Mother Nature Cambodia receives the prestigious Right Livelihood Award for protecting nature and standing up for democracy

STOCKHOLM – Mother Nature Cambodia, a youth-led environmental rights organisation, is among the recipients of this year’s Right Livelihood Award for their fearless activism. They protect Cambodia’s natural resources and stand up for human rights and democracy in the face of a growing government crackdown.

Press release in Khmer

For over 40 years, the Right Livelihood Award has honoured and supported courageous people solving global problems. To date, 194 Laureates from 76 countries have received the Award, including Ukrainian human rights defender Oleksandra Matviichuk, Congolese gynaecologist and women’s rights advocate Dr Denis Mukwege and Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg.

Undeterred by threats, harassment and arrests, Mother Nature Cambodia has emerged as a powerful voice for environmental preservation and democracy in Cambodia. The group, founded in 2012, has successfully helped local communities stop environmental violations, including the construction of a hydroelectric dam threatening an Indigenous community and the largely corrupted business of sand export.

Operating in a repressive context where speaking out is seen as an attack on the government, Mother Nature Cambodia has brought attention to some of Cambodia’s most vulnerable and neglected communities. Through fearless activism, Mother Nature Cambodia has undoubtedly changed Cambodia’s civil society landscape, giving a voice to environmental and human rights concerns through an innovative, youth-led approach that has widened the space for civic engagement and inspired future generations of change-makers.

Right Livelihood’s jury said that Mother Nature Cambodia was receiving the Award “for their fearless and engaging activism to preserve Cambodia’s natural environment in the context of a highly restricted democratic space.”

“This Award doesn’t only belong to the Mother Nature Cambodia team but to all the people in Cambodia who support us, who motivate our work,” said Sun Ratha, Mother Nature Cambodia’s Chief Financial Officer, who was in prison for 5 months for her activism in 2021.

“The dictator wants us to stay away from politics, stay away from democracy and stay away from speaking up against the government,” said fellow activist Ly Chandaravuth, who has also spent 5 months behind bars. “This Award is a testimony that we have the right to do activism, we have the right to protect our own country and it is our obligation to do it.”

Both Sun and Ly are awaiting trial on charges of plotting against the government and lese majeste, which carry a prison sentence of up to 10 years.

Mother Nature Cambodia activists are holding an online press conference today, Thursday, September 28, starting at 09:30 CEST. Register here.

“Mother Nature Cambodia is a group of fearless young activists fighting for environmental rights and democracy in the face of repression by the Cambodian regime,” said Ole von Uexkull, Right Livelihood’s Executive Director. “Through innovative and often humorous protests, their activism defends nature and livelihoods, while upholding communities’ voices against corrupt and damaging projects. Despite arrests, legal harassment and surveillance, they continue to fight relentlessly for Cambodians’ environmental and civic rights.”

Mother Nature Cambodia is the first Right Livelihood Laureate from Cambodia.

The other 2023 Right Livelihood Laureates are:

Register for the press conferences here.

The 2023 Laureates will be honoured during a televised Award Presentation in Stockholm on Wednesday, November 29.

Find more information about the Laureates here.

Photos and videos of the new Laureates can be found here

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About Right Livelihood

For over 40 years, Right Livelihood has honoured and supported courageous people solving global problems. Housed under the umbrella of a foundation, Right Livelihood is a courage-powered community for social change committed to peace, justice and sustainability for all.

Each year, Right Livelihood highlights change-makers through an Award. To date, 194 Laureates from 76 countries have received the distinction. By recognising the actions of brave visionaries and building impactful connections around the world, Right Livelihood boosts urgent and long-term social change.

The Award was founded in 1980 following the Nobel Foundation’s rejection of a proposal to create two new prizes to honour individuals committed to advancing social justice and environmental causes, especially highlighting change-makers from the Global South.

Today, the work of Right Livelihood goes beyond presenting the Award: the Foundation provides Laureates with life-long support. Right Livelihood is a megaphone and a shield: raising their profile, providing protection when their lives and liberty are in danger, and educating people on their innovative solutions.

Right Livelihood is headquartered in Stockholm, with an office in Geneva. The Foundation has Consultative Status with the UN.