Filipino activist Joan Carling has won the UN's highest environmental award. Photo: Twitter
Filipino activist Joan Carling has won the UN's highest environmental award. Photo: Twitter

A Filipino woman who was accused by her own government of having terrorist links has received the United Nations’ highest environmental award for her work in protecting natural resources and human rights.

Joan Carling, who is from Baguio City, was named as a recipient of the Champions of the Earth Award, together with French President Emmanuel Macron and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi,  Rappler reported. Macron and Modi were honored for their global  environmental action and for leading the International Solar Alliance.

“Joan Carling has shown us all the immense dedication and courage that has fueled her in her decades-long fight for environmental rights,” Erik Solheim, head of the UN Environment Programme, said. “Unlike her adversaries, she is standing on the right side of history, and it’s our privilege and responsibility to stand alongside her.”

Widely known for her work as a defender of environmental and indigenous rights, Carling has been at the forefront of the conflict between land developers and local people for more than 20 years.

The UN said she had been “fighting for communities worldwide locked in deadly struggles against governments, companies and criminal gangs exploiting land for products like timber, minerals and palm oil, often bringing her into conflict with businesses and the Philippine government.”

In February, Carling was labeled a terrorist and a threat to national security by the Philippine Department of Justice, with her name   included on a list of 600 people said to have links with armed rebels. 

“I have dedicated my life to teaching about human rights. I have spent much of it campaigning for environmental protection and sustainable development. So, I was surprised to learn that I was labelled as a terrorist,” Carling said after learning of the controversial list.

“The global community must unite in solidarity and clamp down on tyrannical governments and corporations. Defending environmental and human rights around the world must become a priority again.”