November 1, 2023
Last week, the Goldman Environmental Prize gathered in Panama for Latin America and the Caribbean Climate Week. Five Prize winners were in attendance: Ruth Buendía (Peru, 2014), Leydy Pech (Mexico, 2020), Liz Chicaje Churay (Peru, 2021), and Alexandra Narvaez and Alex Lucitante (Ecuador, 2022). For those who won the Goldman Prize during the COVID-19 pandemic, this event was a long-awaited moment to meet Goldman Prize staff and fellow Prize winners in-person.
A Timely Arrival
Upon arriving in Panama City, protests throughout the capital city underscored ongoing conflicts between extractive industry and environmental protection in the country. Throughout the week, several hundred protesters gathered in opposition to the Panamanian government’s recent approval of a major open-pit copper mine, citing significant concerns about the mine’s environmental impact. This week, the government called for a referendum to decide the fate of the project.
A Panel on Indigenous Leadership
On Wednesday, October 25, the Goldman Prize hosted a panel, “Grassroots Strategies for Community and Indigenous Driven Climate Solutions.” During the panel, Goldman Prize winners shared their inspiring stories of Indigenous leadership, forest conservation strategies, and community-government collaboration.
Throughout the conversation, the Prize winners held their governments accountable for actions that affect Indigenous communities and the ecosystems they steward. Ruth Buendía noted: “The government representatives are not grounded in the Indigenous way of life. ‘Development funds’ don’t reach Indigenous people but rather go to big multinational companies.” The panel also touched on themes of gender representation, with Alexandra Narvaez sharing: “As an Indigenous woman, it is not an easy road for me, but I see so many women here today and it gives me strength. If we don’t fight, who will?”
Latin America and the Caribbean Climate Week was an eye-opening week, gathering environmental advocates and community leaders against a local backdrop of social and environmental unrest. The five Goldman Prize winners on the ground provided a much-needed voice for the grassroots and Indigenous communities.