The 11th Equator Prize Award Ceremony, held on 29 September 2020, honored 10 outstanding Indigenous and local groups from 10 countries, each showcasing innovative, nature-based solutions for tackling biodiversity, climate change, development, and poverty challenges. The event highlighted concrete responses and practical solutions to the environmental crisis by Indigenous peoples and local communities all over the world. The 2020 winners showed that even during a global pandemic, local action for the environment is a crucial element to secure well-being and livelihoods.
The high-profile virtual event, associated with the UN Biodiversity Summit, featured award presentations by celebrities from the winning countries, videos about the winning initiatives, community statements and government commitments, as well as musical and cultural performances. The event was part of the Nature for Life Hub, a 4-day series of virtual events designed to raise ambition for nature-based solutions in global biodiversity and climate policy. See the recording of the full event here.
EP Winners 2019 (Copy) (Copy)
Following a global call for nominations, the Equator Initiative received 583 nominations from 120 countries around the world. An extensive, four-stage peer-review process guided by our Technical Advisory Committee of international experts was undertaken over the last several months. Ten winners were celebrated through a series of virtual events during Climate Week NYC, in parallel with the UN General Assembly and Nature Summit.
The Award Ceremony opened with a performance and prayer by JC Catholique, Dënësųłinë́ Elder from Łutsël K’e, Northwest Territories, Canada. JC conducted a fire ceremony and a drumming invocation on top of the highest hill in his village, overlooking the East Arm of Great Slave Lake and the Thaidene Nëné Protected Area— a place that looks out into the deepest fresh waters in North America in Christie Bay.
Master of Ceremonies, television presenter and journalist Femi Oke, welcomed the audience and gave the stage to UNDP Administrator Achim Steiner, who commented on the challenges posed by Covid-19 and this year’s thematic focus. “As we mark the 75th anniversary of the birth of the United Nations, and in the midst of a pandemic, we are reminded that when we come together as a planet, we can overcome humanity’s greatest challenges. But never have we faced such a complex and multi-dimensional planetary emergency – we are facing a health crisis, a climate crisis, a biodiversity crisis and an inequality crisis, all at once. The theme of this year’s Equator Prize is ‘Nature for Life,’ in recognition of the essential role nature plays in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.”
Mr. Steiner also commented on the scope of the Equator Prize: “This year’s 10 Equator Prize winners, selected among many hundreds of applications, show us that local initiatives, working on nature-based solutions to solve these crises, exist all over the world. These winners show us the value of working with nature, for climate action, for water security and for inclusive prosperity. They show us the importance of putting nature at the very heart of sustainable development. These stories, and the many hundreds like them, provide a blueprint for solving our planetary emergency.”
Femi Oke, Master of Ceremonies
Achim Steiner, UNDP Administrator
The opening speech was followed by a powerful Community Statement crafted collaboratively among the 10 winners and delivered by all of them together. The winners reminded the audience how their solutions help solve inequality, climate, and water crises.
Dr Jane Goodall, Founder of the Jane Goodall Institute and UN Messenger of Peace delivered introductory remarks for the section on “Nature for Climate”. She highlighted how “every one of us can play a part in [combating the climate crisis] and to see what communities can do when they work together we need go no further than look at the projects of the winners of this year; “we need to listen to the voices of these Indigenous Peoples, we need to take heed of their wisdom – the wisdom that has enabled them in so many places to live in harmony with nature for thousands of years.”
Henry Golding, Actor and Producer, opened the section “Nature for Prosperity. He said “Our global economy depends on nature from value chains to production processes to food systems. Natural resources are an essential component of economic well-being. As such it is also a key part to building prosperous livelihoods.”
Dr. Jane Goodall, Founder of the Jane Goodall Institute and UN Messenger of Peace
Henry Golding, Actor and Producer
The awards were presented to the laureates by celebrities, eminent personalities and ministers from the winners’ countries. Prize-givers and speakers included: world-renowned author and environmental activist Margaret Atwood; Grammy Award-winning Musician and Actor Lila Downs; six-time Olympic champion and humanitarian Clara Hughes; Senior Advisor at the Climate and Land Use Alliance David Kaimowitz; Minister of Environment and Sustainable Development of the Democratic Republic of the Congo H.E. Claude Nyamugabo; Minister of Environment and Sustainable Development of Madagascar H.E. Baomiavotse Vahinala Raharinirina; Judge and former Vice President of the International Court of Justice, Prof. Raymond Ranjeva; Founder of the Metta Development Foundation Lahpai Seng Raw; actor and producer Nicholas Saputra; actor and activist Khemupsorn "Cherry" Sirisukha; musician, actor and activist Sting; and actress, director, producer and activist, Trudie Styler.
Category: Nature for Water
In presenting the Equator Prize to Boon Rueang Wetland Forest Conservation Group, actor and activist from Thailand Khemupsorn "Cherry" Sirisukha said: “Boon Rueang understands the manifold value of the wetland forest. For instance, providing food and natural water resource for agriculture and consumption, storing carbon, habitats for wildlife, and preserving biodiversity. Therefore, this wetland forest is invaluable for them and us too.”
