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Gothenburg, Sweden, 24 Nov 09

Pic © UN-HABITAT / E. Yemeru.
Mrs. Tibaijuka flanked by Mr. Peñalosa (left) and Mr. Hermansen.

UN-HABITAT’s Executive Director Anna Tibaijuka on Tuesday was given the coveted Göteborg Award for Sustainable Development. Widely known as the “Nobel Prize for the Environment”, she shared the 2009 award with Enrique Peñalosa, the former mayor of Bogotá, Colombia, and the world renowned hero of the environment, Sören Hermansen, of Samsö, Denmark.

The ceremony on Tuesday marked the 10th anniversary of the award, which this year stressed the the urban dimension of the climate change and environment debate.
“Rapidly growing cities and towns house half of the world’s population. They represent 75 percent of all energy consumption and generate 80 percent of greenhouse gas emissions,” said the Jury Chairman Stefan Edman.

“This means that the battle to create more sustainable cities and urban environments – environmentally and socially – is one of the most decisive factors facing the UN Climate Change Conference Copenhagen in December. For this reason the Göteborg Award, one million Swedish crowns, is shared equally by three people who have found new solutions to these enormous challenges,” he said. “We are thrilled to award our jubilee prize to these brilliant visionaries, strategists and system transformers.”

The Jury cited Mrs. Tibaijuka for raising the profile of UN-HABITAT and the importance of urban sustainability as a key to a better future.

In her acceptance speech she said she felt “honoured and humbled” at the great recognition conferred upon her and the agency.

“I accept this this award not only for myself but also for my colleagues at UN-HABITAT who have stood at my side in our campaign for sustainable urbanisation,” she said.

“We continue to seek an end to homelessness, urban poverty, deprivation, social exclusion and suffering throughout the world. If we cannot secure the hyman habitat, we shall not be able to secure the environment,” she said.

Mr. Peñalosa stressed the importance of cities that accommodate all their citizens, making all feel that they belong, so that, for example, “a person who cycles to work has as much right to get around safely as someone who drives a thirty-thousand dollar car”.

Mr. Hermansen said it should always be remembered that climate change and the environment are not matters of science alone, but rather all about people, and that people in the world had to learn how to share better. For details on the award, click here.

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