1 April 2022

UN biodiversity chief Elizabeth Maruma Mrema awarded Kew International Medal

In a make-or-break year for biodiversity, the Executive Secretary of the Convention of Biological Diversity has been recognised for decades of work protecting nature.

By Kew Science News

Large green Ebo forest from above

Elizabeth Maruma Mrema, the Executive Secretary of the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), has been awarded the 15th Kew International Medal for her vital work in championing the importance of biodiversity conservation and leading the most important international law mechanism for the sustainable use of biodiversity.

For over two decades, Elizabeth, a Tanzanian biodiversity leader and lawyer, has held various positions at the UN Environment Program (UNEP). Her work has focussed on the development, implementation and enforcement of environmental laws, including multilateral environmental agreements at national, regional and international levels. 

Elizabeth will be leading efforts to secure ambition and agreement on a critical new framework for halting biodiversity loss and promoting sustainable development at the UN Biodiversity Conference, COP15, later on this year.

Elizabeth Maruma Mrema, Kew International Medal winner, delivering a lecture to a live audience in the Nash Conservatory, Kew Gardens
Elizabeth Maruma Mrema, Kew International Medal winner 2022 © RBG Kew

Ms Mrema was presented with the award at a ceremony last night at Kew Gardens in which she also delivered a keynote lecture to highlight the importance of plant science in finding solutions to urgent crises in nature.

Elizabeth said:

“We all share a vision of a sustainable future where human activities support biological and cultural diversity to improve our livelihoods and wellbeing. Our collective action to improve the status of species, genetic and ecosystem diversity is what unites us. And our partnership will make our individual pursuits and collaborative efforts far more likely to succeed.”

Alexandre Antonelli, Dame Amelia Fawcett and Elizabeth Maruma Mrema posing for photo. Elizabeth is holding the medal in a box
Alexandre Antonelli, Kew's Director of Science and Chair of the Trustees, Dame Amelia Fawcett, awarding Elizabeth Maruma Mrema with the Kew International Medal © RBG Kew.

In selecting Elizabeth for the 15th Kew International medal, Dr Olwen Grace, Head of Accelerated Taxonomy at Kew said:

“The need to reset the global relationship with nature has never been greater. This is why we nominated Elizabeth Maruma Mrema for the 2022 Kew International Medal, to acknowledge her tireless commitment to fight to halt and reverse biodiversity loss and engage the world in the importance of nature, a mission at the core of everything we do at RBG Kew. The CBD is a critical convention to Kew and we will be following COP15 closely and calling for the crucial targets needed to help ensure the next set of ambitions for protecting biodiversity are actually achievable.”

A board with the Kew International Medal certificate addressed to Elizabeth Maruma Mrema. Behind is a screen with a forest displayed.
The Kew International Medal certificate awarded to Elizabeth Maruma Mrema © RBG Kew.

About the Kew International Medal

First established in 1992, the prestigious Kew International Medal is an annual award given to individuals for distinguished, internationally recognised work aligned to the mission of Kew. Nominations are received from across the organisation and a selection panel decides the winner.

Previous award winners include Sir David Attenborough (1996); Juan Manuel Santos Calderon, the then President of Colombia (2018); Mary Robinson, Chair of the Elders and former President of Ireland (2019), Prof. Sandra Diaz, Co-Chair of IPBES (2020), and Sir Partha Dasgupta, world-leading economist and author of The Economics of Biodiversity: The Dasgupta Review (2021).

Above a winding river in the Amazon

Manifesto for Change

In 2021, Kew launched its 10-year strategy to help end the extinction crisis and protect nature, pledging to intensify efforts to understand and protect plants and fungi, for the well-being of people and the future of all life on Earth.

Read & watch