Revenue Watch Institute Applauds Gabonese Activist Marc Ona for International Environmental Prize

Marc Ona, winner of the 2009 Goldman Environmental Prize
Issue: Advocacy
Country: Gabon
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RWI grantee receives 2009 Goldman Prize for unflagging pursuit of government accountability and environmental justice

CONTACT:
Julie McCarthy, +1 212 548 0648, jmccarthy@revenuewatch.org (US)

NEW YORK–The Revenue Watch Institute congratulates its grantee and partner Marc Ona, who was announced Monday as the African winner of the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize for 2009. The prize is awarded annually to grassroots environmental heroes on each of six continents.

Ona, the coordinator of the Publish What You Pay coalition in Gabon, is a leader in the struggle to preserve Gabon's natural resources. He received the prize for his heroism exposing the potentially severe social and environmental consequences of a mining deal between China and Gabon in the Congo Basin Rainforest, the second largest rainforest on the planet.

"Marc Ona's courage as a campaigner for responsible resource management has helped the people of Gabon hold their government to account," said Julie McCarthy, Revenue Watch deputy director. "Revenue Watch and the entire global transparency movement are delighted to see his leadership recognized."

As Publish What You Pay coordinator, Ona promotes public disclosure and citizen participation in the management of Gabon's natural resources, often at great personal risk. Ona and several colleagues were detained for nearly two weeks in January, following a campaign of official harassment against activists who have raised concerns about the use of public funds. The detainees were released after an outpouring of international criticism, including formal letters from the U.S. Congress to the president of Gabon. Ona has also been barred from international travel on several occasions by Gabonese authorities since he attempted to visit New York City for a Revenue Watch conference in June 2008.

Gabon has endorsed the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), a global initiative for greater openness in the oil, gas and mining industries. "Successful implementation of the EITI requires the free and independent participation of civil society," said Anthony Richter, chairman of the Revenue Watch Institute and also a member of the EITI governing board. "Marc Ona and campaigners like him play a vital role in the EITI at the country level, where the process is crippled if it does not include the voices and interests of the citizens who seek improvements in their daily lives."

RWI hopes that the contributions of activists like Ona to accountable governance and development in Gabon will encourage the government to remove restrictions on civil society engagement in natural resource policy debates going forward.

CONTACT:

Julie McCarthy, +1 212 548 0648, jmccarthy@revenuewatch.org (US)

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