Equator Prize 2017 Award Ceremony

October 11, 2017

Equator Prize 2017 Award Ceremony

An evening to celebrate indigenous peoples and local community achievements and build the movement for nature-based solutions to climate, environment and poverty challenges

17 September 2017 - Town Hall Theater, New York


The 9th Equator Prize Award Ceremony honoured 15 winners in a gala event in New York, coinciding with the Global Goals Week and the 72nd Session of the UN General Assembly. Leading thinkers, policy-makers, business and civil society leaders from around the globe gathered in The Town Hall theater in New York, hosted by the Equator Initiative partnership, to recognize and celebrate the extraordinary initiatives and innovations brought about by indigenous peoples and local communities from 12 countries.

Nearly 1,500 people came together to celebrate the achievements of 15 Equator Prize 2017 winners protecting, restoring and sustainably managing marine, forest, grassland, dryland and wetland ecosystems. They've been recognized for their significant work to create scalable,  nature-based solutions to address biodiversity conservation, climate change adaptation, disaster risk reduction, gender empowerment, land rights, and food and water security.


Opening Remarks

The award ceremony has been masterfully conducted by Xiuhtezcatl Martínez, a 17-year-old indigenous climate activist, hip-hop artist, and powerful voice on the front lines of a global youth-led environmental movement. The night included the participation of UNDP Administrator, Achim Steiner, as well as renowned environmental advocates such as President of Mary Robinson Foundation – Climate Justice, and former President of Ireland Mary Robinson, President and CEO of National Geographic Society Gary E. Knell, among other distinguished speakers. The ceremony was opened by the blessing of Native American Traditional Singer John Scott-Richardson and Native American Grass Dancer Sheldon Raymore.

For the ceremony’s opening statement Achim Steiner commended the incredible work of all Equator Prize Winners over the last fifteen years: “The 15 communities we honour tonight, together with the more than 200 previous prize winners, and the more than 5,000 nominations we have received to date, are beginning to weave a tapestry of local solutions that tackle some of the most vexing challenges in sustainable development. These solutions show us that when we invest in nature, and we can achieve our global, national and local goals of obtaining food, water, peace, gender parity and security in a truly sustainable manner. They give us hope for the future.”

Mary Robinson recognized the effort of local and indigenous communities to fulfill the Sustainable Development Goals and the UN Declaration of Human Rights. “As we celebrate the recipients of the Equator Prize tonight” - Robinson stated - “let us welcome the lessons they can teach us in living in balance with nature, and let us recommit to a future where all are equal in dignity and rights.”

Gary Knell also recognized the ability of local communities to be powerful agents of change. Knell also introduced three videos , produced by the National Geographic Foundation, that introduced the three winner categories: Forests; Drylands, Grasslands and Mountains; and Oceans.


Watch the opening remarks here:

Introducing Award Categories


To introduce the Forests category, H.E. Vidar Helgesen, Minister of Climate and Environment of Norway, said, “Forests are one of the two lungs of our planet, and the thermostat of our climate. When you protect forests, you protect life. Forests harbour 80% of all plants and animals on earth. Protecting and restoring forests is key if we are to reach the goals of the Paris Agreement and many of the Sustainable Development Goals. Forests hold up to a third of the solutions to climate change mitigation, they are critical to biodiversity, to water and rainfall patterns and food security.”

Carlos Manuel Rodriguez, Vice President of Global Policy at Conservation International and former Minister of Environment of the Government of Costa Rica  added, "Nature is 30% of the climate solution and 30% of the SDGs." - he highlighted the importance of protecting forests saying, "I personally think that we should never touch our forests because they are very important for our climate and human security." 

The community statement was delivered by Benki Piyãko, from the Associação Ashaninka do Rio Amônia Apiwtxa, on behalf of the Forests category winners, he said, "By protecting our forests and Mother Earth, our one and only home, we ensure development for humanity as a whole." 


Musical Performance


Event Sponsors

logos for norway        logo undp 300        avoideddeforestation          OECD                 SONU  TNC


Partners & Event Collaborator

  • Convention on Biological Diversity

  • Ecoagriculture Partners

  • Fordham University

  • Government of Germany

  • IUCN, International Union for Conservation of Nature

  • PCI Media Impact

  • SIDA

  • Tribal Link Foundation

  • UN Environment Programme

  • UN Foundation


  • United Nations Office for Project Services



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