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Joan Omaming Carling, a human rights activist who lost two colleagues from her organization to assassination this summer and is herself a target of political violence, has arrived in Waterville, Maine, to spend a semester as the 2006 Oak Fellow at The Oak Institute for the Study of International Human Rights at Colby College. She will give an address, Dangerous Journey: Tales of an Indigenous Activist, on Wednesday, September 27, at 7 p.m., in Room 100 of the Lovejoy Building. The event is free and open to the public.
A member of the indigenous Kankanaey tribe from the mountainous north of the Philippines and an activist since her college days, Carling currently heads the Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA), a grassroots organization that advocates for indigenous peoples’ rights in the Cordillera region of her country and around the world. Carling and her colleagues focus on the environmental and social impacts of dam and mining projects that are displacing indigenous peoples without their consent, violating their collective rights, and threatening their livelihoods, she said.
An upsurge of political killings and the quest to silence political dissent has gripped the Philippines, recently escalating to what has been called “a wave of terror,” and Carling is among those threatened with assassination. In August The New York Times reported that political assassinations of left-wing activists have claimed more than 300 Filipino activists in the last five years. This year the killing has accelerated, with 51 victims in the first six months, according to Amnesty International.
Carling said she is relieved to have a break from the stress of constant danger — a break that she said will allow her to regain the strength she needs to continue her work upon her return to the Philippines. As the 2006 Oak Fellow, Carling’s responsibilities include teaching a class and working with faculty to arrange speakers for events centered on indigenous peoples’ rights related to development, water, and mining issues.
Carling was chosen from a pool of 206 nominees from all over the world. She is the ninth Oak Human Rights Fellow, following activists who risked their lives on behalf of civil society in the Democratic Republic of Congo, indigenous and peasant groups in Colombia, women and children in Kosovo, and victims of organized violence and torture in Zimbabwe, among others.
The one-semester fellowship was established by a 1998 grant to Colby from the Oak Foundation to allow a frontline human rights practitioner to take a sabbatical for research, writing and teaching as a scholar-in-residence at Colby. In addition to the fellowship, the Oak Institute supports human rights lectures and other programs on campus. This year, Patrice Franko, professor of economics and international studies and a specialist in development economics in Latin America, began her term as director of the institute. To learn more about the Oak Institute, visit http:/www.colby.edu/oak.