2020 Award Winner: Ken Conca 


The Grawemeyer Award for Ideas Improving World Order is given to those who have taken on issues of world importance and presented viewpoints that could lead to a more just and peaceful world. Each idea supports one noble cause: to inspire us all to work together for the common good.

The Award is presented annually to the winner of a competition designed to stimulate the recognition, dissemination and critical analysis of outstanding proposals for improving world order.

UN must rethink its approach to environmental problems

The United Nations can tackle global environmental challenges far more effectively by incorporating two overlooked parts of its mandate—human rights and peace—into its efforts.

So says Ken Conca, an American University international relations professor who has won the 2020 University of Louisville Grawemeyer Award for Ideas Improving World Order for the ideas set forth his book “An Unfinished Foundation: The United Nations and Global Environmental Governance.”

The U.N. has addressed environmental issues using legal and sustainable development approaches but also needs to pursue strategies linked to its role as a protector of human rights and peace, Conca says.

The organization should declare a safe and healthy environment to be a basic human right, give its Security Council a well-defined role in safeguarding the environment, make sure its environmental initiatives are conflict-sensitive and seek environmental peacebuilding opportunities, he argues. 

About the Winner 
Ken Conca is a professor in the School of International Service at American University (Washington). He is also a member of the U.N. Environment Programme’s Expert Advisory Group on Conflict and Peacebuilding and founded the Environmental Peacebuilding Working Group in Washington. He was a reviewer for the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and served on a scientific steering committee for the International Human Dimensions Program on Global Environmental Change.

He has twice won the International Studies Association’s award for best international environmental affairs book.