UNEP Global 500 Awards




NAIROBI, 29 May 1996 -- 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 around the world will be officially honoured on 9 June 1996 at a special award ceremony in Istanbul, which will be attended by the President and Prime Minister of the Republic of Turkey as well as the Chairman of the Turkish Parliament. The event - hosted by UNEP and the Government of Turkey during the Habitat II Conference - is part of this year's World Environment Day celebrations.

Among the laureates who will be recognized and/or receive their award from UNEP's Executive Director, Ms. Elizabeth Dowdeswell, include Ken Saro-Wiwa of Nigeria who led the resistance of the Ogoni People against the pollution of their delta homeland; Nobel Prize winner Paul Crutzen of The Netherlands for his significant contributions to environmental research which has lead to enhanced environmental protection measures; Earth Love Fund of the United Kingdom, a non-profit organization founded by three individuals in the music business who put aside their commercial ventures to raise money for conservation projects; Garanti Bank of Turkey for its commitment to conserving Turkey's natural assets; Carlos Roberto Hasbun of El Salvador whose environmental activities have been undertaken at the grassroots level without publicity or fanfare; Professor Akio Morishima of Japan, a leader in environmental law and policy development; Bahuddin Hi Pabbite of Indonesia for his lonely struggle to preserve the Maleo Bird; Sonia Regina de Brito Pereira of Brazil for bringing to international attention the destruction of forests in the Amazon; and Tatyana Stepanenko of Russia for finding ways to limit waste dumped into the Newa River system and the Baltic Sea.

The list of winners also includes four Global 500 Youth Environment Award laureates who have demonstrated that one is never too young to make a difference. Among these young environmental activists is Herederos del Planeta, a young people's organization from Colombia, which motivates and trains young people to become environmentally conscious and dedicated global citizens; A High School Student Group of Junior Journalists for Environment from the People's Republic of China for raising students' sense of responsibility to the world around them; Wahn Lee of the Republic of Korea for raising environmental awareness through a children's book and for his numerous recycling efforts; and Fatih Yilmaz from Turkey for his dedicated efforts to beautify both his school and his village.

"In honouring these environmentalists, UNEP seeks to encourage individual and community action in defense of the environment. They gave all, not because they want recognition, but because their concern comes from deep within", says Ms Dowdeswell.

Ken Saro-Wiwa, advocated that human rights and the environment are inextricably linked. He sent a message to the world that all peoples have an inalienable right to peacefully protest destructive development. At all stages of his campaign, he advocated peaceful resistance to the forces that would deprive the Ogoni People of a say in the development of their region. As a leader of the resistance movement, he knew full well the risks he ran in opposing the Nigerian Government. In November 1995, Saro-Wiwa and eight other Ogoni activists were executed.

Lalita Balakrishnan of India spearheaded her country's woodstove programme, and her efforts have resulted in more than 3,000 rural women being trained in the construction and maintenance of improved woodstoves and their becoming self-employed and earning decent wages. She has helped women reduce the amount of time spent on collecting fuelwood by three to six hours a day, and has helped install 215,000 improved woodstoves in 3,000 villages in 22 states resulting in a saving of 700 to 1,000 kilogram of fuelwood per stove per year. She has also helped prevent smoke- related diseases such as bronchitis, asthma and eye infections in a population of about one million, and has contributed to the construction of more than 2,000 bio-gas plants in rural areas through a network of 150 non-governmental organizations.

Professor Paul Crutzen was the first to suggest that nitrogen oxides (NOx) are capable of destroying stratospheric ozone catalytically. His work led directly to a large expansion in research on the stability of the ozone layer and to the identification of further threats from chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs). He also identified tropical biomass burning as an important pollution source affecting ozone formation and atmospheric chemistry, as well as the possible atmospheric and climate consequences of a large scale nuclear war. This 'nuclear winter' theory has had a profound impact on the debate concerning nuclear disarmament. He expanded the scope of his biogeochemical research to include global perturbations of the nitrogen cycle, and the role of greenhouse gases in disturbing the Earth's climate. He has remained a world leader in the investigations of the ozone layer, and of how human-produced CFCs lead to ozone depletion.

