Dear woman ministers and leaders,
I am extremely pleased that the organization of woman environment ministers and leaders is alive and active, and I am extremely honoured to be awarded by you!
The first meeting was held 10 years ago in Helsinki, Finland, and was chaired by me and my South African colleague, Rejoice Mabhudafazi, warm greetings to her!
Nobody could know beforehand if our meeting had any chance to be successful. But it was, half of the woman enviroment ministers of the time came, and some ex ministers, and at least one of them later became a minister again.
We adopted a statement on gender aspects of sustainable develoment and more than half of our points came to the Plan of Action of the Johannesburg Rio +10 Summit. Aira Kalela, who will receive the price on behalf of me, played a key role in negotiating our points to the Johannesburg Summit decisions.
Today the challenges of sustainable development are no smaller than 20 or 10 years ago. There are more people, who rightfully strive for decent life, more greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, more droughts and floods and storms and changed weather patterns, more overexploited fisheries, less biodiversity, more nitrogen and chemical pollution and plastic and acitdity in the oceans. In sum, there is more overcomsumption of the planet. There is the risk that these problems – combined with social instability – can start to exacerbate each others. There are success stories also, as the dramatic fall in the use of chemicals harmful the stratospheric ozone layer, reducing the acid rain in several continents, rapid advance of new cleaner and smarter technologies, restoring forests and biodiversity in some areas, innovative win-win-win strategies that benefit economy, employment and environment simultaneously in many countries.
I think woman minsters and leaders are needed more than ever, not only in environment, but everywhere, also in sectors that traditionally are linked to causing environmental problems, as industry, energy, agriculture, fishing, finance. It is my experience, and it is supported by many opinion polls and studies also that women tend to be more sensitive to enviroment, more sensitive to the fact that if we care of our children and their children we also care of planet – and also of the social justice of our societies and the world.
So, once more, warm thanks for this award, which I really appreciate, and all the best for the organisation of woman environment ministers and leaders, and all the best for all of you now in Rio also personally!