“Let us be glad that the human family includes men and women like this year’s winners of the 2002 Poverty Eradication Awards,” UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan told participants at the event, which was held on Wednesday evening. “They bring hope to all of us, but most of all to the earth’s most vulnerable inhabitants.”UNDP Administrator Mark Malloch Brown said that the awardees’ initiatives serve as inspiration for global action to achieve the Millennium Development Goals set by world leaders in 2000, especially the key target of cutting the rate of severe poverty in half by 2015. He pointed out that where people, particularly women, come together to protect local ecosystems, they also have better schools, health care and economic prospects. “Empowering the poor to look after their interests drives the whole process of sustainable development forward,” he said.Those recognized by UNDP were Edi Rama, the Mayor of Tirana, Albania, who launched Clean and Green, a project that mobilized unemployed workers to clean up the banks of the Lana River, and restore historic buildings; Maqsood Sinha and Iftekhar Enayetullah, co-founders of Waste Concern in Dhaka, Bangladesh, which helps poor urban communities transform garbage into cash by composting organic waste into fertilizer; and Grâce Dotou, founder and President of Qui dit Mieux in Benin, which helps unemployed women create attractive, marketable handicrafts from recycled plastic bags.Also receiving awards were Pablo Sándor, Executive Director and co-founder of the Ayacara Foundation in Chile, which has established an environmental high school, a research station and four small community enterprises based on local ancient traditions; Aref Kodeih, founder of the Kobeyat Council for Environment in Lebanon, which has pioneered initiatives paving the way for legislation to improve the local environment benefiting some 400,000 people.In addition, UNDP honoured John Demsey, President of M·A·C Cosmetics, who received a special award for leadership in the campaign against HIV/AIDS and efforts to end poverty. Mr. Demsey presented a check for $250,000 to UNDP for activities to combat the epidemic in southern African and Asia and the Pacific. The contribution brought the company’s combined support to UNDP activities against HIV/AIDS to $1 million.