Helen Clark: Opening Remarks at the 2015 Equator Prize Award Ceremony

Dec 7, 2015

Welcome to the 2015 Equator Prize Award Ceremony where tonight we are recognizing the work of indigenous people and local communities to tackle climate change and achieve sustainable development.

My special thanks go to all UNDP’s partners who have supported these awards. I especially recognize the Government of Norway for its commitment to indigenous peoples, forests protection, and this Equator Prize ceremony.

We meet in a week when we hope history will be made – with a new global climate agreement due to be reached here in Paris.

A new agreement is vital for the future of people and for our planet. But while we have all been advocating for the agreement, many people around our world, including tonight’s Equator Prize winners, have been doing whatever they can to adapt to climate change and build a sustainable future.

Our Prize winners think globally and act locally. Their efforts are inspiring. Among them, some have succeeded in securing land rights and resource access for hundreds of communities. This is crucial: local and indigenous communities play an indispensable role in protecting the vital ecosystems which sustain life on our planet.

With respect to forests, for example, when indigenous peoples and local communities don’t have secure land rights, or their rights are weak, their forests become more vulnerable to deforestation. That in turn worsens the climate change challenge, and impacts badly on livelihoods and human wellbeing.

But when communities’ rights are legally recognized and protected, then deforestation rates are lower and our forests can play their vital roles.

What the Equator Prize winners have achieved can inspire us all to do more for sustainable development. People and planet together are the winners from their efforts.

UNDP is proud to help bring global attention to the work of the indigenous peoples and local communities honoured here this evening. We are also launching tonight a new publication based on the work of Equator Prize winners in protecting forests. We want to spread the word about the importance of community-based solutions to forest management.  

Each one of you here in the audience tonight has come because you care about climate change and sustainability. We invite you all to think about how you could give even more support to incredible communities like those we are honouring tonight for their commitment to sustainable development.

I offer my full congratulations to all the Equator Prize winners, and hope that they will continue to succeed in their work for their communities and for the environment in which they live and in which we all have a stake.

Have a great evening!

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