Earth Love Fund's first album was the official album for the Earth Summit in Brazil, and raised half a million pounds which to date has supported more than 40 projects around the globe, particularly in developing countries. To produce this record, the Fund persuaded some of the world's leading musicians, including Paul McCartney, U2, Peter Gabriel, Sting and Dire Straits to donate tracks on a non-profit basis. The link with popular music gives the Fund an opportunity to promote the environmental message to a wide audience. Activities which they have supported include the establishment of a rainforest medicine project in Peru; the creation of an eco-forestry training support programme in Papua New Guinea; a development project to protect the Dong Nah Tom Forest in Thailand; the preservation of traditional crop varieties in Nepal; the establishment of an indigenous peoples' environmental resource centre in Irian Jaya; and research into Amerindian agriculture in Guyana.

Garanti Bank of Turkey has made conservation the central theme of its public relations programme. Their advertising campaigns highlight endangered species, and recycled paper is used, whenever possible, for the Bank's publications. Greenery and open space are the thematic messages of its branches whose design reflect a green environment. Turkey possesses some of the most diverse flora in Europe, with more than 9,000 plant species - one third of them unique to the country. The Bank assists in the protection of this natural wealth by funding several projects managed jointly by The Society for the Protection of Nature (DHDK) and the Fauna and Flora Preservation Society. The Bank also sponsors conservation programmes which seek to protect wetlands and bird sanctuaries throughout the country, as well as the nesting sites of some 450 species of birds and sea turtles.

Carlos Roberto Hasbun has done more for the environment in six short years than most accomplish in a lifetime. He wrote and lobbied for the first wildlife conservation law approved by the El Salvador Congress, and he is the co-founder of the Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation Centre in El Salvador - a clinic where injured and/or confiscated animals are treated and then returned to the wild. He also founded and continues to head the Sea Turtle Conservation Programme in the village of Barra de Santiago where he develops management schemes for the sustainable use of mangrove wood, green iguanas and marine turtles involving local communities. He established the Salvadorean environmental association, 'Friends of the Trees', which has planted mangrove seedlings for each adult mangrove tree cut down. His is also the tale of a quiet stranger and a beloved teacher who taught children in a village, who in turn taught their parents, to leave half the eggs each turtle lays on the shore so that this species can be safeguarded for future generations.

Professor Akio Morishima is an eminent international lawyer whose primary concern, for more than three decades, has been environmental protection. He has served in this field at both national and international levels, and has been an enthusiastic supporter of environmental justice. He participated, as an expert adviser to the plaintiffs' lawyers in two important court cases, namely the Yokkaichi Asthma Litigation and the Shinkansen Super-Express Train Noise Litigation. Not only did the plaintiffs win the case, his efforts resulted in the strengthening of pollution control and environmental protection measures by the Government. He was the mastermind behind the report which outlines the long-term policies for environmental conservation in Japan. He has also taken the lead in environmental research and science, and has played a key role in promoting environmental awareness and community action through the Chubu Environmental Association which he established. Through his actions, he has gained the confidence of governments and community-based organizations alike.

Since 1940, eighty year-old Bahuddin Hi Pabbite, better known as Pak Tua, has been alone in his fight to preserve the Maleo Bird, long before this species was put on the endangered list. The Maleo, which lives in Indonesia's Central Sulawesi Province, has been threatened for decades by human predators who steal their eggs. Pak Tua lives a very simple existence in an unsuitable house along a beach where the Maleo lays its eggs, so that he can protect its offsprings. During the egg-laying season, he collects the eggs and puts them in a traditional hatchery box, and after three months, the eggs hatch and seven days later the small birds are released into their natural habitat. Pak Tua determines their ability to survive when these chicks are able to crack gravel, dig in sand, run and fly. Although this noble work is not appreciated by the village people, he has not lost his enthusiasm and still finds much satisfaction in this lifelong work.

