UAE Expresses Pride at Receipt of UNEP Champions Prize
Posthumously Awarded to Late Sheikh Zayed
Abu Dhabi,19 April 2005- The Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) presented, yesterday, UNEP’s prestigious Champions of the Earth Award, honouring the environmental achievements of the late Sheikh Zayed, to President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan.
The late UAE President, Sheikh Zayed, was awarded the prize (posthumously) among seven leaders in the field of the environment as Champions of the Earth for "setting an example for the world to follow. He receives the award for the West Asia region for his lifetime work to protect his country's environment, and his widely acclaimed contributions to agriculture, afforestation and species protection. One of Sheikh Zayed's most enduring achievements is the greening of the region's deserts. Under his leadership, 100 million trees were planted, hunting was outlawed more than a quarter of a century ago, and a sanctuary was established on the island of Sir Bani Yas to safeguard such endangered species as the Arabian Oryx and the sand gazelle. The selection of Sheikh Zayed comes ahead of the United Nations International Year of Deserts and Desertification in 2006.
In a statement issued on this occasion, UAE Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Sheikh Hamdan bin Zayed Al Nahyan has expressed happiness and pride at the United Nations Environment Programmes' (UNEP) choice of late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, as one of the seven world leaders to be honoured for being a 'Champion of the Earth.'
Sheikh Hamdan said this recognition, although posthumous, was acknowledgement of Sheikh Zayed’s lifetime of work to protect the UAE's environment, and of his contribution to agriculture, afforestation and protection of endangered species.
Emphasizing the impact of Sheikh Zayed’s commitment to conservation, Sheikh Hamdan said: "Due to his wise leadership, UAE managed to successfully formulate policies that balanced a strong and sustainable process of economic development with sustainable use of UAE’s natural resources."
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”.
Among the world leaders nominated by UNEP as Champions of the Earth this year are:
• The King and people of Bhutan;
• 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.
The Champions of the Earth 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.