From: UNEP
Published October 8, 2004 10:20 AM

UNEP Reaction to Nobel Peace Prize Announcement

STATEMENT OF DR. KLAUS TOEPFER, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF THE UNITED NATIONS ENVIRONMENT PROGRAMME, REGARDING THE AWARD OF THE NOBEL PEACE PRIZE TO PROFESSOR WANGARI MAATHAI UN Environment Programme Friday, October 8, 2004 Understanding is growing throughout the world of the close links between environmental protection and global security, so it is most fitting that the Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded this year to Africa's staunchest defender of the environment, Professor Wangari Maathai, for her contribution to sustainable development, democracy and peace.

This award marks the culmination of a lifelong and passionate fight for the environment. Professor Wangari Maathai is a leader whose example should inspire us all, especially the women and children of Africa, who shoulder so much of Africa's burden of poverty, conflict and environmental degradation, and who so much deserve role models to show them the way to a better future.

Professor Maathai is just such a role model. For decades she has been a fearless opponent of the grabbing of public land and the destruction of forests, and a vigorous advocate for democracy and environmental protection. She founded the Green Belt Movement in Kenya, which has planted more than 20 million trees throughout Africa, and was recognized with a UNEP Global 500 award in 1987.

In a recent interview for a UNEP documentary, Professor Maathai said: "I love the trees, I love the colour. To me they represent life, and they represent hope. I think it is the green colour. I tell people I think heaven is green."

This Prize goes alongside the many accolades Professor Maathai has received over the years, including the Goldman Environment Prize and the Sophie Prize, which she received in March 2004 "for her fearless fight for the protection of the environment, human rights and promotion of democratic governance in Kenya." Professor Maathai is also a long-standing jury member of the UNEP Sasakawa Environment Prize.

In December 2002 Professor Maathai was elected to Kenya's parliament with an overwhelming majority and appointed as Deputy Minister for Environment and Natural Resources, testament to the respect she commands from the people of Kenya.

UNEP congratulates Professor Maathai for being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. By this award, the Nobel Prize Committee is honouring Professor Maathai and the global environment on which we all depend for a peaceful and secure future.

For More Information Please Contact: Eric Falt, Spokesperson/Director of UNEP's Division of Communications and Public Information, on Tel: 254 2 623292, Mobile: 254 (0) 733 682656, E-mail:

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