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Lottie Cunningham Wren protection of indigenous lands and communities from exploitation and plunder

Lottie Cunningham Wren is a lawyer from the Miskito indigenous group defending the rights of indigenous peoples in Nicaragua to their land and resources.

She has been instrumental in ensuring legal protections, including initiating the process of demarcation and titling of indigenous lands in Nicaragua. Cunningham has also fought to uphold the human rights of indigenous peoples and Afro-descendants, protecting them and their livelihoods from armed settlers.

Indigenous communities around the world – but especially in Latin America – face a multitude of threats, from land grabs and exploitation of their natural resources to violence, endangering their very existence. In Nicaragua, the majority of indigenous and Afro-descendant communities are harassed by armed settlers, who use the land to ranch cattle and harvest wood while pushing indigenous communities off their farmlands and out of their villages. Because of the state’s promotion of extractive industries, vital natural resources, such as clean water sources, are often destroyed.

Through the use of international and domestic law, Cunningham has secured indigenous land rights in Nicaragua, pioneering legal strategies that have been successfully used by indigenous communities around the world to demarcate their lands. Cunningham has also shown that the protection of indigenous land is instrumental to the protection of local ecosystems.

She has played an important role in supporting the mobilisation against the planned Nicaragua Interoceanic Grand Canal, a Chinese-financed government project to connect the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. The construction of the canal would cut through indigenous territories, lead to their forced displacement and destroy ecosystems needed for their survival.
A fierce advocate for her people, Cunningham has also advanced the rights of indigenous women, including establishing programmes to reduce domestic violence and pushing to create space for them in decision-making bodies. She also works to educate youth on how to formally demand respect for their human rights and report violations.
Lottie Cunningham Wren in Nicaragua has won a 2020 Right Livelihood Award “for her ceaseless dedication to the protection of indigenous lands and communities from exploitation and plunder.”

The Right Livelihood Award was established in 1980 to “honour and support courageous people solving global problems.” It has become widely known as the 'Alternative Nobel Prize' and there are now 178 Laureates from 70 countries.

We, the indigenous populations and Afro-descendants of the Atlantic Coast of Nicaragua, have struggled for years for the recognition and title deeds to our territories - says Lottie

As human rights defenders, they are at permanent risk as they continue to carry out their work. This assertion is based not only on the general violence in the region but also on concrete threats, defamation and harassment. They have received calls and text messages, threatening to kill them and their families.

Credits:

1. V; Nicaragua´s Atlantic Coast; June 11, 2006; (CC BY-NC 2.0). 2. Leonora (Ellie) Enking; Brosimum alicastrum; January 27, 2011; (CC BY-SA 2.0). 3. Fernweh Reisefotos; Kakabila; March 24, 2018; (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0). 4. Alba Sud Fotografia; Traviesa; June 16, 2013; (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0). 5. Official logo ‘The Right Livelihood Award’. 6. Pedro Pablo; Nicaragua; January 4, 2006; (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0).