Press releases

Wednesday 04 Jun 1997

Primate expert Jane Goodall among 21 environmentalists to receive UN environment award

Nairobi, 29 May 1997 - The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) today announced that it has recognized the extraordinary contributions of 21 individuals and organizations to environmental protection by electing them to the prestigious ranks of its Global 500 Roll of Honour.

These distinguished environmentalists, from all the regions of the world, will be officially honoured on 5 June 1997 at a special award ceremony in Seoul. The event, hosted by UNEP and the Government of Korea, is part of this year's World Environment Day celebrations - a day established by the United Nations in 1972.

Among the laureates who will be recognized and receive their award from UNEP's Executive Director, Ms. Elizabeth Dowdeswell, are Jane Goodall of the United Kingdom, for her contributions to wildlife conservation; Professor Jan van der Leun of The Netherlands for his pivotal role in assessing the effects of ozone depletion on human and animal health; Siti Aminah of Indonesia, whose pioneering work as Head of Yayasan Solidaritas Bangsa led to the resurgence of marine life around her coastal village; BBC World Service Education Department of the United Kingdom, for being at the forefront of broadcasting sustainable development and environment issues; Centro Salvadoreno de Tecnologia Apropiada (CESTA) of El Salvador for, among dozens of other activities, saving the El Espino Forest and the El Pescadito de Oro water spring from being exploited by government and industry; Joon-Yuep Cha of the Republic of Korea, whose efforts led to his country joining the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES); Dr. Lilian Corra of Argentina for promoting environmental epidemiological research in order to reach an accurate diagnosis and to offer preventive action; Mayor Edward Solon Hagedorn for being the first Filipino political leader to make environmental protection the centerpiece of his administration, and for stopping the degradation of the City of Puerto Princesa's resources; Theo Manuel of the Republic of South Africa for rehabilitating and managing the Wolfgat Nature reserve in a manner that benefits the entire community; and Ube City for being a leader in air pollution control in Japan.

The list of winners also includes four Global 500 Youth Environment Award laureates who have demonstrated that one is never too young make a difference. Among these young environmental activists is Health Messengers Association of Romania, whose environmental projects have had a significant impact on the country's conservation and anti-tobacco laws; The Oposa Group whose legal action in the cause of 3.9 million hectares of virgin forest land in the Philippines persuaded the Supreme Court to rescue this pristine forest and render a landmark judgement on "generational suicide"; Carolina Travesi of Mexico, for founding Club Ecologista, an organization of school children committed to taking action on behalf of the environment; and the Young Leaders of Trinidad and Tobago for raising young people's sense of responsibility to the world around them.

"In this its 25th anniversary year and the tenth anniversary of the Global 500 Roll of Honour, UNEP is proud to recognize the achievements of these `heroes' on the front lines of global environmental action", says Ms. Dowdeswell.

"In honouring these environmentalists, UNEP hopes that their examples will inspire and guide many other men, women and young people to join the global coalition dedicated to protecting the environment", adds Ms. Dowdeswell.

For more than 35 years, Jane Goodall's tireless dedication has brought wildlife conservation and environmental issues to the attention of millions of people around the world. Her research on wild chimpanzees and olive baboons have provided insight into the lives of non-human primates. In one of her many observations, she documented chimpanzees making and using tools - a behaviour previously believed to separate humans from other animals. In 1977, she founded the Jane Goodall Institute for Wildlife Research to provide ongoing support for field research on wild chimpanzees.

Professor Jan van der Leun understood early in his scientific research that ozone depletion, with its potentially grave long- term consequences, needed immediate attention from the global community. He keenly evaluated the effects of ultra-violet (UV) radiation on skin, and more specifically the correlation between UV rays and skin cancer.

At 25 years of age, Siti Aminah has established herself as an informal leader of her community and has been accepted without any friction by a society where most leadership positions are traditionally held by men. Her project to bring the mangrove forest back to the Semangat Baru Area in Labuhan Mapin fishing village has helped her gain the trust of local communities and authorities alike. With determination and enthusiasm, she has brought back the fish and crustaceans to their breeding areas; increased the local people's awareness of the importance of conservation; and trained other people to rehabilitate critical areas in the Lesser Sunda Islands.

The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) World Service Education Department's major initiative, Green World, has helped keep environment and development issues at the top of the global agenda. The series, produced in 22 languages and numbering 249 individual programmes covering 40 countries, examined the hopes and fears for the environment together with possible solutions. As a result, vital information was conveyed to millions of listeners who otherwise have little or no chance of accessing such information.

