Solar Power for Schoolchildren and US$85,000 for Gorilla Conservation ...


June 5, 2010

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Solar Power for Schoolchildren and US$85,000 for Gorilla Conservation Among Lasting Legacy of World Environment Day in Rwanda

United Nations Environment Programme

Kigali/Volcanoes National Park -- Schoolchildren and villagers across Rwanda will receive solar power and more than $85,000 will go to gorilla conservation as part of the lasting legacy of World Environment Day 2010.

Rwanda, this year's global host for WED, organized a vivid celebration in the Volcanoes National Park that brought together a Hollywood star, the Rwandan President, environmentalists and businesses alongside 30,000 people.

During the much-anticipated and widely acclaimed traditional Kwita Izina baby gorilla naming ceremony, this year's People's Choice name, 'Zoya', which was chosen online by around 3,400 people around the planet, was announced by Oscar-nominated actor Don Cheadle.

"WakaWaka", the name given to another baby gorilla, was selected by children from around the world in a global online competition. The name was announced by UNEP Climate Hero and acclaimed wildlife photographer Luo Hong. WakaWaka means "to light up" in Swahili.

The naming ceremony was attended by Mr. Cheadle and Mr. Hong alongside Rwandan President Paul Kagame and Achim Steiner, United Nations Under Secretary General and Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

Mr. Steiner: "We are especially pleased by this year's WED celebrations. Not only is Rwanda a pioneer in Green Economic growth with a true commitment to a cleaner development model, we have joined forces with partners to contribute to gorilla conservation and provide hundreds of solar lights for Rwandan villagers and schoolchildren. WED is not just about the here and now – it is about having a positive impact on our collective future."

The WED Legacy Initiative, launched for WED 2010, was inspired by UNEP's recent report, 'The Last Stand of the Gorilla', which estimated that if current trends continue, gorillas could be lost from their present range in The Greater Congo Basin in 10 to 15 years.

For every activity or positive environmental action organized and registered on the WED website, UNEP will contribute US$10 towards gorilla conservation through the 'Take a Stand for the Gorilla' initiative. As a result of the thousands of activities organized around the world by individuals, communities, NGOs, businesses and governments, UNEP's WED Legacy fund drive has raised a total of US$50,000, with all the funds going to the Volcanoes National Park.

In addition, more than US$35,000 was generously contributed to the WED Legacy Project by UNEP partners inspired by the initiative:

• Mr. Luo Hong, President of the Beijing Holiland Enterprise Investment Management and a long-time supporter of UNEP's International Children's Painting Competition, donated US$20,000 towards the Legacy Project.

• The UNEP National Committee in the Republic of Korea donated US$10,000 raised from an online fund-drive involving Korean citizens.

• The Kenya Airways Rwanda Office is making a contribution of US$5,000.

• Supermarket chain Nakumatt in Rwanda will contribute 1 per cent of its gross sales for the whole month of June to the project.

Inspired by the Government of Rwanda's pursuit of a low-carbon, green path to economic development, energy company Philips is also supporting UNEP's WED Legacy Initiative with a donation of 300 solar home systems.

Fifty of the systems will go to the Rubaya Village in Gichumbi District, a pilot village of a joint poverty and environment project between UNEP and the government of Rwanda. The rest will be distributed to benefit schoolchildren in rural villages where there is no power, enabling them to do their homework at home and complete their education.

Mr. DP Smedema, the Chief Executive Officer of Philips Lighting Africa, said: "We are proud to be partnering with the United Nations Environment Programme for World Environment Day. As part of Philips' broader drive to improve people's lives, Philips is committed to making affordable, high-quality, energy efficient lighting available to areas where it is most needed. Solar-powered lighting solutions can make a true difference for the people in Rwanda."

