UNEP names seven ‘Champions of the Earth’

New environmental award recognizes outstanding and innovative leaders

Nairobi, 12 April 2005 – The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has named seven leaders in the field of the environment as Champions of the Earth for “setting an example for the world to follow.”

The awards — for outstanding environmental achievers and leaders from each region of the world — will be presented on Tuesday 19 April at the United Nations Headquarters in New York to:

– The King and people of Bhutan;

– Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al-Nahyan of the United Arab Emirates (posthumously);

– President Thabo Mbeki and the people of South Africa;

– His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew;

– Julia Carabias Lillo, former environment minister of Mexico;

– Sheila Watt-Cloutier of Canada, President of the Inuit Circumpolar Conference; and

– Zhou Qiang and the All-China Youth Federation.

UNEP’s Executive Director, Mr. Klaus Toepfer, said: “In this inaugural year of the award, UNEP is honoured to recognize the achievements of seven individuals who have, to a large extent, set the environmental agenda and laid the foundations for the many areas of progress we are able to see and celebrate today”.

President Thabo Mbeki and the people of South Africa have been given the Africa award for the country’s “commitment to cultural and environmental diversity” and its efforts towards achieving the goals encapsulated in the 2000 Millennium Declaration and the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) Plan of Implementation. Particularly noteworthy are its achievements in meeting the Johannesburg targets on providing clean water and sanitation, and its world leadership in conservation practices, including “spearheading of the groundbreaking sponsorship of the Peace Parks concept to support cross-border conservation of critically important wild habitats.” With the declaration of four new Marine Protected Areas in 2004, South Africa has brought almost 19 per cent of its coastline under protection, nearly achieving the 20 per cent target set at WSSD.

As President of South Africa, Mr. Mbeki is well known as one of the architects of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), which has a strong environmental component.

The Champions of the Earth award, a new international environment award established in 2004, will be presented by UNEP each year to outstanding environmental achievers and leaders.

No monetary reward is attached to the prize, which is meant to publicize and encourage the worldwide replication of the achievements of the Champions of the Earth.

Each laureate receives a trophy especially designed by the Kenyan sculptor Kioko and made of recycled metal. The trophy represents the fundamental elements for life on Earth – sun, air, land and water.

UNEP invites nominations from individuals or groups who have made a significant and recognized contribution globally, regionally and beyond, to the protection and sustainable management of the Earth’s environment and natural resources.

Selected candidates will be rewarded for their creativity, vision and leadership, and the potential of their work and ideas for replication across the globe.

Candidates are judged by a panel of senior UNEP staff members, with input from UNEP’s regional offices.


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