19 October 2018

The Kew International Medal: Everything you need to know

The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew awards the Kew International Medal to a deserving individual once every year. But what does our medal represent?

By Katie Avis-Riordan

Colombian plants

What is the Kew International Medal?

Our award is presented to one individual a year whose vital work is in line with Kew’s mission to ensure that plants and fungi are understood, valued and conserved.

First established in 1992 by the Board of Trustees, the prestigious medal acknowledges the winner’s globally recognised work which significantly adds to the knowledge and understanding of the world’s plants and fungi upon which human lives depend.

How is the medal winner chosen?

The recipient of the annual medal is selected by our special panel comprising the Director of RBG Kew, Trustees and Executive Board Members, for their valuable work in science and conservation.

The panel uses the following set of criteria to select the winner, which the individual and their work must adhere to:

  • Building a world where plants and fungi are understood, valued and conserved – because our lives depend on them.
  • Providing knowledge, inspiration and understanding of why plants and fungi matter to everyone.
  • Helping to solve some of the critical challenges facing humanity including (but not limited to): biodiversity loss, climate change, food security, plant pathogens, fighting disease.
  • Increasing public awareness of the threat to plant and fungal diversity.

The 2018 Kew International Medal winner

This year we awarded the medal to the inspirational Mary Robinson for her incredible work on food security and climate justice, in this era of climate change.

A world-leading advocate for human and environmental rights, Mary has many impressive titles under her belt, including the former Chair of the Council of Women World Leaders, the first female President of Ireland, former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and Envoy on Climate Change, member of The Elders and founder of The Mary Robinson Foundation – Climate Justice.

Some of the impressive projects she has been involved with include boosting food security in communities most at risk, affecting policy change and seeing real action taken to build climate resilience in areas such as Malawi, Bangladesh, Colombia, Ecuador and Ethiopia.

Mary, who is the author of Climate Justice: Hope, Resilience, and the Fight for a Sustainable Future (2018)is also looking out for future generations and through her Foundation proposes that ‘Global Guardians for Future Generations’ be appointed by the Secretary-General of the United Nations.

Mary Robinson
Mary Robinson, Kew International Medal winner 2018

Previous medal winners

The Kew International Medal has previously been awarded to many notable figures for their important work in the fields of science and conservation, including Sir Robert and Lady Sainsbury (1994), Sir David Attenborough (1996), Stella Ross-Craig (1999), Margaret Stones (2000), Mary Grieson (2003), Peter H. Raven (2009), Jared Diamond (2012), E. O. Wilson (2014), Dr Kiat W. Tan (2015), Professor Sebsebe Demissew (2016) and President Juan Manuel Santos Calderón(2017).

Presentation of the 2018 award

The official presentation of the award and a lecture on climate justice and biodiversity by Mary Robinson will take place in March 2019 at a London venue.

Get in touch

For further information on the Kew International Medal, please contact the External Affairs team:

Email: externalaffairs@kew.org

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