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News from the National Academy of Sciences

Date: Dec. 3, 2003
Contacts: Barbara Rice, Director of News Administration
Chris Dobbins, Media Relations Assistant
Office of News and Public Information
202-334-2138; e-mail <news@nas.edu>

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Maurice F. Strong Is First Non-U.S. Citizen To Receive
Public Welfare Medal, Academy's Highest Honor

WASHINGTON -- The National Academy of Sciences has selected Maurice F. Strong to receive its most prestigious award, the Public Welfare Medal. Established in 1914, the medal is presented annually to honor extraordinary use of science for the public good. The Academy chose Strong, a Canadian and the first non-U.S. citizen to receive the award, in recognition of his leadership of global conferences that became the basis for international environmental negotiations and for his tireless efforts to link science, technology, and society for common benefit.

"Mr. Strong has always supported multilateral approaches to sustainable and equitable development and international peace," said John Brauman, home secretary of the National Academy of Sciences and chair of the selection committee. "Very few individuals have contributed so much to the path toward a sane and sensible future for world society."

Strong has been an undersecretary-general of the United Nations since 1985 and is special adviser to the secretary-general as well as his personal envoy for the Korean Peninsula. A former senior adviser to the president of the World Bank with a career spanning over five decades at some of Canada's most prominent companies, Strong is one of the world's most influential political, business, and environmental leaders. His social conscience led him to become involved in governmental and intergovernmental organizations, where he quickly sensed the importance of science and technology in meeting the needs of an expanding global population. He is acclaimed around the globe for imaginative leadership in mobilizing diverse interests toward building a better, more secure future for humankind.

"A leader of extraordinary ability, Mr. Strong is uniquely able to weave together the capabilities of academia, business and industry, governments, and nongovernmental organizations -- a skill crucial to marshalling science and technology in the interest of social progress," said National Academy of Sciences President Bruce Alberts. "He is an idealist who can translate vision into action and is truly a citizen of the world."

Strong was born in rural Oak Lake, Manitoba, in 1929. He worked as a junior officer with the newly formed United Nations when he was just 18. Realizing that having only a high school education would prevent him from advancing further, Strong went back to Canada to embark on a career in business. He became one of the nation's leading businessmen.

From 1948 to 1966, Strong served in investment and senior management positions with corporations in the energy and financial sectors. He ran and transformed small, ailing energy companies and was president of a major holding company -- the Power Corporation of Canada -- by the age of 35. In the late 1960s, he helped found the International Development Research Center, which is universally regarded as a model for using science research results and technology to aid economic development in Third World countries. Strong also served as president, chair, and chief executive officer of Petro-Canada from 1976 to 1978. He was chair of the International Energy Development Corp. from 1980 to 1983 and of the Canada Development Investment Corp. from 1982 to 1984.

Strong returned to the United Nations as chief organizer and secretary-general of the 1972 U.N. Conference on the Human Environment in Stockholm, the first "Earth Summit." There he began to engage worldwide concern over the interaction between society and the global environment and helped craft the Stockholm Declaration, which contained a set of principles that have considerably influenced the law on international protection of the environment. He then became the founding executive director of the United Nations Environment Program to pursue the declaration's objectives. Among his early initiatives was the creation in 1973 of a program to consider the impact of human activity on the biosphere. It set in motion events that later helped confirm speculation by scientists about the destructive potential of chlorofluoromethanes on the Earth's protective ozone layer.

As undersecretary-general of the United Nations, Strong coordinated emergency relief efforts in Africa and was in charge of the historic 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, to which he personally recruited representatives from more than 130 nations, including 110 heads of state. The summit produced agreement on a set of 27 guiding principles, a comprehensive blueprint for action, and steps leading to international conventions on climate change and biodiversity. Encouraged by Strong, 20,000 people gathered in Rio at a concurrent global forum that galvanized nongovernmental organizations. For three decades, in various roles, Strong has challenged all nations to work together to overcome global environmental threats and promote sustainable development, reconciling the needs of the present with those of future generations.

After completing his duties with the Earth Summit, Strong returned to his native Canada where he became chair and chief executive officer of Ontario Hydro, North America's largest public utility, and applied the principles of sustainable development that were developed in Rio. Today he is the chair of Technology Development Inc., which funds research in nanotechnology to create affordable and environmentally friendly energy sources.

Over the years, Strong has also done volunteer work with various organizations and institutes that deal with development, environmental, and humanitarian issues. He served on the board of directors for the United Nations Foundation, a U.N.-affiliated organization established by Ted Turner's historic $1 billion donation. He is also a director of the World Economic Forum Foundation and since 1993 has been chair of the Earth Council, an international nongovernmental organization that promotes the implementation of the Earth Summit agreements. He has received numerous conservation and humanitarian awards, as well as honorary doctorates from 52 universities in Canada, the United States, Europe, and Asia. Strong is a member of the Queen's Privy Council for Canada, the Swedish Royal Order of the Polar Star, and the Royal Societies of both Canada and Great Britain. His publications include the book "Where on Earth Are We Going?"

The Public Welfare Medal, consisting of a medal and an illuminated scroll, will be presented to Strong during the NAS annual meeting in April. The National Academy of Sciences is a private, nonprofit institution that provides science advice under a congressional charter.

[ This news release is available at http://national-academies.org ]