"Culture may be the missing link in the development of Africa" / "Kultur ist vielleicht das Missing Link in der Entwicklung Afrikas"
The Nobel Lecture given by The Nobel Peace Prize Laureate 2004, Wangari Muta Maathai (extracts) / Auszüge aus der Preisrede der Nobelpreisträgerin Wangari Muta Maathai
Als erste Frau aus Afrika hat die kenianische Umweltschützerin Wangari Maathai am 10. Dezember 2004 in Oslo den Friedensnobelpreis in Empfang genommen. Bei der feierlichen Überreichung im Rathaus der norwegischen Hauptstadt sagte die 64-jährige Vize-Umweltministerin, das Nobelkomitee habe mit der Verknüpfung von Umwelt, Frieden und Demokratie beim diesjährigen Preis "visionär gehandelt". Maathai sagte weiter: "Ich weiß, dass dies eine Ermutigung für Menschen überall in Afrika ist."
Maathai erhielt den mit zehn Millionen schwedischen Kronen (1,1 Millionen Euro) dotierten Preis für ihre 1977 mit der Organisation "Green Belt Movement" ("Bewegung Grüner Gürtel") gestartete Initiative zur Wiederaufforstung Kenias. Nach Angaben der Initiative wurden bisher 30 Millionen Bäume in dem seit 1950 um 90 Prozent abgeholzten ostafrikanischen Land neu gesetzt. Bei Konflikten mit dem Regime des früheren kenianischen Präsidenten Daniel arap Moi wurde Maathai mehrfach inhaftiert und mit Gewalt bedroht. Die in den sechziger Jahren auch in Deutschland ausgebildete Tiermedizinerin dehnte ihre Aktivitäten nach und nach auf die Durchsetzung der Menschenrechte, eine demokratische Staatsform und die Gleichberechtigung der Frau aus und wurde 2002 in Parlament gewählt.
Der Chef des Nobelkomitees, Ole Danholt Mjos, hob Maathai im Beisein von Norwegens König Harald V. als "wahre afrikanische Mutter und wahre afrikanische Frau" heraus. Mjos sagte: "Frieden auf Erden hängt von unserer Fähigkeit zur Bewahrung einer lebendigen Umwelt ab." Das Komitee habe nach mehreren Preisen für Verdienste bei humanitärem Einsatz und für die Menschenrechte den eigenen Friedensbegriff in diesem Jahr "sichtbar noch mehr erweitert". "Der Umweltschutz ist ein weiterer Weg zum Frieden geworden", meinte der Komiteechef und verwies auch auf die herausragende Alltagsrolle von Frauen bei der Bewältigung der schweren Probleme in Afrika.
Maathai sagte in ihrer Dankesrede, das Pflanzen von 30 Millionen Bäumen vor allem durch Frauen in Kenia habe diesen und ihren Familien Brennstoff, Nahrung, Unterkunft und Einkommen gegeben sowie die Ausbildungsmöglichkeiten für die Kinder verbessert. Nur am Rande erwähnte sie die Ausbreitung der Aids-Epidemie. Nach der Zuerkennung des Friedensnobelpreises im Oktober war Maathai in westlichen Medien scharf wegen Äußerungen angegriffen worden, wonach der HIV-Virus in US-Labors erzeugt und bewusst als Teil eines Vernichtungsfeldzuges gegen Afrika eingesetzt worden.
Vor der Entgegennahme des Nobelpreis bezeichnete Maathai diese Zitate als falsch, wollte aber keine weiteren Kommentare abgeben. Zur Verwendung der Nobelpreis-Dotierung sagte sie, zumindest ein Teil werde mit Sicherheit der von ihrer begründeten Bewegung zukommen.
