Home > Global News > NIGH's Own Cyril Ritchie Tributes His Friend Noble Peace Prize Winner Wangari Maathai

NIGH's Own Cyril Ritchie Tributes His Friend Noble Peace Prize Winner Wangari Maathai

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September 26. 2011, Geneva, Switzerland

In heartfelt sadness conveyed to networks and friends around the world, NIGH's own Board Member, Cyril Ritchie has created a moving tribute to his friend, the late Wangari Maathai, the first African woman to win  the Nobel Peace Prize (2004). “She was truly a universal beacon of light. Now that that light is extinguished, what better legacy could Wangari have than the universal redoubling of the commitment of all of us to the values that she so outstandingly incarnated?”


Cyril Ritchie in his CoNGO Presidential Acceptance Speech in New York City, January 2011.
Photo Source: NGOCoNGO.org

Noting that he had known Ms. Maathai since 1975 and watched her remarkable concentration to serve humanity. Ritchie said, “nothing deterred Wangari, nothing discouraged her, except perhaps the slow pace of governmental awakening to, and response to, the environmental and sustainability crises confronting the planet.

For Wangari, such incomprehension and inaction was only a reason to redouble her own efforts and her mobilization of civil society and academia worldwide.” Remembering specific instances, Ritchie continued, "she was Civil Society personified... increasingly invited to UN, academic and parliamentarian platforms to convey her messages of good sense, of hope, of determination, of human values and of change. Of course for her irrepressible activism, she was vilified in some patriarchal government circles. While protecting land, forests and people, she suffered beatings at the hands of police or hired assailants.... Her Nobel Prize speech conveyed her pride in African women’s resilience; her emphasis on justice, integrity and trust; the contribution of tree-planting to promoting a culture of peace; the need to preserve both local biodiversity and cultural diversity. She issued, in that speech, a clarion call on leaders ‘to expand democratic space and build fair and just societies that allow the creativity and energies of their citizens to flourish.’ ”


A YouTube video “Taking Root” features Maathai and her vision.


wangari.maathaiWangari Maathai as a featured speaker at the UN Climate Change Summit in Copenhagen, December, 2009.
Photo Source: IISD Reporting Service

From his own experience, Ritchie knows of what he speaks. Across the world, he is one of the most active, experienced and respected members of global civil society. After serving 40 years — in five separate terms as Board Secretary of the Congress of Non-Governmental Organizations in Consultative Relationship with the United Nations (CoNGO) — Ritchie served as CoNGO's First Vice President from 2008 to 2010. In January 2011, he was unanimously elected to be CoNGO's 18th President.

He served 14 years as Executive Director of the International Council of Voluntary Agencies (ICVA), and was Chair of the World Civil Society Conference (WOCSOC), (Montreal 1999). He has participated in many United Nations Summits and World Conferences (Food, Environment, Women, Habitat, Nutrition, Social Development, Information & Sustainable Development). He frequently attends ECOSOC Commissions and sessions of other UN agencies and organizations. He also served as President of the 2006 International Civil Society Forum for Democracy, convened in Doha, Qatar. From 2000 to 2008, he was President of the Council of Europe INGO Grouping “Civil Society and Democracy in Europe” and is currently President of the Federation of International NGOs in Geneva (FIIG), also on the Steering committee of the UBUNTU World Campaign for in-depth Reform of International Institutions, based in Barcelona; Chairman of the Environment Liaison Centre International, headquartered in Nairobi. Since 2008, Ritchie has also been the Chair of the Board of Advisers of the World Future Council, based in Hamburg.

Since connecting with the Co-Founders of NIGH in 2007, Ritchie has been an inspired advisor to NIGH's emerging global activities, guiding NIGH's NGO representation at the 2009 and 2010 Civil Society Development Forums during the United Nations Economic and Social Councils and NIGH's successful bid for United Nations DPI [Department of Public Information] Status. He joined the NIGH Board of Directors in 2009, now overseeing NIGH's plans to strengthen civil society within nursing's ranks worldwide. Since 1979, Ritchie is also proud to be a “titular of the World Order of the Smile.”

This YouTube Interview Features Cyril Ritchie in 2008, as then Secretary of CoNGO.


Visitors at the Mapparium in the Mary Baker Eddy Library in Boston, Massachusetts. This was the site to launch Dr. Jean Watson's Million Nurse Project—during the 2010 International Year of the Nurse—to radiate heart-centered Love, Caring and Compassion through individual and collective global meditations. Photo Courtesy of the Mary Baker Eddy Library.