Patricia Gualinga Wins the Olof Palmes Prize
2021 Alnoba Moral Courage In Leadership Award recipient Patricia Gualinga is honored with the 2022 Olof Palme Prize.
The Olof Palme Prize 2022 is awarded to Patricia Gualinga, a leader of the Kichwa People of Sarayaku in the Ecuadorian Amazon. She is recognised for her courageous leadership in campaigning for the rights of indigenous people and of nature, as well as her struggle to ensure the survival of the Amazon, the world’s largest rainforest.
In an age when biodiversity is threatened and climate change is demanding huge transformations, indigenous people are particularly vulnerable. Through her relationship with the land and the natural world, Patricia Gualinga shows us a path to sustainable societies, and shows us that we must all learn to live with nature, not in competition with it. Indigenous peoples’ struggle for survival is, therefore, the struggle for the survival of humankind. As the world faces ecological catastrophe it is vital that the voices of Patricia Gualingas and her fellow activists are heard.
Below is Patricia’s speech to the committee translated from Spanish:
PATRICIA GUALINGA’s PAPER
Subject: Recognition of the Olof Palme Memorial Fund
Date: 26 January, 2022
I want to start by saying that sometimes in this world there are people
whose light transcends time, crosses borders, languages or cultures and
regardless of differences, they constitute a legacy for humanity. This is
what Olof Palme did, who fought for equality, justice and peace on a global
I come from the indigenous Kichwa people of Sarayaku, in the Ecuadorian
Amazon region, the land of the zenith. My indigenous tribe is known for its
fight in defence of the Amazon jungle, the collective human rights as
culture and the protection of nature, thus becoming a symbol of defence
for other indigenous peoples in America and the world.
During centuries of colonisation, the vision of the indigenous peoples has
been misunderstood and despised. Over the centuries, thousands of
indigenous leaders, who defended their territories and natural environment
and ways of life, have been harassed and killed. Other non-indigenous
environmental rights defenders have also been persecuted in a similar
way. In this way, an attempt has been made to silence these voices of
denunciation. And so we continue today under new forms of colonisation
in the Amazon region, which put economic interests above life and the
right to live, a situation that we must energetically reject and denounce.
Nowadays we live in very difficult times. The global covid-19 pandemic has
affected us all and these are times for reflection and decision-making; but
they are also times for solidarity and awareness that we share the same
common home, which is this beautiful planet called Earth, a home that has
been overexploited and whose consequences we are seeing and feeling,
expressed in the environmental and climate crisis.
When our grandparents warned about the environmental and climate
crisis, no one listened to us. Science has taken a long time to reach the
same conclusion as our wise men and women and that is now a terrible
reality and we are already suffering its consequences. Severe floods,
forest fires, droughts, excessive sun radiation, hail, etc. And this is no
longer only happening in the Amazon region, because we see that it
affects many places.
Unfortunately we feel that governments are not taking these problems as
seriously as they should. And as always, there are also those forces that
seek to generate business also from this environmental crisis that is real
and those that insist on continuing to base their economy on fossil fuels,
oil, mining and logging. Activities that irreversibly affect megadiverse sites
such as the Amazon region and other indigenous territories. It is as a result
of this that hundreds of indigenous leaders and others who defended those
places are persecuted and criminalised or have already been killed.
The Amazon region is a fragile biome vital for humanity and for other forms
of life. It is the lung of the world, one of the most important sources of fresh
water on the planet. It is a space that maintains the climatic balance, which
is why we indigenous peoples have fought so hard. They must understand
that our struggle is not just an isolated struggle, for a local right; our
struggle is for the universal welfare of all living beings, including humans.
Many times it has been commented that we indigenous people have no
proposals, nor do we contribute with alternatives; that is not true. We
contribute with our knowledge, Sarayaku has a proposal that is known as
Living Forest or Kawsak Sacha in Kichwa, and it is a proposal that seeks
global recognition of forests as ecosystems, the forest is a conscious living
being, subject to rights, whose destruction implies the destruction of
everything that exists in it. Understanding this means breaking with
existing paradigms to come up with a different vision of protection and care
for our environment. We share this deep and sacred knowledge of
indigenous peoples, to face this global environmental and climate crisis.
We, the Amazonian women defenders of the Jungle, who despite the
violence that exists in our environment and against the environment in
which we live, have been on the front line, defending the territories,
speaking with our own voice, denouncing the abuses and stopping new
revenues from oil companies coming from indigenous territories; that is
why we have also been criminalised. But there we are, as always
supporting and helping each other.
Apart from the situation in the Amazonian territory, it is also important to
talk about the world. A fairer, more balanced and sustainable world that
inspires us to continue fighting. Is that world possible? My optimism tells
me that, yes, we could achieve it. We, in our Amazon region, try to create
living spaces where justice, equality and sustainability prevail. We do this
by valuing what is ancestral, what is our own, and incorporating some
external alternatives that help us realise our dreams, our visions, and forge
new paradigms. I call it spaces of life and peace, next to a living jungle.
Finally, it is an honour for me to have been awarded this prize in memory
of someone as inspiring as Olof Palme, whose time in this world made a
great difference, since it helped to add value to the struggles in defence of
I am grateful to those who are part of the Olof Palme Fund, who managed
to find me and my people so far away, in the vast Amazonian territory,
which they did with the desire to fulfil their vision and internationalist
mission of solidarity, balance and spirit of justice. Many thanks.