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Awards worth US$30,000 are to be made to five community-based projects that exemplify highly successful and innovative sustainable development partnerships in tropical ecosystems under a new initiative led by the United Nations Development Programme that was launched earlier this week.

The awards are being made under the so-called Equator Initiative, which aims to reduce poverty through promoting the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity in the equatorial belt. They will be presented at the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD), which takes place in Johannesburg at the end of August.

Candidate projects must demonstrate sustainability, an impact on poverty, a partnership approach, innovation, community empowerment and social inclusion. The closing date for entries is 15 May 2002.

By encouraging community partnerships with non-governmental organisations, the private sector and government agencies, the Equator Initiative aims to foster local efforts to reverse the loss of biodiversity in poor tropical countries.

After the WSSD, the Initiative plans to build on the lessons and approaches identified through the award process by undertaking participatory research resulting in a series of policy papers, and by supporting practical case studies and capacity-building exchanges.

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