In a final wave of WED celebrations in Rwanda, Don Cheadle, who is an internationally respected humanitarian and environmentalist, was appointed Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations Environment Programme on 5 June. Mr. Cheadle, who starred in the acclaimed film Hotel Rwanda in 2004, is passionate about the link between natural resources and peace. He will advocate sustainable lifestyles, promote the greening of the entertainment industry and other sector, and take part in UNEP public outreach initiatives.

Notes to Editors:

About World Environment Day:

World Environment Day is the people's day for environmental action. Under the theme 'Many Species. One Planet. One Future', this year's event celebrated the incredible diversity of life on Earth as part of the 2010 International Year of Biodiversity.

This year's global host, Rwanda – a country of exceptional biodiversity that has made huge strides on environmental protection – led the celebrations with three days of keynote events. Thousands of activities were also organized worldwide from Hong Kong to Abidjan, with beach clean-ups, concerts, exhibits, film festivals, community events and much more.

About the Kwita Izina gorilla-naming ceremony:

Kwita Izina, the uniquely Rwandan event to name baby gorillas born in the Volcanoes National Park in the past year, was introduced in 2005 with the aim of creating awareness for the conservation of the endangered mountain Gorillas.

This year, the ceremony at the foot of the Virunga Mountains was timed to coincide with World Environment Day on 5 June. For the first time ever, the global community was involved in the event, with more than 800 people voting online for the 'People's Choice' gorilla name.

The winning name, Zoya, was chosen by 1,272 people out of 3,485 people voting online on the WED website from around the planet. Zoya, suggested by a UNEPandYou follower on Twitter, refers to 'life' and 'light' in several languages: it means 'shining' in India, 'alive' in Greek, and 'twilight' in Iranian. Zoya narrowly beat the runner-up, Yoda – after the beloved Star Wars character – as well as Ijabo and Hitamo.

The WED website also featured a Kids' Choice vote which was also announced at the Kwita Izina ceremony, with more than 424 children out of 1,146 voting for the winning name 'Waka Waka'.

About UNEP Goodwill Ambassador Don Cheadle:

Don Cheadle, an internationally respected actor, humanitarian and environmentalist, was nominated for an Academy Award in 2004 for his lead role as Rwandan hotel manager Paul Rusesabagina in the widely-acclaimed film 'Hotel Rwanda'. He took part in the traditional Kwita Izina ceremonies for WED 2010, announcing the People's Choice name for one of the baby gorillas.

Mr Cheadle's strong record of humanitarian and environmental advocacy, including active campaigning for genocide victims, earned him the Summit Peace Award in 2007 given out by the Nobel Peace Prize Laureates for his work to stop the genocide and relieve the suffering of the people of Darfur.

He is a strong proponent of clean energy, and he appeared in the UN-wide Seal the Deal campaign's public service announcement on climate change in 2009.

About UNEP Climate Hero Luo Hong:

Luo Hong, Businessman, Photographer, Environmentalist Luo Hong has long devoted himself to natural landscape and wild animal photography. He has been to Eastern and Southern Africa 21 times in the last ten years to photograph wild animals. He has held many exhibitions to raise money for environmental causes and he sponsors UNEP's Painting Competition by Children in China, a hugely successful event with about 1.5 million participants.

He established the Luo Hong Environment Foundation in 2006, setting out to train and reward young talent worldwide for environment protection. He continues to find ways to raise awareness on the environment and share his love for the planet.

About Philips and solar energy:

Philips's support to the Legacy Initiative through solar home systems is part of the company's efforts to offer off-grid lighting solutions in developing economies in this region. Philips, alongside energy company Osram, is also involved in a US$20 million initiative by UNEP and the Global Environment Facility to accelerate the uptake of low-energy light bulbs and efficient lighting systems around the world.

For more information please contact:

Nick Nuttall, UNEP Spokesperson/ Head of Media, on Tel: +254 7623084 /Mobile +254 (0)733632755, E-mail: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

Anne-France White, UNEP Information Officer, +254 (0)20 762 3088, or .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)