Secretary-General, Saddened by Wangari Maathai’s Death, Hails Nobel Laureate’s Linking of Human Rights, Poverty, Environmental Protection, Security
The Secretary-General was deeply saddened to learn of the death of Professor Wangari Maathai. A globally recognized champion for human rights and women’s empowerment, Professor Maathai was a pioneer in articulating the links between human rights, poverty, environmental protection and security — for which she was awarded the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize.
Professor Maathai contributed over many decades to furthering the ideals and objectives of the United Nations. In recognition of her deep commitment, the Secretary-General named her a United Nations Messenger of Peace in December 2009, with a focus on the environment and climate change. In June 2010 the Secretary-General asked her to join an eminent group of personalities responsible for using their global credibility and renown to boost progress toward the Millennium Development Goals. She served effectively and enthusiastically in both roles.
Professor Maathai’s association with the United Nations spans decades. She was known throughout the development and human rights community not just for her inspirational eloquence, but for her human warmth. Her passing is a loss for the people of Kenya and the world, in particular as we prepare for next year’s crucially important “Rio+20” United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development.
The Secretary-General extends deep condolences to Professor Maathai’s family and friends. At this time of sorrow, let us remember the remarkable contributions of a remarkable woman.
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon inducted Kenyan Nobel Peace Prize laureate and green advocate Wangari Maathai as a UN Messenger of Peace at the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen on 15 December 2009. UN Photo/Mark Garten
Wangari Maathai has been designated as a Messenger of Peace with a focus on the environment and climate change.
Ms. Maathai was born in Nyeri, Kenya, in 1940, the daughter of farmers in the highlands of Mount Kenya. The first woman in East and Central Africa to earn a doctoral degree, she subsequently became an associate Professor in Veterinary Anatomy in 1977 at the University of Nairobi. In the same year, she founded the Green Belt Movement, a grassroots environmental organization which has assisted women and their families in planting more than 40 million trees across Kenya to protect the environment and promote sustainable livelihoods.
Since this time, Ms. Maathai has campaigned tirelessly for democracy, human rights and environmental conservation. She played a key role in the campaign to cancel debt in Africa and has fought for the protection of public forests. In 2004, Wangari Maathai was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, recognizing that for peace there needs to be sustainable and equitable distribution of resources. She was the Goodwill Ambassador to the Congo Forest Basin and a founding member of the Nobel Women’s Initiative.
Message of Solidarity with the people of Japan
Wangari Maathai joined Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and a number of other United Nations Messengers of Peace and Goodwill Ambassadors in recording video messages of solidarity with the people of Japan in the wake of the 11 March earthquake and tsunami. The messages were played to affected populations via national Japanese broadcast partners, online partners, UNICs and the UN's social media channels.