7 December 2015 – Théâtre Mogador, Paris, France


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             From left to right: the view inside the historic Théâtre Mogador and all of the Equator Prize 2015 winners on stage.

The Equator Prize 2015 Award Ceremony was held as a high-level contribution to the historic United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change 21st Conference of the Parties (UNFCCC COP21) held between 30 November and 12 December 2015 in Paris, France. The goal of the conference was to convene nearly 200 governments from around the world to agree on a binding framework to address climate change.

It was against this backdrop that more than 1,600 people –heads-of-state and ministers, ambassadors, global business leaders, celebrities, environmental activists, thought leaders, media, and indigenous peoples representatives – came together to celebrate the achievements and innovations of indigenous peoples and local communities, namely the 21 recipients of the Equator Prize 2015. The winners, who were selected from a record-breaking 1,461 nominations from around the world, were honored for their remarkable achievements in tackling climate change using innovative measures to reduce poverty, protect nature and strengthen resilience.

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  From left to right: Equator Prize 2015 winners Victoria Rakotondrasoa from Madagascar and Patxon Metuktire from Brazil during the evening’s reception; Equator Prize 2015 winners Revocatus Wilbard Njau from Tanzania, Donata Turyamwesimira from Uganda, actor and event host Alec Baldwin; and Equator Prize 2015 winners Nomi and Ariana from Indonesia, Frances Seymour, Senior Fellow of Center for Global Development, Equator Prize 2015 winner Budi Setiawan from Indonesia.


Opening Remarks

Alec Baldwin, noted actor and activist, hosted this year’s ceremony, which included remarks by UNDP Administrator, Helen Clark, as well as renowned environmental leaders such as anthropologist Jane Goodall, former Norwegian Prime Minister Gro Harlem Brundtland, Executive Director of Greenpeace International Kumi Naidoo, and UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Vicky Tauli-Corpuz, among others. A special musical performance was given by Grammy Award-nominated Malian duo Amadou & Mariam. Films profiling the work of the Equator Prize 2015 winners were screened during the evening, narrated by actor, filmmaker, and UN Goodwill Ambassador for Biodiversity, Edward Norton.

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Left to right: Actor and activist Alec Baldwin serves as the host of the Equator Prize 2015; a six-minute video opens the award ceremony (click to watch); and Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Helen Clark, provides opening remarks for the evening.

To open the evening, Alec Baldwin said, “I have been a longtime advocate for climate action. And it is so thrilling to be here at a moment when the change we so desperately need finally seems to be within reach. It is encouraging to see political will catching up to what the science and community voices have been telling us for years – climate change is happening and we need decisive action. Many prizes are awarded to individuals – the Equator Prize, however, is about collective action and community achievement. It is about people coming together to address common challenges. The winners we will meet tonight are real heroes and we’re here to celebrate and honor them and their communities.”

In her opening remarks, Helen Clark said, “Climate change affects all of us—rich and poor, developed and developing, urban and local. It is truly an all-of-society concern that requires an equally all-of-society approach. The people and groups here tonight have shown that action and innovation against climate change can and does happen at all levels, and this should be encouraged, supported and scaled up.” Clark also announced the launch of a new Equator Initiative publication, “Climate Solutions from Community Forests: Lessons from Indigenous and Community-Based Forest Management.” The book, which can be downloaded here, is based on the lessons learned from previous Equator Prize winners in protecting, restoring and sustainably managing forests.

                    To watch Alec Baldwin and Helen Clark give their opening remarks, please click on the images above.

The ceremony highlighted community achievement in four thematic areas: the protection, restoration and sustainable management of forests; protecting and securing rights to communal lands, territories and natural resources; community-based adaptation to climate change and sustainable livelihoods; and activism for environmental justice.
Protecting Forests

To introduce the category on protecting forests, Frances Seymour, Senior Fellow, Center for Global Development, said, “Tonight’s winners show that it is possible to deliver rural development and domestic economic growth, while at the same time protecting and restoring forests on a massive scale. As the challenge of reconciling production and protection acquires increasing urgency, their examples of success provide much-needed reasons for optimism that it can be done.”

