Nairobi, Kenya — United Religions Initiative—Africa (URI) presented its prestigious Africa Peace Award to Dr. Jane Goodall, Ph.D., DBE, Founder of the Jane Goodall Institute and UN Messenger of Peace, on July 8, 2018 at the Desmond Tutu Conference Centre in Nairobi, Kenya, in the presence of esteemed representatives from the diplomatic community, the United Nations Environmental Program, the Office of the President of The Republic of Kenya and a number of community and religious leaders.
Master of Ceremony Mrs. Rattan Channa, Global Trustee of URI, welcomed the gathering leading attendees in reciting “The Golden Rule,” common to more than 13 holy books and scriptures which says: “Treat others the way you want to be treated.” In his welcoming remarks, H.E. Rev. Dr. Samuel Kobia, Senior Advisor to the President of Kenya on Cohesion, Peace and Conflict Resolution, said, “I bring you words of welcome on behalf of the Government of Kenya. It is only through the contribution of individuals that things change,” he said. “The tremendous contributions of individuals like Dr. Goodall are what will lead the world to peace.”
Speaking during the handing over of the Africa Peace Award of URI-Africa, H.E. Ambassador Mussie Hailu, Regional Director of URI for Africa and Representative of URI at the African Union and UN Office for Africa and Global Envoy of URI said that the award presented to Dr. Goodall is in appreciation and acknowledgment of her tireless service as the world’s foremost expert on chimpanzees and her nearly 60-year study of social and family interactions of chimpanzees in Gombe Stream National Park in Tanzania and for promoting a culture of peace as United Nations Messenger of Peace.
“The award is also in acknowledgment of her extensive work on conservation and animal welfare issues,” he says, “and her great contribution writing books and establishing the Jane Goodall Institute, which supports the continued research in the Gombe Stream Research Centre in Tanzania along with other environmental research, education and conservation programmes as a network of institutes in more than 20 countries.” Ambassador Hailu also commended Dr. Goodall on empowering young leaders in conservation through the Jane Goodall Institute’s “Roots & Shoots” program which now is in nearly 100 countries.
Ambassador Hailu also noted that religious and traditional spiritual leaders and faith-based organizations can make significant contributions in promoting awareness on the wellbeing of all forms of life and on sound environmental management and climate change mitigation.
“It is a special day for Africa and the world at large as we recognize Dr. Jane Goodall’s unparalleled life-time dedication to environmental sustainability,” said Dr. Juliette Biao-Koudenoukpo, Director and Regional Representative for Africa of the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) in her keynote address. “There is no doubt that Dr. Goodall’s distinguished scientific and conservation work speaks for itself,” she added. She said Dr. Goodall’s work will continue to speak for itself for generations to come because Goodall was always convinced that we need to engage the young generation in conservation if we want to make a difference. She also stressed how important Dr. Goodall’s example is to the world. “You are a role model for many women and young girls in science and conservation,” she told her. “Her extraordinary commitment led to extraordinary results,” she told the audience.
“For me, I feel privileged to be part of this esteemed award ceremony by the United Religious Initiative-Africa. Firstly, because Dr. Jane Goodall and UNEP are partners for life. Dr. Goodall is the Goodwill Ambassador of the Great Apes Survival Partnership, she explained. “Secondly, I feel privileged because UN Environment Program and URI-Africa are partners with the same goal — to ensure a just world living in harmony with nature.”
Dr. Biao-Koudenoukpo stressed building collaborations with all stakeholders and noted that UNEP has increased partnerships with faith-based communities and launched The Interfaith Rainforest Initiative to engage millions of people in conservation work. She also said that UNEP’s partnership with the URI-Africa is along these lines.
“The recognition of Dr. Goodall’s great work underscores the important role of a single person in the campaign to heal our planet,” said Meredith Beal, Sr. Technology Advisor for the African Media Initiative. “African media also must play its part in evangelizing respect for animals and the environment.”
“It’s a great honor. I am truly grateful for URI-Africa” Dr. Goodall remarked in accepting the award. She started off noting how much she wished her mother could have been able to share this experience with her. She shared recollections of her early days in this field when her ideas about animal behavior, personality and emotion were rejected by the scientific community, ideas which are now well established in science.
She was adamant about the need to involve young people in raising the voice of the environment. “What’s the point of any of us fighting for peace if we’re not raising the next generation to be better stewards of the environment than we’ve been,” she warned.
“That’s why I started our program for young people – Roots & Shoots – which began in Tanzania with 12 high school students. Every single individual has some role to play in this life. Every single one of us makes some impact on the planet every single day. With the little choices we make — what we buy, what we eat, what we wear, where did it come from? Did it harm the environment, did it cause suffering to animals, is it cheap because of sweat shops or child labor?” she asks.
“If billions of people make ethical choices we start moving toward a different kind of world,” she declares. “What began with 12 high school students who chose three projects to make the world a better place – one to help people, one to help animals and one to help the environment – is now a global program in 100 countries with 150,000 active groups.”
“Mother Nature is so forgiving. Mother Nature is so resilient. Because we helped lift people out of poverty around the Gombe area there are no more bare hills. The trees have come back, animals on the brink of extinction can be given another chance.
“Not until we’ve alleviated poverty will we have peace. Not until we’ve alleviated poverty can we have harmony with the environment. Not until we’ve done something about the unsustainable, greedy, materialistic lifestyles of so many people can we live in peace,” she concludes. “I end where I began – I wish my mother was here to share this with me. Thank you so much.”
May Peace Prevail on Earth
URI-Africa established the Africa Peace Award in 2007 to recognize the committed, effective leadership that is currently being exercised to bring sustainable peace, development, good health, environmental protection, democracy, good leadership, reconciliation and inter-religious and inter-cultural harmony and peaceful co-existence in the continent. The Africa Peace Award celebrates, acknowledges and honors the accomplishments of individuals or organizations who have exhibited extraordinary leadership to build a culture of peace, reconciliation and harmony among different religions and cultures and promote human dignity as enshrined in the universal declaration of human right. The Award helps to create role models of non-violence and peace-builders throughout Africa.
Previous recipients of The Africa Peace Award include a number of former African Presidents and Heads of State, The African Union (AU); United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO); Inter-Governmental Authority for Development (IGAD); United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP); Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the Organization of African First Ladies and a number of other charitable, religious, cultural, health and scientific organizations.
_URI is an international interfaith peace organization with consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council working to promote enduring daily interfaith cooperation to end religiously motivated violence and to create cultures of peace, healing and justice for the Earth and all living beings. _
Through its 204member organizations from 31 African countries, the URI-Africa is cultivating peaceful coexistence among different religions and cultures by engaging people to bridge religious and cultural differences and work together for the good of their communities and their environment. URI-Africa signed memoranda of understanding with the African Union, IGAD, UNFPA-Africa Regional Office and many other organizations.
Dr. Jane Goodall, Ph.D., DBE – Founder of the Jane Goodall Institute and UN Messenger of Peace
About the Jane Goodall Institute
May Peace Prevail on Earth