Sir David Attenborough and the BBC Studios Natural History Unit awarded Chatham House Prize 2019 for ocean advocacy

The 2019 Chatham House Prize is awarded to Sir David Attenborough and Julian Hector, head of BBC Studios Natural History Unit, for the galvanizing impact of the Blue Planet II series on tackling ocean plastic pollution.

News release
2 minute READ

The Chatham House Prize is awarded to the person, persons or organization who is deemed to have made the most significant contribution to the improvement of international relations in the previous year.

The Blue Planet II series highlighted the damage caused by discarded plastics to the world’s oceans and marine wildlife. It is estimated that there are more than 150 million tonnes of plastic in the world’s oceans; resulting in the deaths of 1 million birds and 100,000 sea mammals each year.

Dr Robin Niblett, director of Chatham House said: ‘Plastic pollution is one of the gravest challenges facing the world’s oceans, and undoubtedly an international issue. Sir David and the BBC Studios Natural History Unit played an instrumental role in helping to put this issue at the forefront of the public agenda. Blue Planet II spurred a passionate global response and generated clear behavioural and policy change.’

This year the G20 agreed on an international framework to address marine plastic litter, acknowledging the increasing urgency of the issue and the need for an international solution. This follows action from the UK government, including a plan to ban common plastic items and investment in global research.

Other nominees

Dr Niblett thanked Chatham House members for voting and acknowledged the outstanding achievements of the 2019 nominees:

Abiy Ahmed, prime minister of Ethiopia, nominated for his efforts to transform civic leadership and promote plural politics, free speech and peace in Ethiopia

Katrín Jakobsdóttir, prime minister of Iceland, nominated for her commitment to gender equality and women’s financial inclusion in Iceland


The Prize was presented to Sir David and Julian Hector by Her Majesty The Queen at Chatham House on Wednesday 20 November.

Watch video from the event

For more information please contact

Chatham House Press Office
[email protected]
+44 (0)207 957 5739

BBC Studios Natural History Unit Communications Manager
[email protected]
+44 (0) 7513 137893

About the Chatham House Prize

The Chatham House Prize is voted for by Chatham House members, following nominations from the institute’s staff. The award is presented on behalf of the institute’s patron, Her Majesty the Queen, representing the non-partisan and authoritative character of the Prize.

The Chatham House Prize was launched in 2005. Previous recipients of the Prize include the Committee to Protect Journalists, Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos, president of Ghana John Kufuor, Médecins Sans Frontières and Melinda Gates, co-founder of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Chatham House is a world-leading policy institute based in London. Our mission is to help governments and societies build a sustainably secure, prosperous and just world. We engage governments, the private sector, civil society and our members in open debate and private discussions about the most significant developments in international affairs. Our research and policy ideas involve rigorous analysis of critical global, regional and country-specific challenges and opportunities.

About BBC Studios Natural History Unit

BBC Studios Natural History Unit produces the world’s most iconic natural history programmes, such as Blue Planet II and Planet Earth II, which have been watched by more than a billion people globally. Ranging from technically challenging live shows and super-landmarks to long-running series and children’s content, The Natural History Unit programmes include Dynasties, Blue Planet Live, Springwatch, Animal Babies: First Year On Earth, Andy’s Dinosaur Adventures as well as the currently on air Seven Worlds, One Planet presented by Sir David Attenborough and third-party commissions for Discovery, Apple, Quibi, National Geographic and BBC America.

The Natural History Unit is part of BBC Studios, a subsidiary of the BBC, which develops, produces and distributes bold, British content, making over 2,500 hours of content each year, operating in 22 markets globally and generating revenue of around £1.4bn. In the year to March 2019, it returned £243m to the BBC Group, complementing the BBC’s licence fee and enhancing programmes for UK audiences.