Mon, 10 June 2019
Former President James Michel is travelling to Washington, D.C. this week to receive the National Geographic Planetary Leadership Award, which was instituted last year to recognize a world leader who has successfully established globally significant protected areas, such as national parks, wilderness areas, or marine reserves, that are fully shielded from exploitation.
He will receive this award on Wednesday, June 12 at the National Geographic Awards ceremony. This awards ceremony is part of the 2019 Explorers Festival, a unique convening of National Geographic Explorers who showcase how their discoveries and ideas are creating solutions for a healthier and more sustainable future, all in support of the National Geographic Society’s vision of moving us toward a planet in balance.
During his presidency, Mr. Michel committed close to 50 percent of Seychelles’ land territory as protected areas. Furthermore, Seychelles committed 30 percent of its Exclusive Economic zone to be designated as protected areas to ensure representative species and habitats have long-term protection, to improve resilience of coastal ecosystems with a changing climate and to ensure economic opportunities for fisheries, tourism and other uses.
In announcing this year’s laureates, President and CEO of the National Geographic Society Tracy R. Wolstencroft congratulated Michel for his “extraordinary legacy in environmental conservation — for Seychelles and the world.” He added: “The debt-for-nature swap in Seychelles that you spearheaded, resulting in the protection of 30 percent of your country’s waters, represent an unprecedented advance in a time of global environmental degradation.”
Mr. Michel will receive this award alongside current President Danny Faure, who has continued the country’s commitment to protecting areas throughout the country, specifically the ocean.
Before leaving for Washington, James Michel said the award will serve to strengthen his will and enthusiasm as he continues striving to develop ways to protect the oceans and increase the number of protected areas — both marine and terrestrial — around the world, and to promote the Blue economy concept. “Blue is the new Green”, Michel emphasised, noting that the two concepts are complementary and of vital importance to the survival of humanity.
Ms. Michelle Bachelet, the former president of Chile and now the United Nations Commissioner for Human Rights, was the first recipient of this prestigious award at the 2018 National Geographic Explorers Festival.