Press Releases

Note to Correspondents

Note No 192
5 June 2002


Celebrating an agenda that empowers people to become active agents
of sustainable and equitable development

VIENNA, 5 June (UN Information Service) -- With the theme, Give Earth a Chance, this year’s host of the main celebrations to observe the World Environment Day (WED), the southern Chinese City of Shenzhen, will organize a series of events that will not only raise environmental awareness but also promote continued environmental action. "The theme calls on each and everyone of us to contribute to the healing of the ailing planet. It urges us to look at our daily impact on the planet and its peoples and to take action to improve our environmental behaviour. In spite of considerable efforts and significant achievements, many of the problems, which plagued the Earth during the 20th century still linger. More than ever, we need to take the necessary steps to ensure that the environment remains at the top of the global agenda", said Klaus Töpfer, Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). Also UN Secretary General Kofi Annan stresses the theme of WED as conveying a message of urgency - about the state of the earth and the broader quest for sustainable development.

The WED was established by the United Nations’ General Assembly in 1972 to mark the opening of the Stockholm Conference on the Human Environment. Another resolution, adopted by the General Assembly the same day, led to the creation of UNEP.

This year’s World Environment Day (WED) is commemorated in more than 100 countries on 5 June. The World Environment Day, considered one of the most important events on the environment calendar, is celebrated every year. The occasion serves to inspire political and community action and to pause and reflect on the state of environment. Governments, individuals, non-governmental organizations, community and youth groups, business, industry and the media undertake a variety of activities aimed at renewing their commitment to the protection of the environment. It is one of the principal vehicles through which the United Nations stimulates worldwide awareness of the environment and enhances political attention and action.

The WED is a people's event with colourful activities such as street rallies, bicycle parades, green concerts, essays and poster competitions in schools, tree planting, as well as recycling and clean-up campaigns. It is also a visual event with television documentaries, photo exhibits and displays, as well as an intellectual event for those who organize and participate in seminars, roundtable meetings and symposia. In many countries, this observance provides an opportunity to sign or ratify international conventions and sometimes leads to the establishment of permanent government structures dealing with environmental management and economic planning.

Special Attention on Mountains and Tourism

The year 2002 is being observed as the International Year of Mountains and Eco-tourism when people all over the world will participate in events to celebrate mountains and discuss ways to promote their conservation and sustainable development. The International Year of Mountains is an opportunity to take steps to protect mountain ecosystems, to promote peace and stability in mountain regions and to help mountain people attain their goals and aspirations. One of International Year of Mountains' goals is to raise awareness about the challenges in protecting mountain habitats and improving living standards in mountain communities. We are connected to mountains and are affected by mountains in more ways than we can imagine. Mountains provide most of the world's fresh water, harbour as much or more bio-diversity than any other areas and are home to at least one in ten people. Yet, war, poverty, hunger, climate change and environmental degradation are threatening the web of life that mountains support. By taking care of the world's mountains, we help to ensure the long-term security and survival of all that is connected to them, including ourselves. The International Year of Mountains (IYM) has been incorporated in the World Environment Day (WED) logo in order to highlight this important United Nations Year.

In the International Year of Eco-tourism the tourist industry and all stakeholders will be working to balance the demands of tourists and seek to care for the environment. For some communities and regions sustainable tourism can be a first step towards sustainable development.

Last Opportunity before Johannesburg Summit

While the central celebration of World Environment Day takes place in Shenzhen, governmental and NGO representatives of UN member states are meeting from 27 May to 7 June in Bali, Indonesia, at the fourth session of the Preparatory Committee for the Johannesburg Summit for Sustainable Development. "Sustainable Development rests on three pillars: economic growth, social progress and protection of our environment and natural resources," Secretary General Konfi Annan says. Bali is the last opportunity before the Johannesburg Summit for governments and representatives from key sectors of society to forge to agreements that will, it is hoped, spur new initiatives, action and results in these fields. There have already been three global-level preparatory meetings in New York where participants have honed on the essential elements of an agreement. The Johannesburg Summit will bring together Heads of State and Government and thousands of government delegates and citizen activists for one purpose: to promote sustainable development – which ensures a better future for people and the planet through tackling effectively the interdependency between human society and the environment.

* *** *