Achim Steiner, UNDP Administrator, Opening remarks at the Equator Prize Ceremony “Extraordinary challenges, extraordinary solutions: Celebrating 15 communities, and 15 years of the Equator Initiative”

Sep 17, 2017

The Equator Prize 2017 awards are honoring 15 communities that have demonstrated how to pursue effective, diverse and inspiring nature-based development solutions that work for people, prosperity and our planet.

As prepared for delivery. 

Welcome to the Equator Prize 2017 Ceremony!

I thank you all for joining us here tonight to celebrate the extraordinary winners of the 2017 Equator Prize.   

Indigenous peoples and local communities around the world face extraordinary challenges. 

They are witnessing forces that threaten to unravel the ecosystems that they depend upon for food, water, livelihoods and security. 

They are witnessing more frequent and intense weather events from climate change. 

And they are increasingly witnessing an erosion of their rights and an increase in social inequality. 

Against the backdrop of these challenges, the 15 communities being awarded here tonight have demonstrated how to pursue effective, diverse and inspiring nature-based development solutions that work for people, prosperity and our planet. 

You will hear how eco-youth guards are protecting a globally significant elephant population in a conflict-torn zone; they are literally making peace with nature. 

You will hear how a resilient coastal community avoided the disastrous impacts of a tsunami by keeping their mangrove forests intact. 

You will hear how rainforest communities secured their land rights, and in so doing, secured the forests that secure our climate. 

And you will hear how women are protecting nature and practicing sustainable agriculture to ensure access to food and water for their families.

These solutions are innovative: 

You’ll hear about a new community eco-tourism scheme that uses the latest web technology for reservations, and about a new community insurance scheme that buffers farmers from human wildlife conflicts.

These solutions are also scalable: 

In 2002, a small community in Fiji won the Equator Prize for pioneering one of the first locally managed marine areas. At the time, this model of conservation, which melded traditional practices with the latest science, was considered cutting edge. Today, locally managed marine areas cover more than 12,000 square kilometres in 15 Pacific Island States, and have become the norm. And, I’m very pleased to announce that this innovative solution has jumped across the ocean – we are awarding the Equator Prize tonight to the first locally managed marine area in Kenya!

The 15 communities we honour tonight, together with the more than 200 previous prize winners, and the more than 5,000 nominations we have received to date, are beginning to weave a tapestry of local solutions that tackle some of the most vexing challenges in sustainable development. 

These solutions show us that when we invest in nature, we can also promote food security, water, gender equality, peace and security in a truly sustainable manner. They give us hope for the future. 

We are also here to celebrate the 15th anniversary of the Equator Initiative itself, a partnership that recognizes and advances local sustainable development solutions for people, nature and resilient communities around the world. 

I would like to take this opportunity thank the supporters of this year’s Equator Prize, without whose backing this event would not be possible.  

To the Governments of Germany, Norway and Sweden, to National Geographic, the Public Foundation, Conservation International, the Global Environment Facility, Rainforest Norway, and to the individuals who contributed generously to our crowdfunding campaign – I extend my sincerest thanks on behalf of the United Nations Development Programme.

But most of all, I would like to thank the women and men who have come from afar to receive their awards tonight – your impressive efforts are a real source of inspiration for us all.

As we look to the next 15 years – and while mindful of the extraordinary challenges of our times - I invite all of you to join our efforts at the Equator Initiative, and help us recognize, disseminate and scale up the solutions represented by tonight’s fifteen Awardees.

Enjoy the show!

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