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A look back at highlights, Prize winner victories from 2013

January 8, 2014

As the year came to a close, Goldman Prize staff took some time to reflect milestones from 2013—some were victories we were thrilled to celebrate, others were reflective of the dangerous reality in which many grassroots environmental activists carry out their work.

Shell suspended drilling in the Arctic…for 2013: While it wasn’t a permanent, outright abandonment from exploratory drilling in the Arctic, the various failures Shell faced earlier in the year made it clear that drilling in that part of the world requires a lot of planning and contingency measures—and perhaps isn’t such a good idea to begin with.

For the first time, fracking was an issue represented by the Goldman Prize: Jonathan Deal, a wildlife photographer turned environmental activist in South Africa, was named a winner of the 2013 Goldman Prize for his work to fight fracking in his beloved Karoo.

The criminalization of environmental activism: Goldman Prize winners such as Yul Choi and Marc Ona faced jail time, fines and persecution from their governments as a result of their advocacy work. Russian environmental NGOs, including Marina Rikhvanova’s Baikal Wave, also struggled to maintain operations with the implementation of a draconian foreign agent law.

Iraq got its first national park: Thanks to the global spotlight the Goldman Prize brought on the Mesopotamian marshes, 2013 Prize winner Azzam Alwash successfully lobbied Iraqi government officials to finally name the marshes its first national park.

Global spotlight on chemical weapons disposal: The international community reeled from the shock of witnessing chemical weapons being used on Syrian women and children. Officials grappled with the question of how to safely dispose these deadly weapons. In a guest blog, Goldman Prize winner Craig Williams shared some of his thoughts.

We welcomed a new executive director: David Gordon, former executive director at Pacific Environment and long-time nominator for the Goldman Prize, came on board as our new executive director.

Friendly faces paid us a visit: Thuli Makama dropped by on her way back to Swaziland following her fellowship at the Environmental Law Alliance (ELAW) in Oregon; Raoul du Toit came to town for the 2013 Wildlife Conservation Expo; and Ma Jun spoke at a standing-room only event about his work to engage Chinese citizens in reporting environmental violations and holding the government accountable in enforcing laws.

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