Ms. Dionysia-Theodora Avgerinopoulou, Member of the Hellenic Parliament honored with the “Greenstar” Award by UNEP, Green Cross International and OCHA

In a special ceremony honoring leaders in environmental protection, that took place in Bern  on May 18, 2011, Switzerland, Ms. Dionysia-Theodora Avgerinopoulou, Member of the Hellenic Parliament, was bestowed the Greenstar Award by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), the Green Cross International and the UN Office of Coordination for Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). Ms. Avgerinopoulou received the Award for her consistent efforts in preventing, preparing for and alleviating the consequences of natural disasters both in her home-country, Greece, and worldwide.

The Green Star Awards recognize those who have made remarkable efforts to prevent, prepare for, and respond to environmental emergencies around the world. A joint initiative between the UNEP, OCHA Green Cross International, introduced in 2007 and presented every two years, the Award aims to raise awareness of environmental emergencies and disasters; encourage increased international efforts to prevent, prepare for and respond to such disasters; amplify the connection between environmental impacts of disasters and emergencies, and the consequences for affected populations and providers of humanitarian assistance.

Ms. Dionysia-Theodora Avgerinopoulou is an international lawyer, specialized in International Environmental Law, a Member of the Hellenic Parliament and the Deputy Head of the Environmental Policy Sector of the New Democracy Party, the major opposition party in Greece. In 2005, Dionysia served as Special Advisor to the Permanent Mission of the European Commission to the United Nations. In this role, she supported the development of infrastructure for environmental emergencies in under-developed regions, while in early 2007 she proposed the establishment of a Climate Change Center for the Mediterranean and the Black Sea, which may also correspond to environmental emergencies in these areas.

Following the wildfires that devastated parts of her hometown in south-eastern Greece in 2007, under her capacity as the founder and president of the European Institute of Law, Science and Technology (EILST), a non-profit research organization that seeks to improve international and national legislation through better integration of scientific and technological achievements in laws and policies, Dionysia led a major pro bono project to support reconstruction efforts.

Following the devastating earthquake in Haiti in February 2010, Dionysia, as a member of the Euro-American Women’s Council, contributed to the fundraising efforts to reconstruct Haiti and to this end she was also awarded the Global Citizen Award for Leadership in Helping Humanity by the “Orphans International Worldwide” (OIW), an international NGO. She currently supports one of the projects of the OIW to found a university at Port-au-Prince. Further, Ms. Avgerinopoulou, as a Young Global Leader of the World Economic Forum, supports an initiative led by other Young Global Leaders, to offer high quality education to orphans after the earthquake and the tsunami in Japan in 2011.

In her capacity as the Deputy Head of the Environmental Sector of the New Democracy Party, the major opposition party in Greece, Dionysia places additional importance to the prevention and preparedness policies of the country, while she often exercises parliamentary control over the completion of the reconstruction efforts in various places in the country.  She also participates in reforestation efforts both in Greece, and abroad, such as in Haifa, Israel, after the fires of February 2010.

Last, but not least, Dionysia proposed the establishment of a regional voluntary coordinating unit for disaster response for Southeast Europe and the Middle East under the auspices of the European Union and the United Nations to facilitate efficient and effective coordinating assistance, while she supports the work of the newly established Environmental Emergencies Center under the auspices of the Joint UNEP/OCHA Environment Unit (JEU). Dionysia, upon receiving the award, asked the international community to place additional emphasis on the prevention of man-made environmental emergencies and she devoted her award to her compatriots in the Prefecture of Ilia, Southeastern Greece, since the region has not yet recovered after the wildfires in 2007.

(For more information on the award, please visit: www.unep.org/greenstar and http://www.unep.org/greenstar/laureates/2011/theodore.asp.)