Green Star Awards presented to environmental emergency heroes [EN/FR]

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Fukushima mayor, documentary maker Sir David Attenborough and Hurricane Sandy Debris Removal Task Force among the six 2013 Green Star Award winners

2 September 2013, Geneva - A select group of outstanding individuals and organisations from around the world, who have confronted environmental emergencies ranging from the Fukushima nuclear disaster and Hurricane Sandy, to forest fires and climate change, were today honoured as recipients of the third Green Star Awards.

The Awards recognize individuals and entities that have made remarkable efforts to prepare for, respond to, and mainstream actions to prevent environmental emergencies.

The biennial Green Star Awards are a collaborative initiative between the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), Green Cross International (GCI) and the UN Environment Programme (UNEP). This year, the award celebration coincides with events marking the 20th anniversary of GCI, the nongovernmental organization founded by Mikhail Gorbachev.

This year’s winners are: Kenya Red Cross Society; Prof Nikola Nikolov of Macedonia, Sundar Prasad Sharma of Nepal, and Prof Sergiy Zibtsev of Ukraine (joint Award); Mayor of Japan’s Katsurao Village, Masahide Matsumoto; New York City Hurricane Sandy Debris Removal Task Force; World Wildlife Fund and American Red Cross; and Sir David Attenborough.

Valerie Amos, UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, congratulated the winners, saying: “The Green Star Awards recognize people who are on the front lines of preventing, preparing for and responding to environmental emergencies, tackling life threatening pollution and other hazards, and helping people reconstruct their lives after a devastating forest fire or tsunami. We owe a particular debt of gratitude to people who work behind the scenes to prevent emergencies, and to help people prepare for their impact.”

Wendy Cue, Head of the Joint UNEP/OCHA Environment Unit, said the latest edition of the Awards was the most successful since its launch in 2009, with more than 30 nominations being received. “This shows how seriously people all around the world are taking the threats posed by environmental emergencies,” Ms. Cue said. “This momentum needs to intensify if the world is going to be able to keep pace with the increasing threats posed on communities and the environment by manmade emergencies.”

Green Cross President Alexander Likhotal praised the Green Star Award recipients for their commitment to tackling threats posed by environmental emergencies. “These people and organizations are true heroes who not only recognize the dire need to be able to prevent environmental emergencies and protect people from their impacts, but are actually doing something about it,” Mr Likhotal said. “Threats posed by unchecked industrial activities, or human-induced climate change, must be minimized. At the same time, taking measures to improve emergency preparedness, as demonstrated by the Awardees, needs to be expanded.”

In the past decades, the world has seen more and more devastating disasters. In 2011 and 2012 alone, more than 600 disasters were recorded, affecting over 300 million people and inflicting economic damages of US$500 million, according to the United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction and the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters.

The 2013 Green Star Awards recipients, per category, are:
Preparedness:

 Kenya Red Cross Society, for its efforts in disaster risk reduction, especially in the context of the September 2011 industrial accident, fuel spill and fire at the Mukuru Sinai informal settlements in Nairobi.  Joint award to Prof Nikola Nikolov (Macedonia), Sundar Prasad Sharma (Nepal), and Prof Sergiy Zibtsev (Ukraine), for their leadership and work to strengthen national capacities to respond to the humanitarian and environmental impacts of wildfires.

Response:

 Mayor of Japan’s Katsurao Village, Masahide Matsumoto, who showed exemplary leadership and preparedness on 14 March 2011 to evacuate 1,600 residents to safety the day before the second and third reactor explosions at the stricken Fukushima nuclear power plant, which, subsequently, covered his town in a thick radioactive cloud of dust.  New York City Hurricane Sandy Debris Removal Task Force, for their outstanding response to the devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy in October 2012. The Task Force comprised over 25 City, State and Federal agencies and focused on reusing and recycling much of the 2 million cubic yards of debris left behind by Hurricane Sandy in New York City.

Mainstreaming:
 World Wildlife Fund and American Red Cross, for their joint-development of the Green Recovery and Reconstruction Toolkit (GRRT), following the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami, to ensure disaster recovery efforts are sustainable and do not have unintended negative effects on the environment.  Sir David Attenborough, for his work on raising awareness on climate change and related environmental emergencies, and 60 years of dedication to the environment. His vast body of work, including the State of the Planet (2000), The Truth About Climate Change (2006), and How Many People Can Live on Planet Earth (2009) have informed millions of people on the pressures posed by humanity on the environment.

Contacts, more information:
Green Cross International - Paul Garwood +41 79 77 60 454 paul.garwood@gci.ch

UN OCHA - Jens Laerke +41 22 917 11 42 laerke@un.org

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs:

To learn more about OCHA's activities, please visit http://unocha.org/.