Amnesty International’s top honour goes to Te Ara Whatu, School Strike 4 Climate NZ and 350 Pacific Climate Warriors

17 September 2019, 21:12 UTC |
Amnesty International Ambassador of Conscience Award in New Zealand

AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL has awarded three New Zealand climate youth groups with its Ambassador of Conscience award, its highest recognition for human rights work, previously given to the likes of Nelson Mandela, Ai Weiwei and Malala Yousafzai. 

Fridays for Future leaders around the world received the 2019 award today on behalf of the movement (that has mobilised more than one million young people) with the first being given to Greta Thunberg in Washington DC (7pm September 16th New York time, 11am September 17th New Zealand time).

Climate and human rights organisations gathered at the Amnesty International Aotearoa New Zealand offices in Auckland to celebrate the local expression of the award being given to youth climate leaders in our region, many of whom are fighting at the forefront of climate change.

Recipients here include representatives from 350 Pacific Climate WarriorsTe Ara Whatu and School Strike 4 Climate for their work on the Fridays for Future movement and their ongoing efforts to raise awareness of climate change solutions. The award recognises people who have shown unique leadership and courage in standing up for human rights – people who have acted on their conscience and used their talents to inspire others.

Pacific Climate Warrior’s Brianna Fruean says her organisation represents many more who don’t have a voice.

We accept this award on behalf of all the children who are feeling the effects of climate change, and who are not being given a voice.

Te Ara Whatu spokesperson Nicole Semitara Hunt says indigenous sovereignty and climate action go hand in hand.

From an indigenous perspective, our culture was developed through centuries of living with this land so when this land is lost and its waters polluted it’s our identity, culture and livelihoods that are at stake. It’s not just the land, it is the people that are at stake.”

School Strike 4 Climate’s Luke Wijohn says he’s disappointed with a lack of action from previous generations but he’s hopeful for the future.

It’s sad that it’s been left up to our rangatahi and our youth to speak up on the effects of the climate crisis, it blows my mind.”

Amnesty International Aotearoa New Zealand Advocacy and Policy Manager Annaliese Johnston says the New Zealand groups have been pivotal to the increase in awareness on climate change and its impacts.

The impacts of climate change are already hindering rights to health, food, water, housing, work and even life itself. As we have seen tonight, the youth of today in New Zealand know this, they know the indisputable science and have woken us all up to the urgent call to action to protect our common home and futureThey are showing world class leadership in what it takes to be a community that fights for a better future in our Pacific neighbourhood. The awards tonight are in honour of their activism and leadership on climate change.”

Members from the awarded organisations were in attendance along with Hui E! Community Aotearoa, Ngā Tirairaka o Ngāti Hine, OraTaiao: The New Zealand Climate and Health Council, New Zealand Youth Leadership Institute, Coal Action Network, The Environment and Conservation Organisation, Forest and Bird, Generation Zero, Human Rights Foundation of Aotearoa New Zealand, the P3 Foundation, the New Zealand Human Rights Lawyers Association, Greenpeace New Zealand, WWF, Sustainable Initiatives Aotearoa, the Sustainability Council of New Zealand, The New Zealand Climate Action Network and Oxfam New Zealand.

The awards ceremony will be followed by the Global Week of Climate Action that includes: The Peoples' Summit on Climate, Rights and Human Survival in New York on the 18th and 19th of September (all major human rights and environment Non-Governmental Organisations will attend), the Climate Action Summit 2019 in New York on the 24th September, and finally the School Strike for Climate / Fridays for Future march here, and globally, on September 27th.