His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew

Ling Jigme Singye Wangchuk

Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al-Nahyan

President Thabo Mbeki

Julia Carabias Lillo

Sheila Watt-Cloutier

Zhou Qiang

Seven world figures have been named by UNEP as “Champions of the Earth”, an award for outstanding environmental achievers and leaders from each region of the world. The awards were presented at the United Nations Headquarters in New York on April 19th to His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew; King Jigme Singye Wangchuk and the people of Bhutan; President Thabo Mbeki and the people of South Africa; Julia Carabias Lillo, former environment minister of Mexico; Sheila Watt-Cloutier of Canada, Chair of the Inuit Circumpolar Conference; Zhou Qiang and the All-China Youth Federation; and – posthumously – to Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al-Nahyan of the United Arab Emirates.

His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew receives the award for Europe for having taken the lead among religious leaders in his concern for the environment. He has initiated seminars and dialogues to discuss the need for the mobilisation of moral and spiritual forces to achieve harmony between humankind and nature, including a series of symposia concentrating on water, seas and rivers under the title Religion, Science and the Environment. The symposia also aim to encourage understanding between faiths and to promote interreligious dialogue.

King Jigme Singye Wangchuk and the people of Bhutan are given the award for Asia and the Pacific in recognition of the country’s “commitment to placing the environment at the centre of its constitution and all its development plans”. The judges praise its “excellent environmental track record with more than 74 per cent of its land under forest cover, and 26 per cent of this cover designated as protected areas.”

Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al-Nahyan receives the West Asian award for his “lifetime work” to protect his country’s environment, and his “widely acclaimed” contributions to agriculture, afforestation and species protection. 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.

President Thabo Mbeki and the people of South Africa have been given the Africa award for the country’s “commitment to cultural and environmental diversity” and its efforts towards achieving the goals encapsulated in the 2000 Millennium Declaration and the WSSD Plan of Implementation. Particularly mentioned are its achievements in meeting the Johannesburg targets on providing clean water and sanitation, and its world leadership in conservation practices, including its “spearheading of the ground-breaking sponsorship of the Peace Parks concept to support cross-border conservation of critically important wild habitats”.

Julia Carabias Lillo receives the award for Latin America and the Caribbean for her “efforts in co-ordinating research and rural development programmes in extremely impoverished peasant communities in the four regions of Mexico” and for her “success in working with different sectors that include government, academia and civil society.”

Sheila Watt-Cloutier is recognised with the North American award for her “contributions in addressing global warming” and in articulating her people’s concerns “in the face of the devastating effects of climate change and its relentless assault on Inuit traditional life”. The judges also cite her “exemplary contribution to global efforts to eliminate persistent organic pollutants, which pose a particular threat to Arctic peoples and ecosystems.”

Finally, Zhou Qiang and the All-China Youth Federation are given a special award. It recognises Mr Zhou’s “outstanding achievements”as honorary chairman of the Federation and leader of the China Mother River Protection Operation which has “mobilised millions of Chinese youth to protect the environment”. The judges praise the Federation as “a very important force for protecting the environment” recalling that it has “involved 300 million young people and undertaken 882 afforestation projects covering 191,000 hectares.”

This issue:
Contents | Editorial K. Toepfer | Challenges and Opportunity | Bridging the Water Gap | Golden Gateway to Green Cities | The Spirit of “Mottai Nai” | Cities without Slums | People | Rapid Progress | At a glance: Greening Cities | Charging into the Future | Star profile: Tokiko Kato | The Female Factor | Unlocking People Energy | Think Local | High Achievements | Life at the Top | Books and products | Focus On Your World | Black Sea, Green City?