On Thursday 21 October, UNA-UK marked the UN’s 76th anniversary by presenting the Sir Brian Urquhart Award to HE María Fernanda Espinosa, the 73rd President of the UN General Assembly, and Nisreen Elsaim, Chair of UN Secretary General's Youth Advisory Group on Climate Change.
This year UN Day came at a key moment for action to address the existential threat of climate change - with world leaders and stakeholders gathering in Glasgow for COP26. To meet this moment, we were delighted to present the first ever joint Sir Brian Urquhart Award, highlighting the importance of intergenerational solidarity for climate action.
Named in honour of a former UN civil servant whose service spanned four decades, the award celebrates individuals whose work reflects Sir Brian’s own dedication and endeavour. Honouring their dedicated work on the climate, this year’s award came not in the form of a trophy, but instead as donations to the Eden Reforestation Projects.
Natalie Samarsinghe, CEO of UNA-UK, presented the award. Introducing María Fernanda Espinosa, Ms Samarasinghe stressed the need for a just transition, and the importance of solidarity for the climate:
María Fernanda Espinosa gave the keynote address, focusing on urgent collective action for the climate. Highlighting the disproportionate impact of climate change on those most vulnerable, she broke down how the crises we face today are symptoms of a global system in need of renewal:
UNA-UK was honoured to be joined virtually by HE María Fernanda Espinosa and Nisreen Elsaim for a discussion on the need for just and rapid climate action, moderated by UNA-UK’s Communications Coordinator Rianna Nayee.
Nisreen Elsaim, the first ever youth recipient of the Sir Brian Urquhart Award, shared her perspective as a young climate advocate:
Nisreen highlighted positive progress made at the UN this year, including UNSG António Guterres’ commitment to appoint a future generations envoy, and the Human Rights Council declaring that a clean, healthy environment is an essential human right. She also stressed that more needs to be done - calling for the UN Security Council to take similar action to address climate change, peace and security.
Discussing her hopes for COP26, Nisreen said:
Watch the full event:
In addition to the Eden Reforestation Projects donation, we have asked the awardees to suggest a project in their home countries they would like us to support. To learn more about their chosen projects, watch this space!
- See UNA-UK’s new climate focused magazine: This is one degree
- Read UNA-UK’s interview with Nisreen Elsaim
- Find out more about the Sir Brian Uquhart award
- Read the new Together First report on on civil society access in global climate processes
- Join us for more in-person and online events during COP26
Clockwise from top left: Rianna Nayee, Nisreen Elsaim, HE María Fernanda Espinosa and Natalie Samarasinghe at the UN Event.