18 May 2001


NEW YORK, 17 May (UN Headquarters) -- Biodiversity is one of humanity's most precious treasures. Each generation bears the heavy responsibility of safeguarding the world's species and ecosystems -- to treat and use them in a sustainable manner, and to hold them in trust for succeeding generations. Yet scientists have confirmed a widespread decline in the state of this natural inheritance. Rising resource demands, exacerbated by a host of political and economic factors that encourage us to exploit ecosystems for short-term gain, are placing the world in long-term jeopardy, with possibly devastating implications for human development.

The legally-binding United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity aims to preserve the diversity of life on Earth and to ensure that this diversity can continue to play its vital role in maintaining the support systems on which all life depends. Achieving the goals of the Convention will require its 180 States Parties, and their many partners, to make progress on many fronts. Conservation efforts must be expanded. Environmentally friendly technologies must be more widely disseminated. Technical and financial cooperation among nations must grow. Existing knowledge about biodiversity must be in the hands of decision-makers so that an "ecosystem approach" to environmental management can be a central part of the economic and social policy-making process. The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, which will be launched on World Environment Day (5 June) to map the health of the planet, should be a major contribution in this regard. And nations must sign and ratify the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, which will help in efforts to use biotechnology to promote food security and sustainable development, while guarding against its potential risks to human health and biodiversity itself.

Let us, on the International Day for Biological Diversity, commit ourselves to these goals and ensure that the world our children inherit is one we are not ashamed to pass on.

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