Helen Clark: Opening Speech at the Equator Prize 2014 Award Ceremony

Sep 22, 2014

Lincoln Center, New York

Thank you all for joining us tonight for the 2014 Equator Prize Award Ceremony as we recognize outstanding local and indigenous initiatives on sustainable development.

We welcome Heads of State and Government, ministers, 
indigenous and local community leaders, development partners, and all our sponsors of this amazing event.  A special welcome also to all who are in New York for the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples.

Tonight’s event is a celebration.  Those being honoured here are doing inspirational work for sustainable development in their communities.

Never has such leadership been more important. Our world faces massive threats from environmental degradation, including from climate change. We need action at every level – from the community to the global - to address these threats.     

At the Climate Summit at the UN tomorrow, a greater number of Presidents and Prime Ministers than ever before will meet to discuss responses to climate change.  

The World Conference on Indigenous Peoples this week brings the leadership and vision of indigenous leaders to New York to address all issues impacting on indigenous peoples, including climate change.

The People’s Climate March yesterday saw people from all walks of life on the streets under the slogan: “to change everything, we need everyone”.

The efforts and resources of us all are needed to respond to global challenges like climate change.  Those we honor tonight show how indigenous and local communities can lead the way. They are on the front lines of the struggle for sustainable development.

Tonight we honor the innovation and the leadership from those who so often are working below the radar and against significant odds.

From action on forests to food security and agriculture, and fresh water and oceans, we are seeing local and indigenous communities advance sustainable development solutions which protect ecosystems, reduce poverty, and foster climate change adaptation.

•    Forest-dependent communities in Colombia and Cameroon are managing forest ecosystems to boost sustainable livelihoods and conserve standing forests;

•    In Jamaica and the Occupied Palestinian Territories, communities are managing agricultural landscapes to retain biological diversity, build food security, and strengthen climate resilience;

•    In Tajikistan and Central African Republic, community-based management of water resources is building resilience to drought and ensuring water access;

•    In Chile and Madagascar, mangrove restoration and coastal resource management is protecting communities against storm surges, flooding, and climate-related natural disasters.


These are just some of the many examples of the work of tonight’s Equator Prize award winners.  They show us how the sustainable management of ecosystems is good for the environment, empowers communities, and improves livelihoods.

The creativity and the determination of tonight’s award winners are inspirational for us all.

They challenge each of us to reflect on how we can do more for sustainable development. May their commitment and resolve be our inspiration to act.

Please now enjoy this evening’s Equator Prize Award Ceremony.

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