UNDP Equator Initiative Awards Ends with Surprise Announcement
Johannesburg, 31 August The United Nations Development Programme held its
first Equator Initiative Awards last night for community-based partnership
initiatives aimed at promoting sustainable development, and, as it turned out,
there were more winners than the organizers expected.
The Equator Initiative, a partnership in its own right between UNDP and seven
other groups, had intended to award the six best initiatives from a field of 27
a $30,000 prize. But after announcing the six winners, the Nature Conservancy
President Steve McCormack announced, in a spontaneous gesture, that it would
award all 27 projects the prize of $30,000.
"This caught us all by surprise," according to Jason Spensely, an
Institutional Development Specialist with the Nature Conservancy. "It
wasn't planned at all," adding that the money would go to the communities
to use for further sustainable development.
UNDP Administrator Mark Malloch Brown, who had initially compared the awards
ceremony to an Oscar's night, said, "This is a wonderful spontaneous
gesture that will live on well beyond the Summit."
From preserving forests in Tanzania to maintaining indigenous knowledge in
Brazil, protecting endangered species in Kenya, and restoring marine life in
Fiji, the initiatives are examples of successful community initiatives that
have promoted income generation while pursuing sustainable development.
"This is what the World Summit on Sustainable Development is all
about," according to Malloch Brown. "It's not about the global
community talking endlessly about standards and obligations. Sustainable
development is done individual-by-individual, community-by-community. It's
about confronting common problems in communities by people innovating solutions
on their own."
The Equator Initiative concentrates its efforts on the 116 countries lying
between the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn, or 23.5º N and 23.5ºS,
where, one of the Initiative's chief organizers, Charles MacNeill, said most of
the world's biodiversity is found.
The Initiative started was conceived during conversations between Malloch Brown
and United Nations Foundation President Tim Wirth last year. Wirth said the
highlighted initiatives were about "great people doing great things around
In addition to UNDP and the UN Foundation, other members of the initiative
include BrasilConnects, the International Development Research Centre, IUCN,
the government of Canada, TVE and the Nature Conservancy.
From a field of 420 submissions, the field was narrowed to 27 finalists and
ultimately, the six winners were unanimously selected by a jury of
distinguished personalities. Representatives of all 27 representatives were
present at the award dinner, and each received a certificate from Yolanda
Kakabadse, President of IUCN, who remarked that "it's funny, coming from
Ecuador, we always thought we owned the Equator."
The six winners included the Il Ngewsi Group Ranch in Kenya, a ranch of 499
local households which has been successful in reducing local poverty and
conserving biodiversity through ecotourism and the establishment of a community
owned trust for local land management. In Tanzania, the Suledo Forest Community
has adopted village-based forest management that has helped meet the needs of
the community, and in Fiji, the Locally-Managed Marine Area Network has
extended its authority to 10 per cent of Fiji's inshore marine area, and has
helped boost fish catches.
In Malaysia, the Uma Bawang Resident's Association in Sarawak has used mapping
techniques to defend their land claims and has promoted many income generating
activities, while in Belize, the Toledo Institute for Development and
Environment has engaged in sustainable forestry through eco-labeling
programmes. And from Brazil, the Green Life Association of Amazonia was honored
for its work in developing techniques for the sustainable extraction of the
Aniba plant, which is used for medicinal and cosmetic purposes.
The Talamanaca Initiative won an award as a World Heritage Site for its work in
promoting biodiversity conservation and socio-economic development in the
Talamanaca Region of Costa Rica.
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Department of Economic and
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24 August 2006