ASEAN Biodiversity Hero from Malaysia Professor Emeritus Dr Abdul Hamid Zakri was one of the awardees of the prestigious 2018 Midori Prize for Biodiversity which “honours three individuals who have made outstanding contributions to conservation and sustainable use at local and global levels, and who have influenced and strengthened various biodiversity-related efforts, as well as raised awareness about biodiversity”.
The ASEAN Biodiversity Hero, a programme of the ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity, headed by its Executive Director Dr Theresa Mundita S Lim, recognises outstanding achievers in biodiversity conservation in the 10 ASEAN Member States.
“My involvement with biodiversity has been a life-long preoccupation,” said Professor Zakri in his remarks as an awardee. “Appreciation of nature and biodiversity comes naturally. The sound of birds in the morning, the soft rustling of the leaves blown by the wind and the freshness of the air are all too familiar to me since I was young. It was only later in life that I discovered that I was living in one of the greatest biology laboratories on the surface of the planet – Southeast Asia. I believe that sustainable development and the future of human civilisation hinges heavily on biodiversity – our web of life.”
Professor Zakri was a former science adviser to the Malaysian Prime Minister, and is considered a key actor in the development of biodiversity conservation governance in Malaysia and in the international arena, particularly with the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).
He was the first Asian to become the chair of the CBD’s Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical and Technological Advice, which is an open-ended intergovernmental scientific advisory body that provides the CBD Conference of the Parties with timely advice relating to the implementation of the Convention. He co-chaired the Board of the landmark UN Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, which is one of the world’s largest-ever scientific collaborations involving over 2,000 leading scientists in a comprehensive synthesis and analysis of the state of the Earth’s ecosystems, representing a ground-breaking scientific assessment of their services, causes of changes, and consequences to humanity.
Professor Zakri was elected as founding chair of the UN-affiliated Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, an independent body that bridges the gap between science and policy, and provides impartial, accurate and up-to-date data and scientific information to assist in policy-making related to biodiversity management.
One of the leading spokesmen of developing countries in the negotiating sessions in the CBD, among his numerous notable international roles were being appointed by then UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon as one of the 26 eminent scientists in his inaugural Scientific Advisory Board.
The other Midori Prize awardees were Chair of the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s World Commission on Protected Areas Kathy MacKinnon and Director General of the Society for the Protection of Nature Lebanon Assad Serhal. Each awardee received a plaque, a commemorative gift, and a monetary prize of USD 100,000 to support their work.
CBD Executive Secretary Dr Cristiana Pasca Palmer said the works of the three awardees represents the kind of energy, action and inspiration needed to improve the relationship between humans and nature and that they have made outstanding contributions to the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity and the fair and equitable sharing of its benefits.
The Midori Prize is co-hosted by AEON Environmental Foundation and the CBD Secretariat. The award aims to raise public awareness on the importance of biodiversity and to contribute to the objectives of the United Nations Decade on Biodiversity 2011-2020.