UNEP Sasakawa Prize Celebrates 25 Years At Finale Event

On 21 February 2012, the Nippon Foundation and UNEP marked 25 years of partnership on the UNEP Sasakawa Prize at a high-level gala dinner programme, under the theme “Sustainable Development: The Next Evolution (Lessons from the Past and Actions for the Future)”.

The event also celebrated UNEP’s 40th years in development and featured the participation of UNEP’s past Executive Directors, including Mr. Maurice Strong, represented by Mr. Donald Kaniaru; Mr. Mostafa Kamal Tolba; Ms. Elisabeth Dowdeswell; and Mr. Klaus Topfer.

Guests comprised Ministers, Ambassadors and other high level delegates to the 12th Special Session of the UNEP Governing Council and Global Ministerial Environment Forum were treated to a multimedia retrospective of the milestones of the past four decades, tracing the evolution of the global environmental agenda in the context of sustainable development.

For more than 20 years, the UNEP Sasakawa Prize has been recognizing outstanding individuals and organizations for their significant contribution to the protection of the environment and the promotion of sustainable development.

Following its revitalization in 2004, the Prize was re-launched in 2005 with the new mandate of nurturing grassroots based innovation, research, initiatives and ideas on green solutions to environmental challenges by offering $200,000 as financial support to the winner.

The Prize was especially interested in sustainable projects that can be scaled up or replicated elsewhere, thus helping to inspire others to take a greater interest in protecting our environment and to increase their scope of beneficiary, especially in the under-served rural communities.

By helping these entrepreneurs scale-up their activities, the Prize was able to boost local economies and helped tackle poverty and marginalization, while promoting the sustainable use of resources and ecosystems. Through these contributions, the Prize also contributed to UNEP’s work towards building the green economy of the future.

A total of 28 individuals and 11 organizations have received the prize in recognition of their clear plan for implementing innovative, groundbreaking and sustainable environmental projects.

As we have come to the end of the UNEP Sasakawa Prize, UNEP and the Nippon Foundation, on behalf of our Jury – Ms. Angela Cropper, Ms. Wakako Hironaka and the late Prof. Wangari Maathai – would like to thank all those who contributed to this award and made it a success.

In the words of Mr. Shuichi Ohno, Executive Director of the Nippon Foundation, “Only individual leaders, such as the past winners of the Sasakawa Prize, are able to change the public’s actions towards environmental problems by having been with the people, fought with them, and brought them assured improvements to their lives.” While the Prize may have completed its final cycle, the work of the laureates will keep on as we respond to the challenge of pursuing a sustainable 21st century.

Speech by Ohno Shuichi at the UNEP Sasakawa Prize Legacy & UNEP 40th Anniversary Gala Dinner