UN Environment Chief Awarded Prestigious German Prize

STUTTGART, Germany, February 8, 2005 (ENS) - United Nations Environment Programme Executive Director Klaus Toepfer of Germany has been awarded the 2005 Theodor Heuss Prize, the UN and the Theodor Heuss Foundation have announced. The award is normally presented to a major political figure in Germany.

In making its award, the foundation described Toepfer, a former German environment minister, as a "passionate and internationally respected advocate of sustainable development and international cooperation."

Born in 1938 in Waldenburg, Silesia, Toepfer became UNEP executive director and director-general of the United Nations Office at Nairobi in February 1998.


Klaus Toepfer at the 11th session of the Commission on Sustainable Development April 2003 at UN Headquarters in New York (Photo courtesy Earth Negotiations Bulletin (ENB))
Before joining the United Nations, he held several posts in the federal government of Germany. He was federal minister of regional planning, building and urban development as well as coordinator of the transfer of Parliament and Federal Government to Berlin from 1994 to 1998. He held office as federal minister of environment, nature conservation and nuclear safety from 1987-1994.

As German environment minister Toepfer introduced measures such as the law on the life-cycle economy and the Green Dot packaging recycling system. He initiated laws to ban the use of environmentally harmful substances such as SO2 and ozone depleting substances.

Toepfer contributed to the success of the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 and was a active in the negotiations for the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and the establishment of the funding body, the Global Environment Facility.

Since he was appointed UNEP executive director, Toepfer has restructured the organization under five priority areas - environmental assessment and early warning, development of policy instruments, enhanced coordination with environmental conventions, technology transfer and industry, and support to Africa.

As a firm believer in social market economy, his vision is to make environment work to improve the lives of present and future generations.


Toepfer addresses a press conference at the 16th Meeting of the Parties to the Montreal Protocol, November 2004 in Montreal, Canada. (Photo courtesy ENB)
In 2002 Toepfer was awarded the Bruno H. Schubert Environment Prize and the German Environment Prize which is held to be the most prestigious such prize in Europe. He holds a doctorate in Philosophy and a degree in Economics.

The Theodor Heuss Foundation commended Toepfer for his "continuous endeavors towards global solutions in support of environmental and sustainable development that reach far and beyond the national scope and short term economic interests of nations."

The foundation said he is being recognized for "setting an example and inspiring courage."

The two other recipients of the 2005 Theodor Heuss Foundation prize are the human rights organization Human Rights Watch and Professor Dr. Meinhard Miegel, an analyst of social and economic data and an advocate of civil society.

"The timing of this prize could not be better," said Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch. "Germany has an enormously important role to play in promoting human rights around the world. We will continue to push for Germany to realize that potential."

This spring, Human Rights Watch plans to open its first office in Germany, an advocacy office in Berlin.


Toepfer shares a smile with Her Majesty Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands at the Sixth Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, November 2000, at The Hague. (Photo courtesy ENB)
This year marks the 40th anniversary of the Theodor Heuss prize. The awards ceremony for the prize will take place on April 29 in Stuttgart where the foundation is based. Horst Koehler, the current president of Germany, and Richard von Weizsaecker, a former president, will speak at the event. Many former recipients of the Theodor Heuss Prize are expected to attend.

The Theodor Heuss Foundation was founded in 1964 after the death of Theodor Heuss, the first president of Germany. It was founded by Hildegard Hamm-Brücher, his son Ernst Ludwig Heuss, and a circle of friends of the first president, in order to honor examples of democratic commitment, the courage to stand up for one's beliefs, and the commitment to the strengthening and development of democracy in his memory. The prize is meant, the foundation says, "to point out something that has to be done and fashioned in our democracy, without it being completed yet."