The Power of Local Action: Communities on the Frontlines of Sustainable Development

The Equator Initiative brings together the United Nations, governments, civil society, businesses and grassroots organizations to recognize and advance local sustainable development solutions for people, nature and resilient communities. Through awarding the biennial Equator Prize, bringing local and indigenous voices to international processes, and documenting best practice in local sustainable development, the initiative has helped to build the evidence base for putting community-based solutions at the forefront of efforts to deliver a more sustainable future.

First awarded during the World Summit on Sustainable Development in 2002, the Equator Prize recognizes community-centered action that conserves biodiversity and brings social and economic benefits that reduce poverty. It was already clear in 2002 that local action, motivated and executed by community-based groups, could be a remarkable engine for achieving development goals in a way that empowered community members, promoted equity and inclusion, and maintained or enhanced ecosystem health. But perhaps no one—not even the architects of the Equator Initiative—truly understood the breadth of what was being achieved through communal action or the scope of innovation that was being advanced at the local scale across the globe. Now, a decade and six award cycles later, the achievements and experiences of 152 prize-winning communities stand as a singular record of the potential of local action to sustainably manage natural resources, generate income, increase tenure security, expand local job opportunities, and gain political support.

As the Equator Initiative celebrates its ten-year anniversary, this session will highlight lessons learned from the experience of the Equator Initiative and the winners of the Equator Prize. A moderated panel discussion will feature representatives from many partners to the initiative, including IUCN, Conservation International, and The Nature Conservancy. The session will also include a video showcasing the experiences of Equator Prize 2002 winners in the decade since they won the prize, presented by The Nature Conservancy; presentations from representatives of two Equator Prize-winning initiatives; parallel reflections on two decades of work by the UNDP-implemented GEF Small Grants Programme; and a discussion of the Equator Initiative’s recent publication, The Power of Local Action: Lessons from 10 Years of the Equator Prize.

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