CESTA, founded in 1980, has stopped the destruction of the El Espino Forest which would have affected water availability to the 1.5 million inhabitants of the Capital, and saved the El Pescadito de Oro water spring from being exploited. It has also stopped three million tons of ash and 400 tons of used tires from being brought into the country. CESTA has Eco Centres in 21 communities involved in garbage recycling, reforestation, water cleaning, reduction of soil erosion, harvesting and processing of medicinal plants, production of biodegradable pesticides and firewood- saving stoves, and turtle harvesting. Thanks to CESTA, today, there is a legislative department, an ombudsman, an attorney and a police force dealing with the environment and laws on agro-chemicals, industrial effluents, wildlife protection and the use of unleaded gasoline.

Joon-Yuep Cha is an environmental activist and Chairman of the Earth Eco-Friends movement in Korea which he set up to encourage the Government to join CITES - a step which he deemed important since the tradition in the country is to use the parts of a number of endangered species for medicinal purposes. In 1993, he succeeded. During the Ninth Session of CITES, he went on a hunger strike to encourage his Government to protect wildlife, and as a result, the Asia Conservation Alliance was formed. In 1991, he went on another hunger strike to protect an 800-year-old gingko tree in Seoul which was going to be cut down to make way for high-rise apartments. Thanks to his efforts, the height of the apartment buildings was lowered to allow the tree to bask in enough sunshine, and two buildings were not constructed to allow enough space for the roots to grow.

Edward Solon Hagedorn was elected Mayor of Puerto Princesa, one of the Philippines' largest cities, in 1992. Immediately upon taking office, he showed that he was a different breed of politician. Through his Princesa Watch Program, he stopped the destruction of the City's terrestrial and marine resources from logging, slash-and- burn farming, blast, trawl and cyanide fishing. As a result, these resources have been restored. His Operation Plan Cleanliness Program has earned Puerto Princesa the distinction of being the country's cleanest and greenest city, and today it is considered a model city and the country's tourism capital.

Theo Manuel has been working on an environmental project with a local community in one of the most disadvantaged areas of Cape Town. He is largely responsible for the rehabilitation and management of the 248-hectare Wolfgat Nature Reserve which is threatened with habitat destruction. The saving of the Reserve, the second largest in the area and located between two townships comprising 1.5 million people, is entirely Manuel's doing, and reflects an exceptional degree of initiative and leadership on his part. Manuel's accomplishment is all the more notable because he suffers from polio and finds it difficult in simply walking around with crutches.

"This year's Global 500 winners are members of a broad and growing environmental movement that is flowering around the world. They have taken the path that most of us hesitate to take for want of time or caring, and in honouring them, UNEP seeks inspiration from their extraordinary deeds", says Ms. Dowdeswell.

Some 654 individuals and organizations in both the adult and youth categories have been honoured since the inception of the award in 1987. Among prominent past winners are: French marine explorer Jacques Cousteau; Sir David Attenborough, producer of environmental television programmes; Ken Saro-Wiwa, the environmental and human rights activist from Nigeria who was executed for leading the resistance of the Ogoni People against the pollution of their Delta homeland; the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF); Jimmy Carter, former President of the United States; and the late Chico Mendes, the Brazilian rubber tapper who was murdered during his fight to save the Amazon forest.

UNEP looks to the world community to identify and nominate environmental advocates so that they too can be recognized for their efforts. Nominations can be obtained fron UNEP's Headquarters, Global 500 Roll of Honour, P. O. Box 30552, Nairobi, Kenya, and from UNEP's regional offices.

LIST OF UNITED NATIONS ENVIRONMENT PROGRAMME (UNEP) 1997 GLOBAL 500 LAUREATES

ADULT CATEGORY

Siti Aminah Indonesia
BBC World Service Education Department United Kingdom
Centro Salvadoreno de Tecnologia Apropiada (CESTA) El Salvador
Joon-Yuep Cha Republic of Korea
Ki-Chel Choi Republic of Korea
Lilian Corra Argentina
Zsuzsa Foltanyi Hungary
Jane Goodall United Kingdom
Edward Solon Hagedorn Philippines
Sang-Hyun Kim Republic of Korea
Theo Manuel Republic of South Africa
Kook-Hyun Moon Republic of Korea
The Nation Newspaper (Thailand) Thailand
The Swire Group Hong Kong
Ube City Japan
Jan C. van der Leun The Netherlands
Xialu Township People's Republic of China

YOUTH CATEGORY

Health Messengers Romania
The Oposa Group Philippines
Carolina Garcia Travesi Mexico
Young Leaders Trinidad and Tobago

UNEP News Release 1997/22

For more information:

Tore J. Brevik
Chief, Information & Public Affairs
UNEP Headquarters
P.O. Box 30552, Nairobi, Kenya
Tel: 254-2-62-3292
Fax: 254-2-62-3927
E-mail: Tore.Brevik@unep.org

Patricia L. Jacobs
Information Officer
UNEP Headquarters
P.O. Box 30552, Nairobi, Kenya
Tel: 254-2-62-3088
Fax: 254-2-62-3692
E-mail: Patricia.Jacobs@unep.org

UNEP News Release 1997/21

Wednesday 04 Jun 1997
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