IFI campaigners win environment prizes

28 May 2004

This year’s Goldman Environmental Prize honoured two activists who have been tackling World Bank projects and policies. Awards went to Manana Kochladze, a founder of Green Alternative, Georgia and Rudolf Amenga – Etego of Integrated Social Development Centre, Ghana. They have been challenging the Baku – Tbilisi – Ceyhan pipeline and water privatisation respectively.

The Goldman Prize awards $750,000 annually to environmental champions from six continents. The award gives recognition, visibility, and credibility for efforts usually undertaken under grave personal risks.

Kochladze, is a regional coordinator for the Central and Eastern Europe Bankwatch Network. She has been in the frontline of the campaign on the Baku – Tbilisi – Ceyhan pipeline, which is financed by the IFC (the private – sector arm of the World Bank). Kochladze won critical concessions to protect the health of local villagers and the environment. Her tenacity in the face of widespread government corruption and powerful oil company interests forced a thorough examination of the destructive project.

Amenga – Etego, has led Ghana’s National Coalition Against the Privatisation of Water. This challenges a World Bank – backed reform that threatens to price water out of reach of Ghana’s poor. A public interest lawyer and head of the Globalization Response Program for the Integrated Social Development Centre, his activism compelled Bank officials to confront their critics. In early 2003 the Ghanaian government agreed to suspend the project.

The coming months are, however, critical because the Ghanaian government is working to secure parliamentary approval of a new Bank – proposed water privatization plan. The Bank hopes to showcase Ghana for its water privatisation schemes. Activists in Senegal and Uganda have been inspired by Rudolf to fight their own water wars.