UN Celebrates International Biodiversity Day
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The International Day for Biological Diversity (IDB) was celebrated around the world on 22 May 2011 under the theme of forest biodiversity, with a number of UN high-level officials underscoring the benefits of forests and calling for urgent action to decrease the rate of deforestation.

23 May 2011: The International Day for Biological Diversity (IDB) was celebrated around the world on 22 May 2011 under the theme of forest biodiversity, as a contribution to 2011 – International Year of Forests.

In his message to the mark the Day, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon underscored that the benefits of forests are “far-reaching.” He added that “forests catch and store water, stabilize soils, harbor biodiversity and make an important contribution to regulating climate and the greenhouse gases (GHG) that are causing climate change.” Noting that deforestation is occurring at “an alarming rate,” he stressed that “this year’s International Day for Biological Diversity is devoted to highlighting the need for urgent action.” Ban highlighted growing awareness of the role that reducing deforestation and forest degradation can play in addressing the combined threat of climate change, biodiversity loss and land degradation, and commended the renewed emphasis on the importance of forests to sustainable development.

Drawing attention to the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) report titled “Towards a Green Economy – Pathways to Sustainable Development and Poverty Eradication,” UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner stressed that forests are a key sector within UNEP’s Green Economy work, as countries look to strengthen all three pillars of sustainable development on the road to the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD, or Rio+20).

Addressing a large gathering in Montreal, Canada to celebrate the Day, Ahmed Djoghlaf, Executive Secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), stressed “the need to ensure that life will continue to be sustained on our planet for our benefit, but most importantly, for the benefit of generations to come.”

UN Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Director-General Irina Bokova drew attention to underlying causes of the biodiversity loss, highlighting unsustainable practices, insufficient education and information, development choices that do not account for cultural values, and the misuse of science and technology. She added that poverty is an overarching driver of loss, and that “equity in biodiversity access and use is a rising moral imperative.” She said the key message of the 2011 IDB is that humanity’s will and unity are required to “reconcile the contributions of biodiversity to development while maintaining it for the current and future generations.”

UNEP Governing Council President Rosa Aguilar, Spain, underlined that “conservation and the sustainable use of biodiversity is a key component for the furtherance of a more sustainable development model and the green economy, with a view to achieving the equitable well-being of the world population, while being mindful of and respecting the environment.”

Highlighting the Pacific region’s rich biodiversity, David Sheppard, Director of the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP), called for reflecting upon the links between each of the region’s communities and island biodiversity, including forests.

UN Goodwill Ambassador for Biodiversity Edward Norton warned that humanity “disrupting the natural systems of our planet in ways that will cause havoc for our way of life.” He emphasized the need to communicate about the benefits provided by biodiversity. [IDB 2011 Webpage] [IDB Messages] [Message of UN Secretary-General] [Message of UNEP Executive Director] [Message of UNESCO Director-General] [CBD Press Release] [Message of UNEP Governing Council President] [Message of SPREP Director] [UN Press Release]

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