Martin Khor Kok Peng left us for a better world on the first of April. He will be sadly missed not just by his wife Meena Raman and his close family and friends but by many activists around the globe; and by many more than he would probably think.
His massive contribution to getting the voice of ‘The Third World’ heard at international level cannot be overstated and has been widely praised in obituaries by many individuals and organisations already.
In gratitude I would like to add my own to those voices, specifically highlighting the role he played, together with Chee Yoke Ling, in the founding of the World Rainforest Movement, also nicely highlighted by Larry Lohman.
In the late 1980s as a young forest activist on my first trip outside of Europe, I met Martin and Yoke Ling at a gathering of what later became the World Rainforest Movement. This annual gathering of activists from all around the globe was instrumental for all of us in understanding that the world’s forest crisis could not be solved without respecting local peoples’ tenure rights and without fundamental changes to the current economic systems.
Almost without exception, those of us present at these gatherings spent the rest of our lives fighting for the rights of local communities and Indigenous Peoples or for changes in the economic system or both, creating a real movement for change. By facilitating this first and subsequent meetings, building the movement, inspiring us to educate and challenge ourselves, Martin had a massive impact on all of us working on forest issues.
In Europe, the creation of the World Rainforest Movement led to the birth of the European Rainforest Movement in the early 1990s, inspiring and educating a host of European forest activists. When this group realised that forest problems were not limited to rainforests and that Indigenous Peoples in the boreal forests, including the EU, also lacked recognition of their rights, it changed its name to the Forest Movement Europe. This movement is still going strong with up to a hundred activists meeting yearly to educate, inform and challenge each other.
Most activists attending Forest Movement Europe meetings today were born long after that first World Rainforest Movement meeting in the 1980s. It is worth remembering that it all started with Martin and Yoke Ling calling that first meeting.
Thank you, Martin!