Bern, Switzerland, 18 May 2011 – The United Nations and Green Cross International announced today that US-based Blacksmith Institute, a not-for-profit organization tackling life-threatening pollution in developing countries, is among this year’s winners of the prestigious Green Star Awards. The ceremony is being held today in Bern, Switzerland, on the heels of the ninth meeting of the Advisory Group on Environmental Emergencies (AGEE). The Award recognizes environmental heroes working in disasters and other emergencies.
Blacksmith is receiving the award in recognition of its environmental emergency response efforts, most recently during the unprecedented lead poisoning crisis in Zamfara, Nigeria, which killed over 400 children. Other winners are being recognized for their work regarding reconstruction following wildfires in Greece, earthquakes in China and Haiti, and for work in Afghanistan.
The full list of 2011 winners is as follows:
- Dionysia-Theodora Avgerinopoulou, Member of the Greek Parliament
- Dr. Mary Catherine Comerio, Professor of Architecture, University of California, Berkeley
- The Blacksmith Institute, a US-based non-profit organisation
- Environmental engineering firm TerraGraphics
- Artsen zonder Grenzen (Médecins Sans Frontières – Holland)
- Linda Norgrove (Posthumous Award)
Ms. Dionysia-Theodora Avgerinopoulou is being recognized for her pro bono work to support reconstruction efforts following environmental emergencies, such as the wild fire that devastated areas of the Peloponnese region in Greece in August 2007. The selection committee is also honoring Dr. Mary C. Comerio for her invaluable work in the area of post-disaster reconstruction following earthquakes in China (2008) and in Haiti (2009-2010). Finally, Ms. Linda Norgrove is being given a posthumous award in honor of her outstanding leadership and commitment in responding to the severe environmental challenges facing Afghanistan, and for her efforts to avert future environment emergencies in the country. Ms. Norgrove was kidnapped in Afghanistan in October 2010 and died during a rescue attempt.
Organisations being recognized this year include the Blacksmith Institute, an international non-profit organization dedicated to solving pollution problems in low and middle income countries, where human health is at risk. Its current programmes in highly polluted locations in the developing world include Mozambique, Nigeria and the Philippines. Terragraphics Environmental Engineering is being awarded for its promotion of environmental cleanup methodologies in developing regions. Finally, Artsen Zonder Grenzen is being recognized for its ongoing contribution to environmental emergency response efforts, specifically in regard to lead poisoning in the Nigerian state of Zamfara in 2010.
The Green Star Awards emphasize the connection between environmental risks from disasters and conflicts, crisis-affected populations, and providers of humanitarian assistance. They recognize the achievements of individuals, organizations, government and private enterprises that have demonstrated leadership in preparing for, responding to, and reducing the environmental impacts of disasters and conflicts.
“Given the multitude and scale of environmental emergencies the world is experiencing, recognizing those helping to prepare and respond to these catastrophic events is increasingly important,” said Alexander Likhotal, President of Green Cross International. “This year’s class of Green Star winners demonstrates the depth of efforts being taken worldwide.”
“Recent events in Japan, the forest fires in Israel and Russia, as well as the toxic lead pollution in Nigeria underscore the relevance of the work undertaken by the 2011 Green Star Awards winners,” said Valerie Amos, UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator. “These individuals and organizations have all contributed substantially to saving lives and livelihoods, now and in the future.”
“I want to pay tribute to the Green Star award winners. They make our work possible, they make our work meaningful and very often they make the difference between life and death”, said UN Under-Secretary-General and UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner.
“In the work of UNEP over the years, post-disaster and post-conflict work has become more and more important and, in fact, it has now become one of our six major areas of work. We see our role contributing through the lens of the environmental dimension of these emergencies as being a critical part of the international family to try and assist in these often very trying circumstances.”
An international jury of environmental emergency experts selected the winners based on their work in a variety of domains, including international capacity-building missions aimed at helping countries prepare for and providing support to international response missions to countries affected by environmental emergencies.
About Blacksmith Institute
Blacksmith Institute is an international not-for-profit organization dedicated to solving life-threatening pollution issues in the developing world. A global leader in this field, Blacksmith addresses a critical need to identify and clean up the world’s worst polluted places, focusing on sites where pollution threatens human health, especially where children are most at risk. Based in New York, Blacksmith works cooperatively around the world in partnerships that include governments, the international community, NGOs and local agencies, to design and implement innovative, low-cost solutions to save lives. Since 1999, Blacksmith has completed projects in over 19 countries. Blacksmith Institute is known for its annual World’s Worst Polluted reports; for the creation of the Blacksmith Index (used around the world to rate levels of health risk from pollution); and for the Blacksmith database, the only resource of its kind. www.blacksmithinstitute.org
To read the complete press release and for more detailed information on the Green Star Award and all the winners, including biographies and photographs, please visitwww.unep.org/greenstar
For more information and interviews with Blacksmith Institute, contact: Magdalene Sim, Blacksmith Institute, 212-647-8330 / [email protected]