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March 3, 2021, Washington, D.C.–Today, 17 recipients of the Goldman Environmental Prize sent a letter to Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.VA) and Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) urging them to confirm Rep. Deb Haaland (D-N.M) as U.S. Secretary of the Interior. While Sen. Manchin, Chairman of the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, has recently expressed support for Haaland’s confirmation, Ranking Member Sen. Barrasso, has expressed opposition throughout her confirmation process.  

“Confirming Deb Haaland to Secretary of the Interior would send a message to Indigenous peoples worldwide that the U.S. is poised to address the threats facing their communities,” said EarthRights Executive Director Ka Hsaw Wa, an activist from Burma who received the Goldman Environmental Prize in 1999.  “As an Indigenous person herself, Representative Haaland will work tirelessly to improve the living conditions of Indigenous peoples and ensure that our shared natural resources are managed responsibly and equitably for the benefit of current and future generations.” 

Indigenous peoples face a global crisis of violence, poverty, and criminalization–conditions that have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has ravaged many Indigenous communities that lack access to appropriate protection measures and medical care. Global competition for land and other natural resources is driving this criminalization, with human rights and land defenders, many of them Indigenous, shouldering the brunt of the problem. More than 300 defenders were killed in 2019 alone; the vast majority of these conflicts arose in relation to mining, agribusiness, water, and logging projects. 

“As an Indigenous person, I have seen conflicts and destruction related to fossil fuels first-hand in my native Burma. Rep. Haaland’s leadership is needed now, more than ever,” added Ka Hsaw Wa. 

Environmental leaders who signed the letter include: 

Ka Hsaw Wa, United States/Myanmar, 1999 Goldman Prize Awardee

Yuyub Ismawati, Cambodia, 2009 Goldman Prize Awardee 

Bobby Peek, South Africa, 1998 Goldman Prize Awardee 

Anna Giurdano, Italy, 1998 Goldman Prize Awardee 

Feliciano Dos Santos, Africa, 2008 Goldman Prize Awardee 

Tarcisio Feitosa, Mexico, 2006 Goldman Prize Awardee

Ikal Angelei, Africa, 2012 Goldman Prize Awardee

Craig Williams, North America,  2006 Goldman Prize Awardee

Bruno Van Peteghem, New Caledonia,  2001 Goldman Prize Awardee

Christine Jean, Europe, 1992 Goldman Prize Awardee

Desmond D’sa, Africa, 2014 Goldman Prize Awardee

Paul Sein Twa, Asia/Myanmar, 2020 Goldman Prize Awardee

Heffa Schucking, Europe, 1994 Goldman Prize Awardee

Ramesh Agrawal, India, 2014, Goldman Prize Awardee

Svet Zabelin, Russia, 1993 Goldman Prize Awardee

Nat Quansah, Madagascar, 2000 Goldman Prize Awardee


Kate Fried
EarthRights International
(202) 257.0057