Maathai hat den Westen aufgefordert, den afrikanischen Staaten die Schulden zu erlassen. "Die Schuldenfrage spielt für die ökologische Zerstörung der afrikanischen Länder eine zentrale Rolle", sagte Maathai der "tageszeitung" (taz) am 10. Dez. 2004. "Wenn wir es nicht schaffen, diese niemals zurückzahlbaren Schuldenberge der armen Länder dieses Planeten aufzulösen, führt das überall dazu, dass die nationalen Regierungen diesen Druck an die kleinen Farmer weitergeben, die die Ressourcen gnadenlos ausbeuten", sagte die Kenianerin der in Berlin erscheinenden Zeitung. Das habe zur Folge, dass die Umwelt ausgehöhlt werde, und damit die Fähigkeit der armen Länder, eine eigene funktionierende Landwirtschaft für die Zukunft zu erhalten.
Quelle: Der Standard, 11. Dezember 2004
The Nobel Peace Prize for 2004
The Nobel Lecture given by The Nobel Peace Prize Laureate 2004, Wangari Muta Maathai (Oslo, December 10, 2004)[Abstracts]
(...) As the first African woman to receive this prize, I accept it on behalf of the people of Kenya and Africa, and indeed the world. I am especially mindful of women and the girl child. I hope it will encourage them to raise their voices and take more space for leadership. (...)
Although this prize comes to me, it acknowledges the work of countless individuals and groups across the globe. They work quietly and often without recognition to protect the environment, promote democracy, defend human rights and ensure equality between women and men. By so doing, they plant seeds of peace. (...)
I know that African people everywhere are encouraged by this news. My fellow Africans, as we embrace this recognition, let us use it to intensify our commitment to our people, to reduce conflicts and poverty and thereby improve their quality of life. Let us embrace democratic governance, protect human rights and protect our environment. I am confident that we shall rise to the occasion. I have always believed that solutions to most of our problems must come from us.
In this year's prize, the Norwegian Nobel Committee has placed the critical issue of environment and its linkage to democracy and peace before the world. For their visionary action, I am profoundly grateful. Recognizing that sustainable development, democracy and peace are indivisible is an idea whose time has come. Our work over the past 30 years has always appreciated and engaged these linkages.
In 1977, when we started the Green Belt Movement, I was partly responding to needs identified by rural women, namely lack of firewood, clean drinking water, balanced diets, shelter and income.
Throughout Africa, women are the primary caretakers, holding significant responsibility for tilling the land and feeding their families. As a result, they are often the first to become aware of environmental damage as resources become scarce and incapable of sustaining their families.
The women we worked with recounted that unlike in the past, they were unable to meet their basic needs. This was due to the degradation of their immediate environment as well as the introduction of commercial farming, which replaced the growing of household food crops. But international trade controlled the price of the exports from these small-scale farmers and a reasonable and just income could not be guaranteed. I came to understand that when the environment is destroyed, plundered or mismanaged, we undermine our quality of life and that of future generations.
Tree planting became a natural choice to address some of the initial basic needs identified by women. Also, tree planting is simple, attainable and guarantees quick, successful results within a reasonable amount time. This sustains interest and commitment.
So, together, we have planted over 30 million trees that provide fuel, food, shelter, and income to support their children's education and household needs. The activity also creates employment and improves soils and watersheds. Through their involvement, women gain some degree of power over their lives, especially their social and economic position and relevance in the family. This work continues.
Initially, the work was difficult because historically our people have been persuaded to believe that because they are poor, they lack not only capital, but also knowledge and skills to address their challenges. Instead they are conditioned to believe that solutions to their problems must come from 'outside'. Further, women did not realize that meeting their needs depended on their environment being healthy and well managed. They were also unaware that a degraded environment leads to a scramble for scarce resources and may culminate in poverty and even conflict. They were also unaware of the injustices of international economic arrangements.
In order to assist communities to understand these linkages, we developed a citizen education program, during which people identify their problems, the causes and possible solutions. They then make connections between their own personal actions and the problems they witness in the environment and in society. They learn that our world is confronted with a litany of woes: corruption, violence against women and children, disruption and breakdown of families, and disintegration of cultures and communities. They also identify the abuse of drugs and chemical substances, especially among young people. There are also devastating diseases that are defying cures or occurring in epidemic proportions. Of particular concern are HIV/AIDS, malaria and diseases associated with malnutrition.
