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NAIROBI, 28 May 2001 - The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) announced today that the Jose Marti Pioneer Organization of Cuba, has been elected to the prestigious ranks of its Global 500 Roll of Honour for outstanding contributions to the protection of the environment. The Organization is one of 18 individuals and organizations to receive this honour in 2001.

Established in 1961, Jose Marti Pioneer is a volunteer organization through which more than one and a half million young Cubans undertake environmental protection activities. Some of its 278 activities include: avoiding fires in forests and meadowlands through environmental education in schools; ensuring that bonfires are extinguished correctly; participation in the creation of medicinal and fruit tree nurseries to create new forests; organization of World Environment Day (WED) activities; sending environmental protection messages through the mass media; preparation of audio-visual materials on the environment for all Cuban schools; production of the weekly "Be up-to-date" news programme; and the design of an educational programme on conservation for schools.

In 1992, the Pioneers initiated a movement whereby a number of activities are regularly undertaken including the clean up of schools, parks, monuments, forests, rivers and seas, as well as recycling efforts. Every year on WED, half a million Pioneers participate in a national campaign to promote environmental protection. Pioneers have developed painting, song and writing contests on the environment in schools, and for one month every year, Pioneers in Secondary Schools participate in agricultural activities, such as the cultivation of crops and the cleaning of fields. Secondary School Pioneers also participate in various environmental clubs with different themes, such as Friends of Nature (9,421 members), The Animals and Me (7,396 members) and The Lungs of My City (5,683 members).

The Pioneers have created didactic games, which offer solutions to environmental problems and help enhance the environmental vocabulary of eight year-olds. The organization also produces a number of publications on environmental conservation.

"The winners of UNEP's Global 500 Roll of Honour are members of a broad and growing environmental movement that is flourishing around the world. They have taken the path that most of us hesitate to take for want of time or caring," says UNEP's Executive Director, Klaus Toepfer. "In honouring the Global 500 laureates, UNEP hopes that others will be inspired by their extraordinary deeds."

The award will be presented in Torino, Italy, at the World Environment Day ceremonies on 5 June 2001. World Environment Day, which is celebrated in some 120 countries around the world on 5 June, was established by the United Nations General Assembly in 1972 to focus global attention and action on environmental issues.

Since the inception of the award in 1987, 719 individuals and organizations, in both the adult and youth categories, have been honoured with the Global 500 award. Among prominent past winners are: French Marine explorer Jacques Cousteau; Sir David Attenborough, producer of environmental television programmes; Gro Harlem Brundtland, former Prime Minister of Norway; Anil Aggarwal, the prominent environmentalist from India; Ken Saro-Wiwa, the environmental and human rights activist from Nigeria who was executed for leading the resistance of the Ogoni People against the pollution of their Delta homeland; the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), Jimmy Carter, former President of the United States; Jane Goodall of the United Kingdom whose research on wild chimpanzees and olive baboons provided insight into the lives of non-human primates; and the late Chico Mendes, the Brazilian rubber tapper who was murdered during his fight to save the Amazon forest.

To forge global links and to implement ideas, which can contribute to a more sustainable future, a network of all Global 500 la