Remarks by Jonathan Fanton, World Resources Institute 25th Anniversary Dinner
February 13, 2007 | Speech | Conservation & Sustainable Development

It is my privilege to accept this award on behalf of the Board and staff of the MacArthur Foundation.  We are well represented tonight.  In addition to Elizabeth, former trustee Murray Gell-Mann, former president Adele Simmons, and former director of our environment program, Dan Martin, and our new Chair of the Board, Robert Denham, are all here to bear witness to our deep commitment to conservation and to WRI.

The symbolism of recognizing both Elizabeth and MacArthur at this event is meaningful.  A Board member for sixteen years, Chair and Vice Chair, counselor to all its presidents, she has shaped the content and character of MacArthur in the environment, population, human rights, and more.

Your honor this evening recognizes the deep connection between our two institutions.  We were privileged to be present at the creation with a $15 million founding grant in 1982, followed by twenty-three more grants to this day.  We have worked together in places near and far, from the Insular Caribbean to Cameroon to China.  We have pioneered new methodologies: from community managed marine reserves in the Pacific to certified forestry practices in South America.  We have tackled tough issues like climate change and the intersection of conservation and population. We have built new institutions together: the concept for the Global Environment Facility to protect biodiversity emerged from a WRI study funded by MacArthur.  

But tonight is not about the past.  It is a reaffirmation for the future of an enduring partnership based on common values.

Both MacArthur and WRI honor high quality objective research.

We are both comfortable with complexity and see the interrelationship of issues, conservation and poverty alleviation, for example.

Both of us value evidence over ideology and hope people who do not trust each other will trust us to bring them together in search for practical solutions.

MacArthur and WRI believe that government action and private markets must be harnessed in pursuit of sensible policies, often advocated by unexpected coalitions.

And we both fix our gaze on the future, optimistic that strong institutions can mobilize good people to make a difference as stewards of a sustainable world.

We both know that climate change is a threat to this vision.  And that is why MacArthur is adding a climate change element to its conservation work in eight biodiversity hotspots: from Madagascar to the Solomon Islands, from the Eastern Himalayas to the Andes, and beyond.  Everywhere we work we want a plan to adapt to and mitigate the impact of climate change.  Otherwise all our investments in conservation are at risk.

So as we all look to a future full of challenges, we are grateful for WRI’s leadership and are proud to be your partner, a partnership that will prosper as we seek a more just, humane, and sustainable world at peace.

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