UN leaders, together with actor and activist Alec Baldwin, announce Equator Prize 2015 winners

Sep 21, 2015

New York – Leaders from the United Nations joined Academy Award-nominated actor and activist Alec Baldwin to announce the 21 winning initiatives of this year’s Equator Prize, an international award that recognizes outstanding community efforts to reduce poverty, protect nature and strengthen resilience in the face of climate change.

The winners include a Brazilian indigenous group that inspired the film Avatar, a conservation outfit in Indonesia that is saving sea turtles, a movement for pygmy rights in the Democratic Republic of Congo and a community-based organization in Afghanistan’s poorest region that is restoring areas affected by conflict while creating new jobs.

“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 Helen Clark, Administrator of the UN Development Programme (UNDP).  
“Forests and wildlife are protected, landscapes are managed to provide for food and water security, jobs are created and local people are empowered,” she added.  “The bottom line is that land rights for indigenous people are good for the climate, good for sustainable development.”

The prize winners have secured land rights for hundreds of communities, saved millions of hectares of forests from destruction, protected endangered wildlife species and created tens of thousands of jobs for their communities. They include groups working in conflict areas in Iran, Afghanistan and Democratic Republic of Congo, as well as communities in Honduras and Colombia that suffer from drug trafficking and other crime.  

UN climate chief Christiana Figueres stressed the importance of the upcoming UN Climate Change Conference in Paris (COP21) calling for the involvement of indigenous peoples and local communities to assist the world reach 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,” Figueres said.

This year’s winners were chosen from a record 1,461 nominations from across 126 countries. International experts guided a rigorous, months-long process to select the winners. The Equator Prize is unique for recognizing collective action, rather than individual achievement.

This is the first time the Equator Prize is being awarded to groups from Afghanistan, Guyana and Iran. The prize is also being awarded to winners from Belize, Bolivia, Brazil, Cambodia, China, Colombia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia/Kenya, Honduras, Indonesia, Madagascar, Malaysia/Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, Tanzania, and Uganda.

Equator Prize winners each receive US$10,000 and will send representatives to join a two-week community summit in Paris during COP21. They will be celebrated at a star-studded gala event on 7 December 2015.

The Equator Prize has been supported by former Heads of State Gro Harlem Brundtland and Oscar Arias, Nobel Prize winners Al Gore and Elinor Ostrom, thought leaders Jane Goodall and Jeffrey Sachs, indigenous leaders like Vicky Tauli-Corpuz, philanthropists Richard Branson and Ted Turner, and celebrities Edward Norton, Gisele Bündchen, Connie Britton and many more.
It is the flagship programme of the Equator Initiative, a partnership that brings together the UN, governments, civil society, businesses, and grassroots organizations to advance sustainable development solutions.

Partners of the initiative include the governments of Norway, Germany, Sweden, and the United States, as well as Conservation International, Convention on Biological Diversity, Ecoagriculture Partners, Fordham University, the International Union for Conservation of Nature, the Nature Conservancy, PCI-Media Impact, Rare, the UN Environment Programme, UNDP and the UN Foundation.

For more information, please visit Equator Initiative or join the conversation on Facebook or Twitter by using #EquatorPrize

Contact Information

Joseph Corcoran, 778-987-8189 / joseph.corcoran@undp.org

Coimbra Sirica, 301-943-3287 / csirica@burness.com

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