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2013 Hillary Laureate awardee announced

EMBARGOED -12:00am (NZT) June 5 2013



The Hillary Institute of International Leadership today announced its 2013 annual, global Hillary Laureate,

Atossa Soltani of Amazon Watch.

From a global watch-list on Leaders in mid-career whose leadership is exceptional and inspirational, the Institute’s international board, the Hillary Summit, has selected Amazon Watch Founder and Executive Director, Atossa Soltani

as its 5th Annual Hillary Laureate awardee for Leadership in Climate Equity. Former Hillary global Laureates are Jeremy Leggett (UK-2009), Peggy Liu (China-2010), Aimee Christensen (USA-2011) and President Anote Tong (Kiribati -2012).

Says Institute Chairman David Caygill:

The Hillary Governors are especially delighted with this year's choice of Hillary Laureate. Ms Soltani's leadership work in the Amazon exemplifies the Institute's current focus on climate equity. We hope that our unique, global award will further assist Ms Soltani in her ongoing efforts."

Adds Hillary Institute Senior Fellow and President of Global Green (USA) Matt Petersen;  “Ms Soltani’s tireless work for the Amazon and its indigenous peoples has long resonated across South America and beyond. Atossa doesn’t take backward steps. Against all odds, she is an inspiration.”

Says Ms Soltani,  “It's an honor to join such a truly exceptional group of leaders and to be connected to the spirit of Sir Edmund Hillary whose courage, determination, and passion for service has inspired so many of us.  I look forward to collaborating with the Hillary Institute to make the most of this prestigious honor to protect our planet's climate stabilizing rainforests.

Atossa is widely recognized for her leadership over the past two decades working to support indigenous peoples in their efforts to protect their rights to self-determination, territories, natural resources, culture and way of life. She has been documenting and publicizing forest destruction and human rights abuses caused by extractive industries and large-scale energy projects throughout the Amazon and she has led successful campaigns to convince oil companies and international financial institutions to adopt stronger environmental and social standards. Atossa also serves as the chair of the board of trustees of the Christensen Fund (, is on the board of directors of Social and Environmental Entrepreneurs (, the advisory board of Peru-based Arkana Alliance ( and the advisory board of the Inter-American Clean Energy Institute (  Prior to founding Amazon Watch, Atossa directed campaigns at the Rainforest Action Network (1991-1996) aimed at ending clear-cut logging in old growth rainforests.  She began her environmental career in the late 1980’s as the Conservation Director for the City of Santa Monica where she designed and directed an award winning water conservation program.  Atossa is a skilled strategist in media and policy advocacy and movement building, and a firm believer in the power of storytelling to create change. She has been instrumental in the production of numerous advocacy videos and short documentaries about the people and the places Amazon Watch works to protect.

A native of Iran, Atossa moved to the United States at the age of 13.  She holds a B.S. in Public Policy Management from the University of Akron, Ohio.  She speaks Spanish, Portuguese, English and Farsi.

The Hillary Institute will work with Atossa through 2013 to enhance her work internationally. She has also agreed to come to New Zealand to lead the Institute’s 6th Annual Hillary Leadership Symposium in November.


The New Zealand-based Hillary Institute was launched with Sir Edmund Hillary and its patron, former NZ Prime Minister Helen Clark in 2007.  In honouring  Sir Edmund’s legacy (who passed in 2008), its mission is to recognize exceptional international Leadership in mid-career through selecting one global Hillary Laureate annually, and awarding the four yearly, NZD100K,  Hillary Step prize.
Former Hillary global Laureates are Jeremy Leggett (UK-2009), Peggy Liu (China-2010), Aimee Christensen (USA-2011) and President Anote Tong (Kiribati -2012). Peggy Liu won the Hillary Step prize in 2012 for her “China Dream” project.


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