WWF celebrates a champion of inclusive sustainable development
Throughout her distinguished career of service to the international community, Irina Bokova has been a consistent and steadfast champion of environmental conservation, responsible business conduct, indigenous and women’s rights, climate action, and advancing sustainable development for poverty alleviation. As UNESCO Director General, Bokova has bolstered the agency’s efforts to conserve some of the most unique and inspirational natural ecosystems upon which the well-being of humanity depends.
All life on Earth depends on a healthy planet. Healthy natural World Heritage sites contribute to poverty reduction, help alleviate food insecurity, combat climate change, and restore and promote the sustainable use of ecosystems. Bokova has championed the protection of these sites and the importance of investing in their future to achieve the sustainable agenda and improve livelihoods.
“Irina leads the way and shows us that protecting natural areas and ecosystems is not anti-development and that it’s long-term, robust and sustainable development that benefits people and natural systems. We are not going to develop a just and prosperous future, nor defeat poverty and improve health, in a weakened or destroyed natural environment,” said Yolanda Kakabadse, President of WWF International.
“I am delighted to receive this award. Natural heritage is a force for peace and it is also a driver of development and innovation. Conservation of our environment helps create jobs, promote gender equality, and eradicates poverty,” Bokova says. “There is no need to choose between heritage and growth, between beautiful landscapes and decent livelihoods – with the right skills and stronger capacities, we can harness the potential of heritage to create millions of jobs, giving also a sense of dignity, inclusion and pride. By protecting natural resources, rivers and parks, we can unleash extraordinary renewable energy source for all,” said Bokova upon receiving the award.
Bokova has been the Director-General of UNESCO since 2009. She is the first woman and the first Eastern European to lead the Organization. Earlier in her career she held several positions in the Government of Bulgaria. As Member of Parliament in the 1990s and early 2000s, she advocated for Bulgaria’s membership in EU and NATO and participated in the drafting of Bulgaria’s new Constitution. As Director-General of UNESCO, Bokova is actively engaged in international efforts to advance quality education for all, gender equality, protection of cultural heritage and scientific cooperation for sustainable development. Throughout her mandate she has been a consistent and steadfast champion of environment conservation, ocean protection, indigenous rights and climate action.
The Duke of Edinburgh Conservation Award was created in 1970 and is presented annually by WWF for outstanding service to the environment. This year’s award was presented by The Duke of Edinburgh during a private ceremony at Buckingham Palace in London.