Press release | Oct. 11, 2017

Antonia Melo recognised for her tireless work fighting Brazil deforestation

This year’s Alexander Soros Foundation (ASF) Award for Environmental and Human Rights Activism has been presented to long-time Brazilian activist and environmental defender Antonia Melo, in recognition of her tireless efforts.

The awards organisers said she received the award “because of her critical work seeing justice and reparations for the Belo Monte Dam on behalf of the indigenous communities affected by it.”

According to Global Witness’ most recent Defenders report, Brazil is the deadliest country in the world for environmental activists fighting to protect their land, homes and communities, sometimes at the cost of their own lives.

Patrick Alley, Global Witness co-founder said: “The Brazilian government has rolled back environmental legislation and debilitated human rights institutions. Activists like Antonia Melo are in the front line of a struggle to protect their home and the global environment – they are by far the most essential actors in this struggle and the world owes them our gratitude . Global Witness reported that Brazil is the deadliest country on record, with 49 defenders killed in 2016. Year on year it is the most dangerous country in terms of numbers, which just goes to demonstrate the courage of people like Antonia Melo who continue to campaign despite the very real risks.”

The Defenders of the Earth report also showed that the logging industry was linked to 16 murders, while landowners were the suspected perpetrators of many killings in the Amazon.

The ASF Awards organisers added: “Melo’s groundbreaking work is made all the more meaningful by the countless indigenous communities and individuals in Brazil and around the world who are opposing dam construction and seeking justice, and reparations for dam-related damage that has already occurred.”


Notes to editor:

Prior recipients of this award include:

  • Silas Siakor, a Liberian environmentalist that was also awarded with the Goldman Environmental Prize for his revealing of illegal logging in Liberia;
  • Chut Wutty, a Cambodian activist who lost his life defending the Prey Lang forest;
  • Edwin Chota, Jorge Ríos Pérez, Leoncio Quincima Meléndez and Francisco Pinedo, four Peruvian leaders who were murdered because of their illegal logging activism;
  • Alphonse Muhindo Valivambene and Bantu Lukambo, two environmental activists dedicated to defending Virunga Park in the Democratic Republic of the Congo;
  • Paul Palosualrea Pavol of New Britain Island, Papua New Guinea (PNG), for his courage and commitment to protecting his community’s land and forests from the illegal and aggressive operations of one of the world’s largest logging companies.