Italian President Giorgio Napolitano has presented a series of Green Cross awards to recognize young Italians for their engagement in environment protection and conservation.
The award ceremony for the 19th Earth Charter Italian Youth Contest took place on 21 November 2011 at Rome’s Quirinal Palace. Ten schools, where the winning students attend, each received 1000 euros in prize money.
The ceremony coincided with the Italian Day of the Tree and commemorated the victims of recent floods in Liguria and Tuscany, including Italian volunteer Sandro Usai, who died while trying to aid people affected by the disaster. President Napolitano presented to Sandro’s wife, in his honour, the Gold Medal for Civil Valour.
One of the award-winning schools donated its prize to support effors to rebuild flood-affected schools.
“We spend more to recover (from disasters) than to prevent them (from happening) and, therefore, we must reinforce our prevention policies at local, regional and national levels,” said Corrado Clini, Minister for the Environment, who attended the awards ceremony along with Education Minister Francesco Profumo.
Minister Profumo emphasized the important role that schools play in protecting the environment.
“Protecting the environment must be transversal to all school subjects to make clear to our young people this is a central theme,” he said. “Universities should review their training courses to create the skills we need.”
During the ceremony, President Napolitano and the new Italian ministers greeted Nobel laureate and Green Cross International honorary board member Rita Levi Montalcini and praised the organiztion’s work on environmental education.
Students and teachers participating in the “Earth Charter Italian Youth Contest” developed innovative and practical actions for the environment that also reduced their carbon footprints and enhanced the use of renewable resources.
Green Cross works closely with the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs to prevent and reduce risks posed by natural disasters with global initiatives aimed at mitigating the effects of climate change , including by raising awareness among students and the wider community.
“More and more students are becoming aware of the connection between man and the environment, and they engage in first person asking the institutions to be more present,” said Green Cross Italy President Elio Pacilio. “Young people know change is possible and they ask us to do this, from small daily actions up to the choices of government.”
The founding president of Green Cross Italy, Guido Pollice, stressed the importance of the organization’s work. “This ceremony, which sees our head of state reward schools that participated in our competition, has become a tradition,” said Mr Pollice. “It demonstrates that the work of Green Cross continues to have great recognition for its professionalism and quality. Next year’s 20th edition will be a new opportunity to reaffirm this.”
Green Cross International, founded by Mikhail Gorbachev, is an independent non-profit and nongovernmental organization working to address the inter-connected global challenges of security, poverty eradication and environmental degradation through a combination of high-level advocacy and local projects. GCI is headquartered in Geneva and has a growing network of national organisations in over 30 countries.