MANILA, 26 November 2014 – Three youth leaders from Indonesia and a business newspaper from the Philippines were honored as the 2014 ASEAN Champions of Biodiversity for their outstanding work in biodiversity conservation and advocacy. The awarding ceremony was held on November 26 at the Legend Villas in Mandaluyong City, Metro Manila, Philippines.

The winners in the Youth Category are Indonesia’s Adeline Suwana of the Sahabat Alam youth organization, and twins Giovanna and Gabriella Thohir of The Bekantan Twins Project. The Philippines’ BusinessMirror was recognized as the Media Champion of Biodiversity.

The awarding ceremony was addressed by Secretary Ramon J.P. Paje of the Philippines’ Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) ; Dr. Braulio Ferreira de Souza Dias, Executive Secretary of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD); Atty. Roberto Oliva, Executive Director of ACB; and Dr. Berthold Seibert, Project Director of the BCCP.

Adeline Suwana founded Sahabat Alam, an internationally known youth environmental organization with thousands of members all over Indonesia. Adeline and Sahabat Alam generate awareness of biodiversity conservation through school seminars, events, talk shows, films, and various activities to encourage young people to do something for the environment. In a span of five years, Adeline has blossomed from a 12-year-old girl who organized a small mangrove planting trip with her classmates to a 17-year-old advocate who is recognized as a credible voice of the youth in Indonesia’s environmental movement.

Twin sisters Gabriella and Giovanna Thohir and The Bekantan Twins Project are championing biodiversity by inspiring fellow youth and the public in Indonesia to conserve the endangered bekantans (proboscis monkeys). Gabriella and Giovanna have taken a crucial step in keeping the bekantans alive. With the overflowing support from partners, colleagues, friends, communities, and the media, their supporters say that their dream will soon become a reality.

BusinessMirror, one of the leading newspapers in the Philippines, prioritizes biodiversity reportage by devoting a full section to biodiversity-related stories each week. Living up to its commitment of providing a ‘broader look at today’s business,’ the BusinessMirror is promoting biodiversity conservation through its day-to-day reportage and special reports, as well as its evaluation and presentation of stories across all sections. The newspaper continues to promote biodiversity as no less than the business of living.

Delivering the keynote message, Secretary Paje said the ASEAN Champions of Biodiversity shows that the region is not only home to biologically significant species and ecosystems, but also to globally significant and worthy individuals and groups who can champion the cause of conservation. “I urge our fellow Filipinos and our friends from the other ASEAN Member States to join us in our efforts to conserve biodiversity. Fighting biodiversity loss and its impacts is a shared responsibility among all of us who stand to lose so much – our planet and its natural treasures that sustain our very existence.”

In his video message, Executive Secretary Dias of the CBD said the ASEAN Champions of Biodiversity contributes to the attainment of Aichi Target No. 1 which states that by 2020, at the latest, people are aware of the values of biodiversity and the steps they can take to conserve and use it sustainably.

“You have selected biodiversity champions from the youth and business sectors – key participants that we need to mobilize if we are going to ensure sustainable consumption and production. It is proof that biodiversity conservation and advocacy is not the sole turf of the environment sector. People and organizations from all walks of life have their stories to tell on how they are conserving our web of life,” Mr. Dias said.

ACB Director Oliva said, “This year’s winners are modern-day heroes who bring biodiversity closer to everyone, and inspire people to take action and conserve biodiversity. The ASEAN Champions of Biodiversity seeks to become a force multiplier by identifying and engaging leaders among various sectors who will spread awareness for the urgent need to conserve biodiversity.”

“Congratulations to the 2014 ASEAN Champions of Biodiversity. I hope that your achievements will generate more champions in the future and inspire all of us to play our roles in ensuring a sustainable biodiversity in the ASEAN region,” Dr. Seibert of the BCCP said.

Organized by the ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity (ACB) and the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit GmbH (GIZ) of Germany through the Biodiversity and Climate Change Project (BCCP), the ASEAN Champions of Biodiversity is a recognition program for outstanding initiatives on conserving and advocating biodiversity in Southeast Asia.