For protecting the Amazon and the rights of indigenous communities through forums for dialogue between society and the state, and defending cultural and biological diversity from the latent risks of development, Martin von Hildebrand, is voted one of the country’s top leaders.

Since his childhood, Martín (founding Director of Gaia Amazonas in Colombia, and Gaia Associate) has been interested in defending indigenous peoples rights in a society where Western logic prevails. He spent 40 years traveling the rivers and jungles of the Colombian Amazon, a region he knows inch by inch.

With an academic background in Ethnology, and having worked with the Colombian Institute of Anthropology, Martín was soon appointed National Director of Indigenous Affairs. In this role he supported the Colombian government of the late 1980s, led by President Virgilio Barco, to declare the 25 million hectares of the Amazon as indigenous collective property.  He founded our partner organisation, Gaia Amazonas, became coordinator of the COAMA (Consolidation of the Amazon) programme, and has dedicated his life to defending the rights of indigenous peoples in general, and in the Amazon in particular, to safeguard their cultural diversity and this vital forest ecosystem – the lungs of the Earth.

Among his accomplishments are the creation of inter-institutional platform for Amazon indigenous authorities and local and regional governments, through which 27,000 indigenous inhabitants have gained access to inter-cutural health and education.

His work has been recognized with national and international awards, including the Right Livelihood Award from Sweden, Colombia’s National Environmental Prize, The Order of the Golden Ark from the Netherlands, the Skoll Award, and he was named as Latin American Social Entrepreneur ta the World Economic Forum. 

This latest accolade, from the national magazine Semana, names him as one of the most influential persons in Colombia this last year. For his constant push for indigenous rights, and his stand against the threat of mining and other extractive developments in the Colombian Amazon, he is named as “Defender of the Amazon”. Read the full article in Semana magazine.