15 Equator Prize Winners Receive Prestigious Award at New York Gala Event

Sep 17, 2017

The winners of the Equator Prize 2017 with their awards as Morley, the music artist performs (UNDP Photo/ Photographer: Arnaldo Vargas)

New York, September 17—The 9th Equator Prize Award Ceremony honoured 15 winners in a gala event last evening in New York, coinciding with the Global Goals Week and the 72nd Session of the UN General Assembly. Leading thinkers, policy-makers, business and civil society leaders from around the globe gathered in The Town Hall theater in New York, hosted by the Equator Initiative partnership, to recognize and celebrate the extraordinary initiatives and innovations brought about by indigenous peoples and local communities from 12 countries.

The winners were awarded a cash prize of US$10,000 each for their significant work to create scalable,  nature-based solutions to address biodiversity conservation, climate change adaptation, disaster risk reduction, gender empowerment, land rights, and food and water security. For example, they have protected endangered species, saved millions of hectares of forests and mangroves, and created thousands of income-opportunities for community members. They have improved their natural environments, preserved indigenous and traditional knowledge, and advanced educational opportunities.

Achim Steiner, UNDP Administrator, presented the awards to the 15 winners from Belize, Brazil, Ecuador, Guatemala, Honduras, India, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Mali, Pakistan and Thailand. He said, "The 15 communities we honour tonight, together with the more than 200 previous prize winners, and more than 5,000 nominations we have received to date, are weaving together a global tapestry of local solutions to tackle some of the biggest global challenges we face. These solutions show us that when we invest in nature, we can achieve our global goals of obtaining food, water, peace, gender parity, and security in a truly sustainable manner.  By thinking globally and acting locally, the 2017 Equator Prize Winners helped not only their communities but also communities worldwide facing sustainable development challenges."  

The high-level event also marked the 15th anniversary of the Equator Initiative. The award ceremony featured three videos produced by the National Geographic in partnership with Equator Initiative, on the theme of local action to conserve forests; grasslands, drylands and mountains and oceans.

The winners made a clarion call to the governments, civil society, donors and all the stakeholders to join hands in protecting mother earth, our shared heritage. "By safeguarding nature we are investing in sustainable development," they expressed. The winners also expressed that without empowering women there can be no social change, furthermore they emphasized on the need of landrights for women farmers and entrepreneurship."

Among the distinguished speakers present were Mary Robinson, President of the Mary Robinson Foundation and former President of Ireland, Ángel Gurría, Secretary-General of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, and Gary E. Knell, president and CEO of the National Geographic Society.

Since its inception in 2002, the Equator Prize has recognized the innovative work of 223 community initiatives that are helping to protect the environment and tackle climate change while advancing their sustainable development priorities. The latest group of winners are protecting, restoring and sustainably managing marine, forest, grassland, dryland and wetland ecosystems, while creating jobs and livelihoods, protecting endangered wildlife, and decreasing risks from natural disasters. This year’s Equator Prize was made possible by the generous support of the Governments of Germany, Norway, and Sweden, National Geographic, Pvblic Foundation, Conservation International, the Global Environment Facility, Rainforest Norway, The Nature Conservancy, and the individuals who contributed generously to the Equator Initiative crowdfunding campaign.

Other Quotes:

H. E. Vidar Helgesen, Minister of Climate and Environment, Government of Norway- “The remarkable communities here tonight demonstrate that indigenous and local communities, working together, can safeguard their lands and forests, and realize their own sustainable development goals. However, we must recognize that protecting forests and traditional lands comes at a steep price. Nearly 4 people were killed every week last year defending their land rights against destructive industries and illegal activities. This must end.”

Ingrid Hoven, Director-General, Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development of Germany

“The oceans inspire us, and this year's ocean winners inspire us even more. Germany is a proud contributor to this year’s Equator Prize, and we have an ambitious ten-point plan for marine protection and sustainable use. We hope that many of you will be inspired to take action - to protect the oceans, to restore coastal ecosystems, and to sustainably manage fisheries, and to encourage and support marine and coastal communities around the globe.  Only then can we unleash the power of oceans to help us achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.”

Gary E. Knell, President and CEO, National Geographic Society – “National Geographic applauds the 2017 Equator Prize winners for their incredible work. Together, through the combined efforts of the UN Development Programme, longtime champions for the environment like National Geographic, and the amazing communities and individuals honored tonight, we can and will create a powerful global movement of changemakers.”

Mary Robinson, President, Mary Robinson Foundation – Climate Justice, and former President of Ireland “These trends of increased threats towards indigenous peoples and local communities represent the greatest and most profound injustice of our times. If we are to achieve the goal of the UN Declaration of Human Rights, and the inclusive agenda of the Sustainable Development Goals, then it is a moral imperative that we change our current trajectory. As we celebrate the recipients of the Equator Prize tonight, let us welcome the lessons they can teach us in living in balance with nature.”

Ángel Gurría, Secretary-General, Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development— “The Equator Prize winners tonight are showing us a different pathway forward – they are showing us that by investing in nature, they are able to achieve their own sustainable development goals, often at a very low cost, and with a very high return on investment. Now it’s our turn. If we are to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, we must invest in nature, and we must support the communities who invest in nature.”

Naoko Ishii, CEO and Chairperson, Global Environment Facility- "If we look around the world, local communities and indigenous people have continued to manage the commons very well. We need to learn from them how to manage the commons again. The G.E.F is deeply committed to supporting indigenous peoples and local communities. Through the Small Grants Programme that the GEF supports, we have provided technical and financial support to over 20,000 communities in 126 countries. Many of these projects advance sustainable development through nature-based solutions. In this regard, I am so glad and proud that six of the Equator Prize winners tonight are recipients of the Small Grants Programme.”

Cristián Samper, Wildlife Conservation Society – “I worry about the future my children, and all children, will inherit. The prize winners tonight show a different pathway – toward a world in balance. They show a pathway that balances the use of natural resources, using enough for our needs, but leaving enough for nature’s needs.”

Céline Cousteau, filmmaker, activist, and director, CauseCentric Productions – “My grandfather, Jacques Cousteau, inspired generations to form deep connections with the oceans through his videos. The Equator Prize is one way of recognizing these connections. The communities we are honouring tonight are recognized for their work, sustainably developing their communities to live in harmony with the oceans.”

About Equator Initiative

The Equator Initiative is a United Nations-led, multi-sectoral partnership that brings together governments, civil society, academia, businesses and grassroots organizations to recognize and advance local, nature-based sustainable development solutions for people, nature, and resilient communities. Its mission is to identify and advance outstanding local efforts to reduce poverty through the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity. The Equator Initiative partnership offers a unique platform to celebrate success, inform global policymaking, and support local leadership in advancing innovative projects in sustainable development and climate issues.

Contact information

Sangita Khadka, Communications Specialist, UNDP Bureau for Policy and Programme Support, email: sangita.khadka@undp.org, Tel: +1 212 906 5043

Jamison Ervin, Manager, Manager, Global Programme on Nature for Development, Bureau for Policy and Programme Support, jamison.ervin@undp.org, +1 802 999-9792



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