On the environment front, they are exposed to many human activities that are devastating to the environment and societies. These include widespread destruction of ecosystems, especially through deforestation, climatic instability, and contamination in the soils and waters that all contribute to excruciating poverty.
In the process, the participants discover that they must be part of the solutions. They realize their hidden potential and are empowered to overcome inertia and take action. They come to recognize that they are the primary custodians and beneficiaries of the environment that sustains them.
In time, the tree also became a symbol for peace and conflict resolution, especially during ethnic conflicts in Kenya when the Green Belt Movement used peace trees to reconcile disputing communities. During the ongoing re-writing of the Kenyan constitution, similar trees of peace were planted in many parts of the country to promote a culture of peace. Using trees as a symbol of peace is in keeping with a widespread African tradition. For example, the elders of the Kikuyu carried a staff from the thigi tree that, when placed between two disputing sides, caused them to stop fighting and seek reconciliation. Many communities in Africa have these traditions.
Such practises are part of an extensive cultural heritage, which contributes both to the conservation of habitats and to cultures of peace. With the destruction of these cultures and the introduction of new values, local biodiversity is no longer valued or protected and as a result, it is quickly degraded and disappears. For this reason, The Green Belt Movement explores the concept of cultural biodiversity, especially with respect to indigenous seeds and medicinal plants.
As we progressively understood the causes of environmental degradation, we saw the need for good governance. Indeed, the state of any county's environment is a reflection of the kind of governance in place, and without good governance there can be no peace. Many countries, which have poor governance systems, are also likely to have conflicts and poor laws protecting the environment.
In 2002, the courage, resilience, patience and commitment of members of the Green Belt Movement, other civil society organizations, and the Kenyan public culminated in the peaceful transition to a democratic government and laid the foundation for a more stable society.
(...) Today we are faced with a challenge that calls for a shift in our thinking, so that humanity stops threatening its life-support system. We are called to assist the Earth to heal her wounds and in the process heal our own - indeed, to embrace the whole creation in all its diversity, beauty and wonder. This will happen if we see the need to revive our sense of belonging to a larger family of life, with which we have shared our evolutionary process.
In the course of history, there comes a time when humanity is called to shift to a new level of consciousness, to reach a higher moral ground. A time when we have to shed our fear and give hope to each other.
That time is now.
Culture plays a central role in the political, economic and social life of communities. Indeed, culture may be the missing link in the development of Africa. Culture is dynamic and evolves over time, consciously discarding retrogressive traditions, like female genital mutilation (FGM), and embracing aspects that are good and useful.
Africans, especially, should re-discover positive aspects of their culture. In accepting them, they would give themselves a sense of belonging, identity and self-confidence.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
There is also need to galvanize civil society and grassroots movements to catalyse change. I call upon governments to recognize the role of these social movements in building a critical mass of responsible citizens, who help maintain checks and balances in society. On their part, civil society should embrace not only their rights but also their responsibilities.
Further, industry and global institutions must appreciate that ensuring economic justice, equity and ecological integrity are of greater value than profits at any cost. The extreme global inequities and prevailing consumption patterns continue at the expense of the environment and peaceful co-existence. The choice is ours.
I would like to call on young people to commit themselves to activities that contribute toward achieving their long-term dreams. They have the energy and creativity to shape a sustainable future. To the young people I say, you are a gift to your communities and indeed the world. You are our hope and our future.
The holistic approach to development, as exemplified by the Green Belt Movement, could be embraced and replicated in more parts of Africa and beyond. It is for this reason that I have established the Wangari Maathai Foundation to ensure the continuation and expansion of these activities. Although a lot has been achieved, much remains to be done.
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Copyright © The Nobel Foundation, Stockholm, 2004.
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