South Central People's Development Association Guyana
Wanang Conservation Area – Papua New Guinea
Mtandao Wa Jamii Wa Usimamizi Wa Misitu Tanzania (MJUMITA) Tanzania
Instituto Raoni Brazil
Prey Lang Community Network – Cambodia (special recognition winner)

Speaking on behalf of the winners in this category, Nicholas Fredericks of the South Central People’s Development Association of Guyana, said, “We are the guardians of the forests representing indigenous peoples and local communities from all over the world. Collectively, we five Equator Prize winners from Guyana, Cambodia, Tanzania, Brazil and Papua New Guinea conserve 7.5 million hectares of forest. We see the forest as our mother and have taken on this role to protect her.”

To watch Frances Seymour, the video on protecting forests and Nicholas Fredericks, please click on the images above.
Safeguarding Rights

Former Norwegian Prime Minister, Gro Harlem Brundtland, said, “Successful initiatives at the local level are often the foundation on which national development goals are built. To be successful, however, the rights of indigenous peoples and local communities to their lands, territories and natural resources must be recognized and respected. This failure to recognize land tenure for 1.5 billion people worldwide is today hampering efforts to combat hunger and poverty, igniting social conflict, and undermining efforts to reduce deforestation and the impacts of climate change.”

Maya Leaders Alliance of Southern Belize Belize
The Alliance of the Indigenous Peoples of the Highlands in the Heart of Borneo (FORMADAT) – Indonesia/Malaysia
Consejo Indígena del Pueblo Tacana Bolivia
Union Soamitambatra Madagascar
Muskitia Asla Takanka (MASTA) Honduras (special recognition winner)

Lilla Raja, one of the representatives from FORMADAT, from Malaysia, spoke on behalf of the winners in the land rights category. “The struggle to defend rights to our lands has been long and difficult. We have won legal victories affirming our land and resource rights, and promoting our traditional systems for the management of forests, rivers, coastlines and savannas. But there are many groups out there that are still fighting for their rights. We have come to Paris to stand together to demand that world leaders reach an ambitious agreement to combat climate change. This agreement will not succeed without recognition of local land rights.”

  To watch Gro Harlem Brundtland, the video on safeguarding land rights and Lilla Rajaplease click on the images above.
Community-Based Adaptation

In introducing this category, Naoko Ishii, Chairperson and CEO of the Global Environment Facility and host to the GEF Small Grants Programme, remarked, “What will the Equator Prize winners this evening tell us? They will tell us that decision-making processes around climate change are most effective when they are accountable and responsive to the populations that are most affected. Underpinning that local resilience are the rights to adapt in locally relevant ways and the resources to implement local adaptation strategies. This is the underlying principle of climate justice – that the transition to a zero carbon economy enables all people to realize their rights to development.”

Rural Green Environment Organization Afghanistan 
Kelompok Peduli Lingkungan Belitung (KPLB) – Indonesia
Kayonza Growers Tea Factory Uganda 
Umbrella Group of Naghadeh NGOs Iran 
Green Watershed – China 
Oromia Pastoralist Association – Ethiopia/Kenya (special recognition winner)

Speaking on behalf of the category winners, Farkhunda Ateel Siddiqi from the Rural Green Environment Organization from Afghanistan, said, “You see from our projects what can happen when traditional knowledge is valued, cultivated and respected. Our work has demonstrated that when free, prior and informed consent is respected and indigenous peoples and local communities have the right to determine, we achieve the kind of development we want. Where funding is channeled directly to indigenous peoples and local communities, you witness inspirational climate adaptation strategies.” 

To watch Naoko Ishii, the video on community-based adaptation and Farkhunda Ateel Siddiqiplease click on the images above.
Activism for Environmental Justice

Kumi Naidoo, Executive Director for Greenpeace International, said, “We see in the Equator Prize winners some leading examples of advocacy for environmental justice. Groups that are standing up for environmental protection, for their cultural survival, and for their right to be consulted on development projects that impact the health of their people and their forests, waterways and territories. Through their commitment to environmental justice, these communities have not only delivered a potent message to governments and companies, but have built a foundation for local self-determination, economic empowerment, and the sustainable use of local ecosystems.”

