UN-backed environmental initiative announces 25 finalists for biodiversity prize

UN-backed environmental initiative announces 25 finalists for biodiversity prize

Innovative ecotourism, community fishery cooperatives and sustainable crocodile-egg harvesting are among the projects that have been recognized by the United Nations-backed Equator Initiative, which announced the 25 finalists for a prize for exceptional local achievements towards the alleviation of poverty in the equatorial region through conservation and use of biodiversity.

Underscoring the strong link between poverty and the environment, the Equator Prize recognizes community-based schemes between 23.5 degrees of latitude north and south of the equator which strive to simultaneously raise incomes and protect the environment by resourcefully and innovatively using biological resources for food, medicine and shelter. The region is home to the world’s greatest concentrations of biological wealth, yet many of its countries are among the poorest.

The five 2006 Prize winners, chosen from more than 300 nominations from 70 countries by a jury of eminent persons in the environment and development fields, will be announced in Germany on World Environment Day on 5 June.

The Initiative, lead by the UN Development Programme (UNDP), will bestow one Prize to honourees in each of the three geographic areas of eligibility (Latin America and the Caribbean, Africa and Asia and the Pacific), one to a local project affiliated with a UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage Site and one to a community-based project encompassing biodiversity-based business.

“Local communities of the developing world are the source of many of the most innovative and imaginative responses to the challenges of sustainable development,” said Professor Jeffrey Sachs, jury member and advisor to former Secretary-General Kofi Annan on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which aim to slash a host of global ills by the year 2015.

“By enabling the exchange of best practices between communities, and by bringing the community voice to high-level international discussions, the Equator Initiative is doing a great job of bridging the gap,” he added. “In doing so, it’s helping to ensure that the local example points global policies in the right direction.”

The Equator Initiative, launched in 2002, is lead by the UN Development Programme (UNDP) and partners include Governments, civil society groups, local communities and the private sector.