Sonia Regina de Brito Pereira of Brazil is an environmental lawyer, a biologist, a social psychologist and professor of environmental law and ecology. She coordinates the Ecological and Educational Training Programme in human ecology which helps low-income communities address their common problems, through reflective-learning and by working together to clean and restore the environment. In the 1980s, she was responsible for bringing to international attention the negative effects of the biggest hydro-electric power station built in the Amazon. She has contributed to the development of the Government's environmental management activities, and has promoted public dialogue between the Government and local communities. Her conviction, which encouraged the people to resist efforts to destroy their lands and lives, has led to numerous death threats.

In 1975, when Tatyana Fyodorovna Stepanenko of the Russian Federation went to work at Vodokanal, a state enterprise in St. Petersburg, she set her sights on finding ways to limit the amount of waste being dumped into the Newa River system and the Baltic Sea. Not only did she find high levels of extremely polluted waste being discharged by industry, but that many of those industries were part of the defense complex. Her work posed enormous challenges. Environmental protection was not high on the policy agenda and the defense industry was not obliged to follow the few environmental regulations in place. Tatyana Stepanenko perservered. In the end she established an information collection system of the industrial waste being dumped into the water, and the findings prompted the Government to draft regulations for industry that included supervisory measures and a system of fees structured according to a polluter pays principle. The goal she set out to achieve took 18 years, and the policy she helped develop is now in force in all Russian townships.

"This year's Global 500 winners have taken the path that all of us hesitate to take for want of time or caring. They are quiet revolutionaries whose secret, if there is any, is that they prefer to act", says UNEP's Executive Director, Ms. Elizabeth Dowdeswell.

Some 611 individuals and organizations have been honoured since the inception of the award in 1987. Among prominent past winners are: French marine explorer Jacques Cousteau; Sir David Attenborough, outstanding producer of environmental television programmes; Ms. Gro Harlem Brundtland, Prime Minister of Norway; Anil Aggarwal, the prominent environmentalist from India; the late Chico Mendes, the Brazilian rubber tapper who was murdered during his fight to save the Amazon forest; the Green Belt Movement in Kenya; His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh; the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF); and Jimmy Carter, former President of the United States.

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 from UNEP's Headquarters, Global 500 Roll of Honour, P.O. Box 30552, Nairobi, Kenya, and from UNEP's regional offices.

For further information, please contact:

   Mr. Tore J. Brevik                      Ms. Elisabeth Guilbaud-Cox
   UNEP Chief, Information                 Coordinator, Special Events
   Tel: (254-2) 62 3292                    Tel: (254-2) 62 3084
   Fax: (254-2) 62 3692                    Fax: (254-2) 62 3692
   E-mail: Tore.Brevik@unep.org          Elisabeth.Guilbaud cox@unep.org
ADULT CATEGORY Lalita Balakrishnan India Professor Paul Joseph Crutzen The Netherlands Earth Love Fund U.K. Environment 2000 Zimbabwe Garanti Bank Turkey Dr. Tansu Gurpinar Turkey Carlos Roberto Hasbun El Salvador Rampa and Tom Hormel U.S.A. Veit Koester Denmark Danuse Kvasnickova Czech Republic Professor Akio Morishima Japan Bahuddin Hi Pabbite Indonesia Sonia Regina de Brito Pereira Brazil Miguel A. Reynal Argentina Ken Saro-Wiwa Nigeria Tatyana Fyodorovna Stepanenko Russian Federation Nergis Yazgan Turkey YOUTH CATEGORY Herederos del Planeta Colombia A High School Student Group of Junior Journalists for Environment People's Republic of China Wahn Lee Republic of Korea Fatih Yilmaz Turkey **************************************************************

Robert G. Bisset
Media/Information Officer
Information and Public Affairs
United Nations Environment Programme
PO Box 30552, Nairobi, Kenya
Tel: +254-2-623084
Fax: +254-2-623692
Email: Robert.Bisset@unep.no

BACK TO *********************************************************************