was created in 1990 by civic leaders and philanthropists Richard N. Goldman and his late wife, Rhoda H. Goldman.
The Goldman Environmental Prize winners are selected by an international jury from confidential nominations submitted by a worldwide network of environmental organizations and individuals. Prize winners participate in a 10-day tour of San Francisco and Washington, D.C., for an awards ceremony and presentation, news conferences, media briefings, and meetings with political, public policy and environmental leaders.
Friends of the Earth, U.S.
Goldman Environmental Foundation