Presentation address by Professor Robert M Vanderbeck:
The Amazon is one of the world's most biodiverse and precious biomes.
Its rapid deforestation poses a grave threat to not only the peoples who inhabit the region but also to the world, given the relationship between deforestation and climate change.
Nina Gualinga, a member of the Kichwa community in the Sarayaku region of Ecuador, has been involved since childhood in the struggle to protect indigenous lands in the Amazon from the ravages of oil extraction, logging, and mining.
In 2012, she represented Sarayaku youth at the Inter-American Court on Human Rights, where she contributed to a legal victory requiring the Ecuadorian government to consult with indigenous peoples before drilling on these lands.
Since that time, Nina has become one of the most recognised indigenous land defenders on the international stage, calling for climate justice and an end to fossil fuel extraction.
She has been a visible presence at a succession of UN Climate Change Conferences, including, most recently, at COP 26 in Glasgow as part of the team of the NGO Amazon Watch.
She has written about the evolution of her own thinking in this way:
‘Although my involvement in the environmental movement was initially about my own future and my community’s right to life and land, I soon realised that what happened in my community was […] happening in many, many communities throughout the Amazon and in other parts of the world. The very same industries that are destroying Indigenous peoples’ lands […] are the very same companies contributing to climate change.’
Nina speaks and writes regularly about the grave dangers that women land defenders face in Latin America, bringing issues of indigenous environmental struggles into conversation with those of women’s rights and leadership.
As she has stated, ‘Extractive violence against the land and violence against Indigenous women go hand and hand.’
She champions these issues as a spokesperson for the organisation Mujeres Amazonicas (Amazon Women), which has been bringing together women land defenders from across the Amazon to, in her words, ‘protect and defend our lives, rights, bodies, and territories.’
Deputy Vice-Chancellor, for her contributions to the defence of one of the world’s most precious environments, and for her dedication to spreading knowledge about the links between climate change, women’s rights, and indigenous struggles against extractive violence, I present to you for the degree of Doctor of Laws, honoris causa, Nina Sicha Sirén Gualinga.”