Xie Zhenhua (top) – the initiator, leader and implementer of China’s environmental protection programme – and Dener Giovanini, who has created a successful network against wild animal trafficking in Brazil, share the 2003 UNEP Sasakawa Environment Prize. Mr Xie, who now holds the post of Minister, State Environmental Protection Administration of China, has been working in the field for more than two decades, bringing about significant improvements in his country. He initiated a water treatment campaign that brought safe and clean drinking water to 200 million people. He guided the phase- out of polluting and wasteful processes, equipment and products at over 100,000 medium and small-sized enterprises and developed low-pollution or no-pollution industries in their place, finding solutions for laid-off workers.

Under his leadership, 1,757 nature reserves – covering 13.5 per cent of the area of China – have been created. He has encouraged the growth of environmental non-governmental organizations, and of media coverage of the area. He has succeeded in persuading Government authorities to reroute key infrastructure projects to avoid sensitive sites. And he has brought about his country’s implementation of the Montreal Protocol, under which China has accounted for half the phase-out of ozone-depleting substances across the developing world. Over the past seven years China’s GDP has grown by 8 per cent annually, but the total discharge of the main pollutants has declined every year.

Mr Giovanini created the National Network for Combating Wild Animal Trafficking in 1999 to curb, and ultimately stop, an illegal trade worth $1.5 billion a year in Brazil. In just four years he has put in place an effective, multi-pronged and rapidly expanding network in a country which has anti-trafficking laws but lacks the infrastructure to address the problem systematically. Some 1,600 police and Government agents have been trained, and police and customs officials have been linked with a network of 234 volunteer veterinarians. The network has also found alternative work for poor people engaged in the trade, by teaching them how to tend wild animals and construct appropriate habitats for them.

Two outstanding internationalists, and friends of UNEP, have died tragically: Anna Lindh, the Swedish Foreign Minister, who was murdered in Stockholm; and Sergio Vieira de Mello, the United Nations envoy in Iraq, who was killed in the car bomb attack on the UN offices in Baghdad. They were two of the world’s most capable and inspirational public figures.

Anna Lindh entered the Swedish cabinet as Minister of the Environment in 1994 and served in that post for four years. She was known for her honesty and negotiating skills and inspired trust on all sides. A message pinned to a single red rose outside the hospital where she died said: ‘You were proof that an ordinary hard-working girl could take on the world.’

Sergio Vieira de Mello, the High Commissioner for Human Rights who was on secondment to Iraq for a four-month assignment, had unparalleled experience of handling difficult situations: he had successfully been both the special envoy in Kosovo after the war and Interim Administrator of East Timor after the withdrawal of Indonesia. He was steadily building trust in Iraq before his death.

Kofi Annan, the UN Secretary-General said of Vieira de Mello: ‘I can think of no-one we could less afford to spare or who would be more acutely missed.’ Millions of Swedes, and many millions more around the world, will feel the same about Lindh.

UNEP is launching a new international environmental award which each year will recognize six Champions of the Earth, one from each region of the world. The champions will be rewarded for their creativity, vision and leadership – and for the potential of their work and ideas for replication worldwide. See www.

PHOTOGRAPHS: Government of China, Dener Giovanini, Pawel Flato/Information Rosenbad, UN/DPI Photo

This issue:
Contents | Editorial | Key to development | The energy challenge | Plant power | Bioenergy: doing well while doing right | New energy for development | People | Delivering Change | Benign growth | Green energy | At a glance: Energy | Sustainable Dreams | Brightening the future | Greening oil | Blue-sky thinking | Books & products | New energy to assault poverty | New energy entrepreneurs | Time to get serious | Breaking the ice | In my lifetime – 100% renewable| Slimming the waste