Nairobi, 12 August 2010 - It was a simple game of building blocks that inspired Coco TIN Chi Ting's world-beating painting. Today, on the United Nations International Youth Day, the 14-year-old from Hong Kong, China, was announced the global winner of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) 19th International Children's Painting Competition, beating off stiff competition from hundreds of thousands of other children from across the world.
Coco said her winning painting was a warning about pollution and its effect on animals.
As the overall winner, she receives US$2,000 in prize money and an all-expenses-paid trip in October to the Tunza International Children's Conference in Nagoya, Japan, where she will formally receive her award.
The second global winner is 11-year-old Katherine Liu from the United States. She, along with six other regional winners, will receive US$1,000 and a trip to the Tunza conference in Japan.
"In my picture, a variety of animals are carved into blocks and on top perches a fragile glass Earth", explains Coco. "As the evil hand made of pollution tries to take blocks and destroy the tower, the good hand comes in and stops it. By doing this, the tower of blocks is saved, and the glass Earth stays intact. This shows that if we don't act now and protect the animals, the Earth will be shattered and destroyed."
The theme of this year's competition was Biodiversity: Connecting with Nature and the young artists - all between 6 and 14 years old - took on the challenge with impressive artistic flair. Images of giraffes and penguins aboard a steam train named the 'Green City Express', trees bursting with exotic birds and animals and a colourful cascade of wildlife emerging from planet Earth are among the winning paintings.
The painting competition is jointly organised by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the Japan-based Foundation for Global Peace and Environment (FGPE), Bayer and Nikon. It has been held every year since 1991 and, in that time, has received over 3 million entries from children in over 100 countries. This year, there were 594,032 entries received from 95 countries.
"Children's artworks attract us with their cheerful expression of nature and ecosystems", said Tomoko Yano, Secretary General of the Foundation for Global Peace and Environment (FGPE). "On the other hand, they show the suffering of creatures living in a polluted sea or a depleting forest as their own pain. They show us that human beings are just one species among millions of others. We hope the children's artwork will strike a chord with many more people around the world and encourage them to take actions for future generations."
Each UNEP Regional Office (Bahrain, Bangkok, Geneva, Panama City, Washington DC, and Nairobi) chose their own regional winners and submitted 1,629 paintings to the final selection stage of the competition.
The regional winners were: Hanna Gall, 12, (Europe), Enrique Suárez Estrada, 11, (Latin America and the Caribbean), Sylvia Gong, 14, (North America), Charlotte Petra Sakura Chalkley, 12, (West Asia), Gowtham Vigneshwar, 11 (Africa) and Wigavee Rattamanee, 9 (Asia Pacific).
"Once again, we are very proud of the increasing number of entries for our painting competition - a core element of our partnership with UNEP", said Michael Schade, Senior Vice President at Bayer. "The children's paintings are fascinating artworks with a very clear message to all of us: Care about this planet! We must take the concerns and wishes of the many children from all over the world very seriously. I would encourage everybody to have a look at these impressive paintings".
Yoshimichi Kawai, Director, Member of the Board and Executive Officer at Nikon Corporation said the paintings also carried a serious message. "The rate of biodiversity loss has been increasing day by day and it is very important that people around the world understand and share this problem", said Mr. Kawai. "Nikon wants to appeal, together with the partners, on the importance of conservation of biodiversity to people through the children's paintings, and hope they will start taking an action to save biodiversity."
The award ceremony for the International Children's Painting Competition will be one of the key events at UNEP's Tunza International Children and Youth Conference, which will bring together more than 105 children from 35 countries from 20 - 26 October 2010 in Nagoya, Japan.
A selection of winning paintings will be displayed during the conference before touring various exhibitions around the world. The paintings will also be exhibited on the Tunza website and will be used for posters, postcards, calendars, and other UNEP materials to raise awareness of biodiversity issues.
UNEP's Tunza programme - named after a Swahili word meaning to "treat with care" - aims to increase young people's involvement in environmental issues through environmental activities, workshops and conferences.
Now that this year's painting competition winners have been announced, the search for 2011's best young artists has already begun. 2011 will be the 20th edition of the International Children's Painting Competition. To mark the UN's International Year of Forests in 2011, the theme of next year's painting competition will be 'Life in the Forests' and participants will have until 15 April 2011 to submit their entries.
The winning paintings can be viewed here: http://unep.org/tunza/children/19_Gallery_Main.asp
For more information, please contact:
Theodore Oben, Chief of Outreach Unit/UNEP, Tel. +82-10-22884255 or e-mail: email@example.com
Bryan Coll, UNEP/Nairobi on +254 20 762 3088, mobile +254 711 203 148 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org