A personal statement by Klaus Toepfer, Executive Director of UNEP

I want to wholeheartedly congratulate my dear friend of many years, Wangari Maathai, for winning the most prestigious prize in the world.

I also would congratulate the Nobel Peace Prize committee for showing such outstanding vision in awarding her the 2004 prize.

Wangari has, through her passion, her intellect and her spiritual and cultural values, become one of the most important torch bearers for the environment, social justice and sustainable development.

Above all, she keenly understands and champions the links between a healthy environment and its role in overcoming poverty and helping to deliver a more stable and peaceful world.

Wangari is also living proof that women are central to achieving the United Nations Millennium Development Goals.

The Green Belt Movement, which she founded, has been an inspiration for thousands upon thousands of women both rich and poor, especially in Africa and developing countries.

The Movement has stood up with courage to the selfish and greedy who seek to destroy forests and grab land.

Wangari's fight against corruption and its cynical role in environmental degradation has earned her respect across Kenya, Africa and the world.

It has not been without risk, including physical attacks on her person. But throughout sometimes dark times she has carried her cause with cheerfulness and humour, nourished by her deep and abiding love for the Kenyan land and its people.

Wangari has been a great supporter of UNEP, as has UNEP been a great supporter of Wangari Maathai. We recognized this in awarding her a UNEP Global 500 Laureate award.

I look forward to personally congratulating her in Nairobi next week where she is scheduled to address our Women as the Voice for the Environment conference .

As one of only a handful of women environment ministers in the world, her wisdom and leadership as the winner of the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize will be even more inspirational for the women delegates attending.


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