Peace Parks Foundation of South Africa was presented with the prestigious Presidential Award in front of 13,000 attendees of the 2004 ESRI International User Conference. Professor Willem van Riet, chief executive officer of Peace Parks Foundation of South Africa, was on hand to accept the award from ESRI President Jack Dangermond.
The organization was selected for its leadership in establishing transfrontier conservation areas (TFCAs), also known as peace parks, which are large tracts of land that cross international boundaries. The purpose of these parks is to employ conservation as a land use option to benefit local people. Professor van Riet and others involved in Peace Parks Foundation have made a difference. Their pioneering spirit is forging international cooperation that’s resulting in areas where wildlife can roam freely across borders. They’ve used GIS not only to help spark the adoption of the original peace parks concept but for maintaining existing parks and promoting the concept to other countries.
GIS has helped fulfill the vision of peace parks because of its ability to visualize information and provide a common language through geography. It has been used to make decisions and to help government officials from various countries, conservationists, and others make more informed decisions. The Presidential Award is presented as a special recognition by ESRI President Dangermond to an organization that is a model for others to follow in implementing GIS successfully as well as making a positive impact on the environment and society.