Khemupsorn "Cherry" Sirisukha , Actor and Activist
Prof. Raymond Ranjeva, judge and former Vice President of the International Court of Justice, and Minister of Environment and Sustainable Development, Madagascar, H.E. Baomiavotse Vahinala Raharinirina, while congratulating VOI TAMIA for a much deserved win, drew “everyone's attention to the challenge, not to say the bets that the project represents in the structure and evolution of Madagascar”, as “an example of community and environment taking care of each other”. The Minister also stressed how this community’s example is one that “can be replicated not only throughout Madagascar but throughout the world.”
H.E. Baomiavotse Vahinala Raharinirina and Prof. Raymond Ranjeva
Alianza Ceibo, Ecuador
Musician, producers, actors and relentless activists and philanthropists devoted to protecting rainforests, Sting and Trudie Styler, highlighted the critical state of the Amazon rainforest as “one of the world’s most biodiverse ecosystems and a critical buffer against climate change”, while praising “Indigenous Peoples of the Amazon [who] risk their lives every day to keep the forests and our future intact.” They stated: “Powerful, effective, and life-preserving - the Alianza Ceibo has established a model for Indigenous resistance and rainforest protection.”
Sting and Trudie Styler, Musician, Producers, Actors and Activists
Category: Nature for Climate
Łutsël K’e Dene First Nation, Canada
Six-time Olympic champion and Humanitarian from Canada, Clara Hughes, congratulated Łutsël K’e Dene First Nation for creating an “Indigenous-led conservation model made possible through an innovative conservation finance mechanism called the Thaidene Nëné Trust”, crucial to safeguarding “lands and waters for future generations by signing agreements with national and territorial governments and officially creating Thaidene Nëné (Land of the Ancestors), a 26,000 square kilometer area protected between the boreal forest and the Arctic tundra.”
Clara Hughes, Olympic Champion and Humanitarian
Actor and producer from Indonesia, Nicholas Saputra, stressed the crucial work of FoMMA “advocating for the rights of communities who live on 20,000 square kilometers of customary land in Northern Kalimantan.” He commended the potential of the co-management model adopted between “Government and Indigenous authorities represented by FOMMA [who] jointly decide on resource management and traditional access and use rights promoting local stewardship over the [Kayan Mentarang National] Park.”
Nicholas Saputra, Actor and Producer
The Salween Peace Park, Myanmar
Founder of the Metta Development Foundation from Myanmar, Lahpai Seng Raw, had the pleasure of presenting the award to the first-ever Equator Prize winner from Myanmar. The Salween Peace Park “established a sanctuary that enshrines the principles of peace, self-determination, and environmental protection as a rich expression of their Karen identity.” As such, this group is a sign of hope for Myanmar – whose ecology is under threat – and for the world.
Lahpai Seng Raw, Founder of the Metta Development Foundation
A reflection from the ten Equator Prize winners
The winning communities delivered a powerful call to action to the audience, inviting the world to not stand by inactive as Indigenous peoples and local communities continue to be threatened for their stewardship over their lands and resources. It is the collective responsibility of all humanity to protect that planet’s future: “Today we stand with you, shoulder to shoulder, to offer solutions, for this decade and the decades ahead. And we invite you to stand with us, and to stand for nature and for the protection of our peoples in shaping the course of our shared future.”
Category: Nature for Prosperity
David Kaimowitz, Senior Advisor at the Climate and Land Use Alliance, reflected on the most remarkable characteristics of Utz Che’, namely “their internal democratic processes, commitment to gender equality, youth inclusion, intercultural dialogue, involvement in practical forestry and agroforestry activities, and constructive policy dialogue.” Through their important work “the livelihoods of 33,000 families have been improved through the creation of family farms using organic farming techniques.”
David Kaimowitz, Senior Advisor at the Climate and Land Use Alliance
Vie Sauvage, Democratic Republic of the Congo
H.E. Claude Nyamugabo, Minister of Environment and Sustainable Development in the Democratic Republic of the Congo conveyed that “Indigenous leadership is fundamental for effective and sustainable solutions.” He invited other communities to follow Vie Sauvage’s lead and “imitate their conservation model while adapting to their ecosystems.”
H.E. Claude Nyamugabo, Minister of Environment and Sustainable Development in the Democratic Republic of the Congo
Nashulai Maasai Conservancy, Kenya
World-renowned author and environmental activist, Margaret Atwood, is a great supporter and friend of Nashulai Maasai Conservancy. She congratulated the initiative as the “first Maasai-owned and managed conservancy in the famed Maasai Mara”, highlighting their extraordinarily inspiring work to “regenerate the commons, rehabilitate the grasslands, and a crucial watershed, protect and increase wildlife, and help lift the community from poverty.”
Margaret Atwood, Author and Environmental Activist
Grammy Award-winning Musician and Actor Lila Downs commended the important work carried out by the women of this organization who “have generated many new jobs and improved the livelihoods in their communities, based on traditional knowledge of local, medicinal plants and herbs that has been shared through generations.”
Lila Downs, Musician and Actor
Partners’ Pledge: “We Stand With You”
The partners of the Equator Initiative, represented by leaders from 19 organizations and countries, expressed support to the winners of the Equator Prize 2020. They highlighted the relevance of nature-based solutions and importance of local and Indigenous leadership in protecting and stewarding the world’s natural ecosystems.
Partners and Contributors
The Equator Prize 2020 Award Ceremony was made possible thanks to the kind support of
our partners and collaborators: