We are thrilled to announce that ELAW partner Lottie Cunningham Wren in Nicaragua has won a 2020 Right Livelihood Award “for her ceaseless dedication to the protection of indigenous lands and communities from exploitation and plunder.”
Lottie joins three other 2020 Laureates: imprisoned human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh from Iran, U.S. civil rights lawyer Bryan Stevenson, and human rights activist Ales Bialiatski and the non-governmental organization Human Rights Centre “Viasna” in Belarus.
"Lottie's tireless work to defend Indigenous communities on the Atlantic Coast of Nicaragua has inspired ELAW partners around the world for decades," says Lori Maddox, ELAW Associate Director.
The Prize announcement states:
“Lottie Cunningham Wren is a lawyer from the Miskito indigenous group defending the rights of indigenous peoples in Nicaragua to their land and resources. She has been instrumental in ensuring legal protections, including initiating the process of demarcation and titling of indigenous lands in Nicaragua. Cunningham has also fought to uphold the human rights of indigenous peoples and Afro-descendants, protecting them and their livelihoods from armed settlers.
Indigenous communities around the world – but especially in Latin America – face a multitude of threats, from land grabs and exploitation of their natural resources to violence, endangering their very existence. In Nicaragua, the majority of indigenous and Afro-descendant communities are harassed by armed settlers, who use the land to ranch cattle and harvest wood while pushing indigenous communities off their farmlands and out of their villages. Because of the state’s promotion of extractive industries, vital natural resources, such as clean water sources, are often destroyed.
Through the use of international and domestic law, Cunningham has secured indigenous land rights in Nicaragua, pioneering legal strategies that have been successfully used by indigenous communities around the world to demarcate their lands. Cunningham has also shown that the protection of indigenous land is instrumental to the protection of local ecosystems. She has played an important role in supporting the mobilisation against the planned Nicaragua Interoceanic Grand Canal, a Chinese-financed government project to connect the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. The construction of the canal would cut through indigenous territories, lead to their forced displacement and destroy ecosystems needed for their survival.
A fierce advocate for her people, Cunningham has also advanced the rights of indigenous women, including establishing programmes to reduce domestic violence and pushing to create space for them in decision-making bodies. She also works to educate youth on how to formally demand respect for their human rights and report violations.”