Tuesday, December 15, 2009

What do Wangari Maathai, George Clooney, Elie Wiesel, Stevie Wonder and Yo-Yo Ma all have in common ?

This afternoon, I was in attendance as Wangari Maathai was inducted as a United Nations Messenger of Peace. The secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was there and helped attach the honorary lapel pin and then introduced her. As you will have learned in previous posts, Maathai has been commited to environmental conservation and sustainable development, and she is particularly known for her work with the Green Belt Movement. Today she remembered her first work with the United Nations Enviornment Programme (UNEP) since she was asked to be a board member ofthe the Environment Liaison Centre (Nairobi) in 1974. Wangari has won many other awards, most notably the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004. 

Maathai reminded us that at all of the conferences she's been to in the past decades, one never walks away with everything one wants.  What was most remarkable was the obvious love and affection everyone in the audience had for her. One of the ministers from Kenya was there and was one of the first to publicly congratulate her -- it was a special moment.

But who, you are wondering, are the other Messengers of Peace? Conductor Daniel Barenboim (peace and tolerance); actor George Clooney (peacekeeping); author Paulo Coelho (poverty and intercultural dialogue); actor Michael Douglas (disarmament); primatologist Jane Goodall (conservation and environmental issues); violinist Midori Goto (Millennium Development Goals and Youth); Princess Haya Bint al Hussein (Millennium Development Goals and hunger); cellist Yo-Yo Ma (youth); actor Charlize Theron (ending violence against women); Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel (human rights); and singer-songwriter Stevie Wonder (people with disabilities).  Wandari Maathai is in good company!

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