Photo credit: Global Landscapes Forum

Indigenous peoples are not the enemies. We are not against development. We are conserving our environment for the future of humanity. But we cannot do this alone. The global community, governments, companies and civil society must act in solidarity, and assume responsibility for realizing sustainable development for all.”


-Joan Carling, Environment and Indigenous Rights Defender


Joan Carling is one of four global Indigenous leaders selected to participate in the first cohort of The Christensen Fund’s Indigenous Leaders Program for her work as an Indigenous rights activist and environmental defender.

Born in the Philippines as a member of the Kankanaey Tribe, Joan has defended land and Indigenous rights for over 20 years, from grassroots to international levels. Her primary focus includes ensuring the sustainable development of natural resources, mitigating the climate crisis, and upholding the human rights of Indigenous Peoples. 

Joan’s work has included active participation in the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and REDD+, serving twice as Secretary-General of the Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact and as Chairperson of the Cordillera People’s Alliance. She was also appointed by the UN Economic and Social Council as an Indigenous expert and has been a member of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. In 2018, she received the  Champions of the Earth Lifetime Achievement Award from the United Nations Environment Programme

In February 2018, the Duerte regime labeled Joan a terrorist in her hometown of Cordillera, Philippines, for her work and activism to end “development projects” and mining that would harm the land and displace Indigenous people. She left her home after receiving this threat to her life and security. 

Currently, Joan serves as the Global Director for Indigenous Peoples Rights International, an organization that works to end the criminalization of people defending Indigenous rights.

In her work, she continues to build alliances and strengthen networks while centering Indigenous voices and raising them in front of policymakers.