The 9th Equator Prize Award Ceremony honored 15 winners in a gala event recently in New York, coinciding with the Global Goals Week and the 72nd Session of the UN General Assembly. Leading thinkers, policy-makers, business and civil society leaders from around the globe gathered in The Town Hall theater in New York, hosted by the Equator Initiative partnership, to recognize and celebrate the extraordinary initiatives and innovations brought about by Indigenous peoples and local communities from 12 countries.
The winners were awarded a cash prize of US $10,000 each for their significant work to create scalable solutions to address biodiversity conservation, climate change adaptation, disaster risk reduction, gender empowerment, land rights, and food and water security. For example, they have protected endangered species, saved millions of hectares of forests and mangroves, and created thousands of income opportunities for community members. They have improved their natural environments, preserved Indigenous and traditional knowledge, and advanced educational opportunities.
Achim Steiner, UNDP Administrator, presented the awards to the 15 winners from Belize, Brazil, Ecuador, Guatemala, Honduras, India, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Mali, Pakistan, and Thailand. He said,
The high-level event also marked the 15th anniversary of the Equator Initiative. The award ceremony featured three videos produced by National Geographic in partnership with Equator Initiative, on the theme of local action to conserve forests; grasslands, drylands, mountains, and oceans.
The winners made a clarion call to the governments, civil society, donors, and all the stakeholders to join hands in protecting mother earth, our shared heritage. "By safeguarding nature we are investing in sustainable development," they expressed. The winners also expressed that without empowering women there can be no social change, furthermore, they emphasized the need for land rights for women farmers and entrepreneurship."
Among the distinguished speakers present were Mary Robinson, President of the Mary Robinson Foundation and former President of Ireland, Ángel Gurría, Secretary-General of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, and Gary E. Knell, president and CEO of the National Geographic Society.
Since its inception in 2002, the Equator Prize has recognized the innovative work of 223 community initiatives that are helping to protect the environment and tackle climate change while advancing their sustainable development priorities. The latest group of winners are protecting, restoring, and sustainably managing marine, forest, grassland, dryland, and wetland ecosystems, while creating jobs and livelihoods, protecting endangered wildlife, and decreasing risks from natural disasters. This year’s Equator Prize was made possible by the generous support of the Governments of Germany, Norway, and Sweden, National Geographic, Pvblic Foundation, Conservation International, the Global Environment Facility, Rainforest Norway, The Nature Conservancy, and the individuals who contributed generously to the Equator Initiative crowdfunding campaign.