Equator Prize winners honoured

20 Sep 2010

25 Equator prize winners honoured for saving the environment and reducing poverty

Celebrities, such as supermodel and UNEP Goodwill Ambassador Gisele Bündchen (pictured, center), and opinion leaders joined top UN dignitaries to help deliver the message leaders that biodiversity and healthy ecosystems, which are being lost and degraded at unsustainable rates, are essential for achievement of the MDGs.
(Photo: RYAN MCCUNE/PatrickMcMullan.com)

NEW YORK―Twenty-five local and indigenous community groups from across the developing world were presented with the Equator Prize at a gala event at the American Museum of Natural History this evening in recognition of outstanding work in biodiversity conservation, poverty reduction and adaptation to climate change. Of these, five were given “special recognition” and will receive US $20,000.

The award ceremony, together with a policy forum, were convened by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and a host of partners to illuminate critical linkages between biodiversity conservation, healthy ecosystems, climate change and achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

Celebrities and opinion leaders joined top UN dignitaries to help deliver the message leaders that biodiversity and healthy ecosystems, which are being lost and degraded at unsustainable rates, are essential for achievement of the MDGs, and that front-line solutions advanced by local and indigenous communities offer tremendous opportunities for conservation and sustainable development and must be scaled up.

The event was attended by nine Heads of State or Government and dozens of Ministers in New York for the UN Summit on the Millennium Development Goals. Ted Turner, Chairman of the United Nations Fund; Andrew Revkin, New York Times Dot Earth reporter; Edward Norton, actor and UN Goodwill Ambassador; Anggun, singer/songwriter and FAO Goodwill Ambassador and MDG Champion; Paul Tergat, marathoner and  WFP Goodwill Ambassador; Catarina Furtado, television host/documentarian and UNFPA Goodwill Ambassador; Prince Albert II of Monaco and Gisele Bündchen, supermodel and UNEP Goodwill Ambassador, were among the participants in the evening’s activities. Helen Clark, UNDP Administrator, gave the keynote speech.

“Poverty reduction strategies and efforts to mitigate and adapt to climate change, cannot succeed without being rooted in the demands, capabilities, and actions of local organizations,” said Helen Clark. “Biodiversity conservation will not be effective without the active engagement of local communities, which comprise the primary daily users of nature’s resources. This underlines the importance of empowering local actors for MDG acceleration. Indeed it calls for the “localization” of the MDGs,” she said. (For full text of speech)

“Diversity of creative ideas, tried and tested in the real world, will in many ways define whether this generation can achieve and sustain the goals it has set for itself —from reducing poverty and combating climate change to reversing the rate of loss of the planet’s nature-based assets,” said Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary General and Executive Director UN Environment Programme (UNEP). “Leaders seeking inspirational and concrete examples of how to their green economies need look no further than the diversity of winning projects showcased today among the 2010 Equator Initiative winners. Their transformational and entrepreneurial projects offer a range of practical blue-prints of sustainability ripe for replication across communities and countries globally,” he added.

“Earth’s ecosystems and natural diversity are ultimately managed locally by communities and indigenous peoples. This is where action to halt the loss of natural diversity, tackle climate change and increase human welfare must be carried out and eventually scaled up. Norway is pleased to be part of the Equator Initiative, which recognizes the important linkages between environment and development, including the key role of indigenous peoples,” said Norwegian Minister of the Environment and International Development Erik Solheim.

“The Equator Prize offers well-deserved recognition of the critical contributions made by indigenous people and local communities to the conservation of some of the most pristine natural environments left on Earth,” said Conservation International CEO Peter Seligmann. “We are honored to support the Equator Initiative and partner with these communities in this globally important work which benefits all humanity.”

“These Equator Initiative winners demonstrate that sustainable development can lift communities out of poverty while also ensuring the natural systems they depend on for survival will remain healthy and productive for future generations,” said Mark Tercek, President and CEO of The Nature Conservancy. “We have been honored to work with the Tomia Fishermen Community in Indonesia. Their work demonstrates how conservation can — and must―result in direct benefits to local people.”

“As world leaders gather to assess progress, time is running out for action to achieve the Millennium Development Goals. Communities around the world are facing the triple-threat of endemic poverty, increasing climate change, and degrading ecosystems,” said Jonathan Lash, president of the World Resources Institute. “To be successful, we must adopt a strategy to more effectively support and scale-up local solutions that simultaneously enhance economic development, while addressing the climate crisis and preserving our natural resources.”

“The American Museum of Natural History is proud to collaborate with the U.N. Development Programme and to be a partner in the International Year of Biodiversity, which had its North American launch at the Museum in February,” said Ellen V. Futter, President of the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH). “Through collective efforts like this one, we hope to foster a renewed commitment to and sustained public awareness of the urgency and enormous consequences of biodiversity loss, climate change, and related issues. Serving as a bridge between science and society, institutions like the Museum have an important role to play in advancing scientific understanding about our increasingly threatened natural world, bringing the fruits of that research to policymakers, and leaders, and, importantly, demystifying for the public the most vexing and complex science-based issues of our time.”

Full Summary of the Event, with links to video coverage, photo speeches and documents.

Contact Information

Stanislav Saling: stanislav.saling@undp.org ,
tel: +1 212 906 5296,
mobile: +1 917 346 1955

Charles Dickson: charles.dickson@undp.org,
tel: +1 212 906 6041

Joseph Corcoran at joseph.corcoran@undp.org
or tel: +1 212 457 1077.