Community initiative from Afghanistan wins UN prize

Sep 28, 2015

Rural Green Environment Organization recognized with Equator Prize for their leadership on environmental conservation and poverty reduction  

At a press conference held on Monday, September 21st, leaders from the United Nations joined Academy Award-nominated actor and activist Alec Baldwin to announce the 21 winning initiatives of this year’s Equator Prize, an international award that recognizes outstanding community efforts to reduce poverty, protect nature and strengthen resilience in the face of climate change.

Among the winners was the Rural Green Environment Organization from Afghanistan, a grassroots initiative that is working in one of the most remote and poorest provinces in the country to promote a model of community development that is based on peace building, environmental regeneration, sustainable livelihoods and wildlife protection.

This is the first time that a group from Afghanistan will receive the Equator Prize.

“These winners show what is possible when indigenous peoples and local communities are backed by rights to manage their lands, territories and natural resources,” said Helen Clark, Administrator of the UN Development Programme (UNDP).   

“The bottom line is that land rights for indigenous people are good for the climate, good for sustainable development,” Ms. Clark added. “Forests and wildlife are protected, landscapes are managed to provide for food and water security, jobs are created and local people are empowered.”   

The 21 winners were chosen from a record 1,461 nominations from across 126 countries. International experts guided a rigorous, months-long process to select the winners. The Equator Prize is unique for recognizing collective action, rather than individual achievement.

Equator Prize winners each receive US$10,000 and will send representatives to join a two-week community summit in Paris during COP21. They will be celebrated at a star-studded gala event on 7 December 2015.

Following decades of conflict, insecurity and the overharvesting of natural resources, the Rural Green Environmental Organization is working to restore ecosystem functioning through a community-driven approach.   Starting in one community and since expanding to eight, the organization has worked through community elders to create a community-based forum to ban illegal fishing and hunting, improve food security and restore degraded lands.

The Equator Prize 2015 was also awarded to indigenous peoples and local groups from Belize, Bolivia, Brazil, Cambodia, China, Colombia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia/Kenya, Guyana, Honduras, Indonesia, Iran, Madagascar, Malaysia/Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, Tanzania, and Uganda.

The Equator Prize is the flagship program of the Equator Initiative, a partnership that brings together the UN, governments, civil society, businesses, and grassroots organizations to advance sustainable development solutions.

Partners of the initiative include the governments of Norway, Germany, Sweden, and the United States, as well as Conservation International, Convention on Biological Diversity, Ecoagriculture Partners, Fordham University, International Union for Conservation of Nature, The Nature Conservancy, PCI-Media Impact, Rare, UN Environment Programme, UN Foundation and UNDP.

For more information on Rural Green Environment Organization, or to find summaries on all the winning communities, please visit Equator Initiative or join the conversation on Facebook or Twitter by using #EquatorPrize


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