24 August 2005

Rapid Biodiversity Losses Put Livelihoods, Health of Future Generations in Jeopardy, Says Secretary-General in Message to Galway Conference

NEW YORK, 23 August (UN Headquarters) -- Following is UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan's message to the first International Conference on the Importance of Biodiversity to Human Health in Galway, Ireland, 23 August:

It gives me great pleasure to send my best wishes to all the participants in this important conference.

In less than a month, world leaders will gather at the United Nations in New York for the 2005 World Summit, at which they will address some of the most pressing challenges facing humankind and, as part of that effort, assess the progress being made towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals.  The Goals embody the hopes of all people for a world without hunger and poverty, where all live in freedom, with dignity and equity.  Biodiversity is crucial to those hopes, especially in the area of health.

Biodiversity provides the ecosystem services -- from clean water and food, to fuel and medicinal plants -- that underpin a healthy life.  If we fail to conserve and use biological diversity in a sustainable manner, the result will be increasingly degraded environments, and a world plagued by new and more rampant illnesses, deepening poverty and a perpetuation of patterns of inequitable and unsustainable growth.

Unfortunately, our actions run the risk of taking humanity down this path.  As the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment reported earlier this year, human activities are fundamentally changing the planet, perhaps irreversibly.  Over the last 50 years, pollution, climate change, degradation of habitats and the overexploitation of natural resources led to more rapid losses of biological diversity than at any other time in human history.  Such losses put the livelihoods and health of current and future generations in jeopardy.

That is why this first international conference on the relationship between health and biodiversity is very timely.  I wish you every success in your efforts to diagnose the problems and, most importantly, to put forward recommendations that will guide us in our journey towards achieving truly sustainable development and the Millennium Development Goals.

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