Comité para la Defensa y Desarrollo de la Flora y Fauna del Golfo de Fonseca (CODDEFFAGOLF) Honduras
Movimento Ipereg Ayu Brazil
Komunitas Adat Muara Tae Indonesia
Wuasikamas, el modelo del Pueblo Inga en Aponte Colombia
La Dynamique des Groupes des Peuples Autochtones – Democratic Republic of Congo (special recognition winner)

Encarnación Janamejoy from the Inga people of Colombia spoke on behalf of her peers by saying, “The Earth is crying, the nature of today is bleeding. Let us not destroy it or waste it. Otherwise we are killing ourselves and exterminating the lives of our descendants.”

To watch Kumi Naidoothe video on environmental activism and Encarnación Janamejoyplease click on the images above.


Calls to Action and Commitments

Vicky Tauli-Corpuz, UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, opened this segment of the evening by saying, “I would like to call on government states and corporations to respect the rights of indigenous peoples that are embedded in the UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the ILO Convention 169 and to reiterate the calls that their free, prior informed consent should be obtained whenever any climate change measure or decision that is being done that directly affects them. I would also like to amplify their call that donors provide more support for them to be able to bring their causes and fights to the legal courts so that they might have access to justice and for them to be able to strengthen their resilience, their capacity to adapt and capacities to contribute to the climate change problems that we all face today.”

Hans Brattskar, Ambassador for the Government of Norway, affirmed Norway’s commitment to implementing its support to indigenous peoples, “Across the tropical regions, I have witnessed how indigenous peoples act as stewards and defenders of the last remaining rainforests. By doing so, they are providing a critical service to all of us by reducing CO2 emissions and preserving precious biodiversity. This is one of the reasons why the Norwegian government last year made a pledge of supporting the rights of indigenous peoples and forest dependent communities with $100 million dollars. Norway stands ready to continue our support for indigenous peoples who are the best guardians of our environment, our biodiversity and ways of life that are essential to our common human heritage.”

Charlotte Petri Gornitzka, Director General of the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA),announced Sweden's contribution of 11.5 million dollars to the newly created International Land and Forest Tenure Facility. And remarked, " I am very excited to see there is a growing number of female leaders and women’s organizations actively advocating for recognition of their forests and land rights across the world."

To watch Vicky Tauli-Corpuz, Hans Brattskar and Charlotte Petri Gornitzka, please click on the images above.
Closing Remarks - Jane Goodall

World-renowned anthropologist Jane Goodall, spoke of the need for the world to reevaluate its history of consumption and its impact on the environment. “How come the most intellectual creature to ever walk the planet earth is destroying its only home? I think there is a disconnect between the very clever brain that is capable of so many extraordinary achievements and the human heart – that’s love and compassion. So many people in the developed world have lost the wisdom of the indigenous people where you make a decision only after considering how will this decision affect our people generations ahead. We’re saying, ‘How will this affect me now or the next shareholder’s meeting?’ I truly believe that we will only achieve our true human potential when head and heart work in harmony.” To watch Jane Goodall give the closing remarks, please click on the image below.

Musical Performance - Amadou & Mariam

To watch the musical performance of Amadou & Mariam and the closing of the Equator Prize 2015, please click on the image above.
To view and download images from the Equator Prize 2015, please visit our Flickr site here.   
Prize winners were featured in national and international media, including: Al Jazeera , Amazonia , Associated Press , BBC Brasil , Boulder Weekly , Climate Change News , Copenhagen Post , DR TV Network , Eco Business , Economic Times , Government of Norway , Green Peace , Herald Sun , Kompas , Le Parisien , Mehr News Agency , Mongabay , National Geographic , Naturguide , Net News Ledger , Nyheder , Phnom Penh Post, Plus TV , Politiken , Radio France Internationale , Republika , Tabianchi , TeleSUR , Voice of America , and Univision .
Event Sponsors


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avoideddeforestation                OECD              Krajcberg
pantheon sorbonne          Perspective film SONU
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Partners & Event Collaborators

Convention on Biological Diversity SIDA
Ecoagriculture Partners Tribal Link Foundation
Fordham University UN Environment Programme
   Government of Germany UN Foundation
IUCN, International Union for Conservation of Nature USAID
PCI Media Impact United Nations Office for Project Services 
Get Involved
To learn how you can get involved with the Equator Initiative, please contact Eileen de Ravin, Manager, Equator Initiative at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..  You can also join the conversation by liking us on Facebook and following us on Twitter.
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