Both local and foreign officials were honored at the 2008 Americas Award celebration at the Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta Sept. 29 including Benjamin DeCosta, general manager of Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, who won a lifetime achievement award.
The awards are given to public officials from national and local governments that have implemented projects in eight categories of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals.
Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin, who serves as the chair of the CIFAL Atlanta board of trustees, gave the award to Mr. DeCosta, who thanked the mayor by saying that he especially appreciated receiving it “my boss.”
Mr. DeCosta also praised the staff at the airport for its customer service, saying that the facility was in the “customer-satisfaction business,” and he underscored the importance of the airport to the region as a $23.5 billion economic generator.
The airport is owned by the City of Atlanta, but is a self-sustaining municipal entity.
CIFAL Atlanta was created in 2004 as a joint initiative between the United Nations Institute for Training and Research and the city. It is one of 12 such centers worldwide and provides training in the areas of social and economic development, information technology and environmental sustainability.
An example of the many workshops CIFAL holds annually was the one hosted by Hartsfield-Jackson Sept. 24-26 for government and airport officials concerning the economic impact an airport can provide a local community from the Caribbean.
Only two years old, the Americas Award has drawn sponsorship support from the United Nations; the Andean Development Corp., a multilateral financial institution valued at more than $10 billion; Delta Air Lines Inc.; the Latin American Federation of Cities and Veolia Environnement, a French company based in Paris.
The Atlanta-based World Chamber of Commerce was a co-organizer of the event, which was attended by more than 100 guests.
Alexander Mejia, executive director of CIFAL Atlanta, served as the master of ceremonies. He also received formal recognition of his services from Jorge Duran, coordinator, municipal development and capacity building, for the Organization of American States.
The award winners traveled from throughout the United States, the Caribbean and South America to attend the event.
The Millenium Development Goals categories for which they were honored are poverty reduction, education leadership, gender equality, public health for child mortality reduction and for maternal health improvement, prevention of the spread of HIV-AIDS, environmental sustainability and economic development.
The winners were Thomas Bates, mayor of Berkeley, Calif., who received an award for environmental sustainability for his city’s efforts to promote the use of solar panels; Fernando Espinoza, mayor of La Matanza, Argentina; David Estwick, minister of health, national insurance and social security, Barbados, child mortality reduction;
Celso Jaque, governor of Mendoza, Argentina; Miguel Lifschitz, mayor, Rosario, Argentina, gender equality; Mario Ernesto Salaverria, minister of agriculture and livestock, El Salvador, economic development and job creation; Jose Gomez Temporao, minister of health, Brazil, HIV-AIDS prevention and reduction and Andrew Gallimore, minister of labor and social services, Jamaica, public health.
Adalnio Senna Ganem, Brazil’s consul general in Atlanta, accepted the award on behalf of Mr. Gomez Temporao.