Singapore/Nairobi, 21 April 2006 - Seven ‘green’ leaders, instrumental in bringing environmental issues to the forefront of political action, are today celebrated as the 2006 Champions of the Earth at a gala event hosted by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the Singapore Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources and the Singapore Tourism Board.
The awards are presented in recognition of the leadership, creativity and vision that each leader has demonstrated. The winners will share their hopes in advancing the cause of the environment.
Tewolde Berhan Gebre Egziabher from Ethiopia, Africa, who championed against the patenting of life forms and for community rights in Africa said that with the myriad of environmental problems that now exist, “the world will need many more Champions.”
Singapore’s Tommy Koh, who dedicated much of his life to key environmental treaties including the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, talked about the need to harmonize economic progress with caring for nature. “In this century Asia will be the most economically dynamic region of the world. This holds both great promise and great peril because if we do things in the same old way, Asia could pollute the world. But, if Asia were to learn the lessons of the west and avoid the errors and if we embrace sustainable development, then the future is very bright,” he says.
Mikhail Gorbachev of the Russian Federation worked to encourage shared water to become a source of cooperation among Israelis, Palestinians and Jordanians, and engaged in mediation efforts at the highest level. He emphasizes the need for “decisive change and working closely with civil society to find solutions to water issues and to strengthen the right of every person to good quality drinking water.”
Rosa Elena Simeon Negrin’s steadfast, committed and selfless work has been vital for fostering the notion of sustainability and for raising the environmental awareness of Cubans. Fondly remembered by voters in her native Cuba for her simplicity and modest way of life, she highlights the “role that ordinary citizens can play in the protection of the environment.
Executive Director, June Zeitlin and eight women leaders from the Women’s Environment and Development Organization (WEDO), which advocates for women’s empowerment and gender equality in global policy-making forums, will continue to be “a strong voice at the UN and global fora so that the lives of women and men around the world, particularly those who are poor, get a little better.”
Mohamed El-Ashry’s most significant achievement is his 12-year role in re-structuring and managing the Global Environment Facility (GEF), for which he served as its first Chief Executive Officer and Chairman. He says, “While being at conferences and meetings is important, we need to go out and see how projects are being implemented, how they touch people’s lives and how they improve the environment.”
Massoumeh Ebtekar, Iran’s first woman vice-president, has influenced the integration of environmental considerations into the industry and energy sectors in Iran and, thanks to her efforts, clean production technologies and environmental accounting and management systems have been integrated into the country’s petrochemical industry. “Working for the environment and nature is spiritually uplifting,” she says.
“Each of these seven laureates is a change catalyst. They have mobilized support and pushed the environmental envelope forward at the highest decision-making levels and need to be recognized,” said Shafqat Kakakhel, Officer in Charge, Deputy Executive Director of UNEP.
The Champions of the Earth ceremony is organized with the support of various sponsors and partners that include the Asia Pacific Resources International Holdings (APRIL), the Lien Foundation and Nanyang Technological University. Other supporters of the ceremony include: CNN Fortune, Time, Eco 4 The World Foundation, Singapore Environment Council, and Channel News Asia.
Note to Editors
Background on the Champions of the Earth prize and all the laureates, including biographies and photographs, is available from http://www.unep.org/champions/ or from UNEP DCPI at email@example.com.
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. Each laureate receives a trophy made of recycled metal especially designed by the Kenyan sculptor Kioko. The trophy represents the fundamental elements for life on Earth – sun, air, land and water.
UNEP invites nominations from individuals 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. Candidates are judged by a senior UNEP panel with input from UNEP’s regional offices.
Journalists wishing to attend the award ceremony and/or arrange interviews with UNEP or the Champions laureates should contact:
Eric Falt, Director of UNEP's Division of Communications and Public Information (DCPI), on Tel: +254-20-762.3292, Mobile: +254-733-682.656 or +1-917-434-9338, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Nick Nuttall, UNEP Spokesperson, on Tel: +254-20-762.3084, Mobile: +254-733-632.755,
Elisabeth Guilbaud-Cox, UNEP Head of Special Events, on Tel: +254-20-762.3401, E-mail: email@example.com
Satwant Kaur, Information Officer, UNEP Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific, on Tel: 662-280-3829, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
If there is no prompt response, please contact Elisabeth Waechter, UNEP Associate Media Officer, on Tel: 254 20 7623088, Mobile: 254 720 173968, E-mail: email@example.com
UNEP News Release 2006/25