A Brazilian indigenous group that inspired the film Avatar, a conservation outfit in Indonesia that is saving sea turtles and a movement for pygmy rights in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) are among the 21 winning initiatives of a United Nations prize that recognizes outstanding community efforts to reduce poverty, protect nature and strengthen resilience in the face of climate change
The winners of the 2015 Equator Prize were announced by the UN Development Programme (UNDP) at a press conference in New York that also featured Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and actor and activist Alec Baldwin.
“These winners show what is possible when indigenous peoples and local communities are backed by rights to manage their lands, territories and natural resources,” said UNDP Administrator Helen Clark.
In addition to Brazil, Indonesia and DRC, the other winners are from Belize, Bolivia, Cambodia, China, Colombia, Ethiopia/Kenya, Honduras, Madagascar, Malaysia/Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, Tanzania, and Uganda. The award was given to groups from Afghanistan, Guyana and Iran for the first time.
Speaking at the press conference, Miss Clark noted that among this year’s winners are those who have used drones and smartphones; and others who are practising organic agriculture; promoting peaceful conflict resolution; and advocating through media and other campaigns.
Some have succeeded in securing land rights and resource access for hundreds of communities, she added. Between them, their actions have protected forests, fields, coastlines, and waterways from degradation and destruction. In the process, thousands of sustainable jobs have been created for communities.
“This is the true face of sustainable development,” said the Administrator. “The achievements of Equator Prize winners tell us something fundamental: that low-cost, innovative, local solutions do help the world battle climate change and realize sustainable development.”
Noting the importance of the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris this December, Ms. Figueres stressed the vital role of indigenous groups and local communities in assisting the world in reaching its collective climate goals.
“The agreement governments will reach in Paris will be a crucial catalyst for sustainable development in the 21st century – everyone, from governments, cities and companies to local and indigenous communities have an interest and everyone has a role to play in bending down emissions and building resilient societies,” she stated.
Mr. Baldwin commended the efforts of the “remarkable” group of winners and stated that the “world is in awe of their leadership and bravery.”
This year’s winners were chosen from a record 1,461 nominations from across 126 countries. Each winning group will receive $10,000 and is able to participate in a two-week community summit during the Paris conference, where the awards will be handed out at a star-studded gala.
The Equator Prize is a leading programme of the Equator Initiative that includes the UN, governments, civil society groups, local organizations and business to promote sustainable development solutions.