Story | 04 Dec, 2020

Paul Sein Twa, co-founder of KESAN and Salween Peace Park in Myanmar, receives Goldman Environmental Prize 2020

IUCN Asia Regional Office congratulates Paul Sein Twa, recipient of the Goldman Environmental Prize 2020 for Asia, in recognition of his efforts in promoting the self-determination of the Karen people in managing their natural resources.

Paul is the co-founder of the Karen Environmental and Social Action Network (KESAN), established in 2001. Paul and his team at KESAN supported Karen indigenous communities in establishing the Salween Peace Park in Myanmar and on the border of Thailand. The Peace Park represents a unique community-based approach to conservation in one of Asia’s biodiversity hotspots.  The Salween Basin is home to vast stretches of teak forests, teeming with tigers, sun bears, and clouded leopards.

Paul and his team at KESAN blended scientific studies and Indigenous knowledge to document the biodiversity and its relation to cultural practices within the basin. This understanding of the Salween has led to the integration of sustainable livelihoods, nature protection and democratic governance in the Peace Park. His work also focuses on promoting the self-determination of the Karen people in managing their natural resources.

IUCN acknowledges that Indigenous Peoples hold and manage a significant part of the Earth’s most biodiverse regions and play a vital role in conserving land, seas and resources. Indigenous Peoples cultivate strong economic, cultural and spiritual relationships with their natural environments, have developed, and often maintain traditional management practices and knowledge that contributes to biodiversity conservation and to the sustainable use of natural resources.

IUCN’s proposed programme for 2021-2024 reflects this and puts the theme of inclusive governance at the centre of our action. It supports the efforts of Indigenous Peoples and local communities to secure their cultural heritage and protect their rights to use traditional knowledge for livelihoods, ecosystems, and human health. IUCN will also actively support measures to reduce conflicts that impact Indigenous and communal lands and protect environmental defenders.

IUCN Asia has the pleasure of working closely with Paul and KESAN on the project Accelerating Tiger Recovery in Thailand-Myanmar Transboundary Region and initiated dialogues on a water governance programme for the Salween Basin. IUCN values this partnership and extends its gratitude to Paul for his insights and contributions.

The Goldman Environmental Prize is one of the most prestigious environmental prizes awarded annually to grassroots environmental activists, one from each of the world's six geographic regions: Africa, Asia, Europe, Islands and Island Nations, North America, and South and Central America. The virtual award ceremony was held on 30 November 2020.