Goldman Environmental Prize Recipients Saluted by Asia Foundation

Program Partners win major prize for championing critical issues in Bangladesh and Indonesia

San Francisco, April 19, 2009 — The Asia Foundation applauds the Goldman Environmental Prize announcement today that two of its program partners, Syeda Rizwana Hasan of Bangladesh and Yuyun Ismawati of Indonesia, have each won the highly coveted prize honoring grassroots environmentalists. The $150,000 prizes recognize two outstanding individuals who have led local efforts that have achieved significant environmental impact. The award was created to further enable these leaders to continue their work. The winners will be awarded the prize at an invitation-only ceremony on Monday, April 20, 2009, at 5:00 p.m. at the San Francisco Opera House.

“For many years, both Rizwana in Bangladesh and Yuyun in Indonesia have been at the forefront of Asia Foundation environment initiatives,” said Christopher Plante, director of The Asia Foundation’s Environment Program. “Their dedication in the face of immeasurable challenges has inspired us, and we salute them for receiving this well-deserved recognition.”

Syeda Rizwana Hasan, 40, is a lawyer and executive director of the Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association (BELA), a non-profit, non-governmental organization established in 1992 to contribute to the development of sound environmental jurisprudence in Bangladesh. Since then, BELA has played a leading role in promoting environmental legal advocacy in Bangladesh, enhancing environmental policy, and extending the scope and enforcement of legal standards in environmental protection and resource management. The Asia Foundation is one of BELA’s original supporters. Since its first grant in 1993, the Foundation has provided institutional, programatic, and professional staff development assistance to BELA for a variety of public advocacy initiatives. These include advocacy efforts to sensitize public officials, Members of Parliament, and the judiciary to environmental issues, and support for BELA’s pioneering role in securing judicial commitment to public interest litigation in Bangladesh as an effective legal tool for protecting environmental rights. Achievements include landmark court decisions that: recognized the constitutional right to a clean environment; stemmed industrial pollution; banned smoking in public vehicles; ordered environmental compensation; and directed public agencies to take actions to protect the environment.

Ms. Hasan has filed numerous cases in which BELA has represented communities in cases involving encroachment on public property, air, water, and soil pollution. She has also played a crucial role in assisting with compensation for land expropriation, protection of laborers from hazardous working conditions, relocation of tanneries that discharge toxic chemicals into the environment, and maintenance of urban environmental facilities. More recently, Ms. Hasan has lobbied for critical legislation to protect Bangladesh’s environment and reduce the environmental health and safety hazards faced by workers in the ship-breaking industry. In March 2009, a BELA petition secured a High Court direction to the Department of Environment to ensure that all ship-breaking yards operating without environmental clearance close their operations within two weeks, together with an order prohibiting the import of any end-of-life ships that have not been cleaned of all hazardous materials such as asbestos, PCBs, heavy metals, and oil residues before arrival in Bangladesh.

Over the years, Ms. Hasan has facilitated scores of training programs for journalists, judges, government officials, lawyers, and concerned citizens to increase environmental awareness and support participatory law making. In 2003, the Foundation supported her participation in the prestigious Environmental Leadership Program of the University of California at Berkeley.

Yuyun Ismawati, 44, is founder and director of Bali Fokus Foundation, an Indonesian non-governmental organization working on environmental management, pollution control and prevention, and sustainable development issues since 2000. Ms. Yuyun’s environmental projects have received support from The Asia Foundation since 1996, during which time she successfully pressured major hotels in Bali to reduce solid waste and improve their recycling efforts. Living in one of the world’s premier tourist destinations, Bali residents were faced with consumption of natural resources and unregulated waste disposal within a finite space. Her promotion of “green tourism” became a model that has successfully been replicated in the resort areas of Ubud, Candi Dasa, and Hua Hin, Thailand. Ms. Yuyun work focuses on finding community-based solutions for adequate, safe, and sustainable waste management. The Asia Foundation continued to support Ms. Yuyun’s work with financial grants and technical assistance, such as presenting case studies at workshops in Asia and in the U.S.  Ms. Yuyun has spearheaded numerous initiatives with funding from The Asia Foundation including the NGO-Business Environmental Partnership project.

Throughout her career, Ms. Yuyun has been a staunch advocate for the cooperation of businesses and the local community. In addition to bringing together over 30 hotel facilities to participate in an environmental audit, with Asia Foundation support, Bali Fokus produced an Indonesian-language handbook endorsed by the Ministry of Tourism and Culture for eco-auditing hotels. Working with the Bali Tourism Board and NGOs from 25 Indonesian cities, Bali Fokus conducted a national workshop on solid waste management in 2003. The workshop resulted in a new alliance on solid waste called “GarbaNet,” as well as a strategy for furthering a national solid waste management plan. More recently, Ms. Yuyun has been involved with national agencies in crafting Indonesia’s first-ever bill on waste management and the country’s strategy related to climate change issues. During this process, Ms. Yuyun has led steps to end Indonesia’s environmentally damaging practices such as incineration.

For over 50 years, The Asia Foundation has worked with local partners to protect Asia’s natural capital assets. The Foundation’s Environment Program improves environmental stewardship, economic development, and human health by building capacity for public participation; involving a broad range of stakeholders in adopting environmental management approaches that respect ecosystems; and strengthening Asia’s environmental cooperation with the global community.

The Goldman Environmental Prize was established in 1990 by San Francisco civic leader and philanthropist Richard N. Goldman and his late wife, Rhoda H. Goldman. It has been awarded to 133 people from 75 countries. Prize winners are selected by an international jury from confidential nominations submitted by a worldwide network of environmental organizations and individuals.

Note to reporters: Additional information, including press materials, detailed biographies, and photos for Syeda Rizwana Hasan and Yuyun Ismawati, is at

Related programs: Environmental Resilience

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