For information only - not an official document.
27 December 2000
Secretary-General Calls for Pledge of New Attention for Fragile Ecosystems

NEW YORK, 22 December (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the text of a message from Secretary-General Kofi Annan, on the occasion of the International Day for Biological Diversity, commemorated on 29 December 2000:

Ecosystems are Earth's primary producers B solar-powered factories that yield food, fibre, water and other basic necessities at an efficiency unmatched by human technology. Ecosystems serve essential functions such as climate control, nutrient cycling and soil production. Harvesting the bounty of ecosystems forms the basis of our economies. Not least, ecosystems feed our souls, providing places for religious expression, aesthetic enjoyment, and recreation. Our future development and security depend on their continued viability.

Scientists continue to tell us that the condition of the world's ecosystems is worsening. They warn that further decline could have devastating implications for human welfare. They note that the prices we pay for food, water, and hundreds of other ecosystem goods do not reflect the real cost to the environment of harvesting them. This leads us to undervalue them, and to use more than we need. It doesn't take a scientist to see that, in most cases, the poor suffer most when ecosystems decline, since they are the ones whose margin of survival is thinnest.

But the situation is not hopeless. The Convention on Biological Diversity points the way to a sustainable future. The Convention, to which 178 States now party, seeks to conserve the diversity of life on Earth. It is one of the most all-encompassing international agreements ever adopted. Most importantly, it seeks to guide us towards an ecosystem approach to environmental management. In practical terms, this means evaluating every decision we make on land or resource use in terms of how it affects the essential functioning of ecosystems. This approach is essential if we are to have any serious prospect of achieving sustainable development.

Attaining the goals of the Convention will require progress on many fronts. Existing knowledge must be used more effectively. We need a deeper understanding of human ecology, and to make sure that that understanding is shared by those who can stimulate and shape changes in policy. We need environmentally

friendly technologies to be more widely used and disseminated. And we need unprecedented technical and financial cooperation at the international level. On this International Day for Biological Diversity, let us pledge to pay new attention, and new respect, to the Earth's fragile ecosystems.

* * * * *