Liberian Human Rights Advocate Awarded With Northeastern University Fellowship

Alfred Brownell, a Liberian human rights campaigner based in the U.S., has been presented with Northeastern University’s Institute of International Education Scholar Rescue Fund’s inaugural Beau Biden Chair, a fellowship that aims to preserve the lives and knowledge base of scholars who are in danger.

According to a Northeastern University publication, the award was presented by Jill Biden, wife of former U.S. vice president Joe Biden, on October 15 in New York. The fellowship provides scholars with the opportunity to continue their academic careers by teaching and engaging in research at safe-haven universities.

The report disclosed that Brownell had been a distinguished scholar in residence at the university’s School of Law Program on Human Rights and the Global Economy since 2016, after he and his family were forced to flee their native Liberia following an attempt on his life in response to his leadership in protecting community land rights.

As CEO and lead campaigner of Green Advocates, a public interest environmental law and human rights organization, Brownell worked to ensure that impoverished rural communities became part of decision making that affected their natural resources.

His research also uncovered the serious human rights impact of large agribusiness activities, including the destruction of sacred sites, burial grounds, farmlands, forests, and wetlands that served as a primary source of food for local communities.

Brownell has also documented the deadly impact of mono-crop agriculture on food security and traditional subsistence farming practices.

According to the university, Brownell’s most recent victory followed his seven-year struggle to stop the destruction of the tropical forest lands of poor communities and indigenous people in Liberia.

“The Appeal Panel of the Round Table on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) denied Golden Agric Resources’ appeal against complaints Brownell and his colleagues filed against this company in 2012 on behalf of communities and indigenous peoples in Liberia,” the university also disclosed.

Brownell described the outcome of the case as a massive victory for the communities, indigenous peoples and Upper Guinean forests.

“Even though they threatened us, plotted assassination attempts against us and masterminded our exile from Liberia, we have shown them we can still fight and win,” the report quotes Brownell.

Featured photo courtesy of Northeastern University

Gbatemah Senah

Gbatemah is a graduate of the University of Liberia and a recipient of the Jonathan P. Hicks Scholarship for Mass Communications. In 2017, Senah won three Press Union of Liberia awards: Women's Rights Reporter of the Year, Legislative Reporter of the Year, and Land Rights Reporter of the Year. In 2018, he was also recognized as the Land Rights Reporter of the Year.

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