25 January 2004

In Message to “Biodiversity 2005”, Secretary-General Calls for Ratification of Biodiversity Convention, Biosafety Protocol

NEW YORK, 24 January (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the message by Secretary-General Kofi Annan to “Biodiversity 2005” in Paris today, 24 January, delivered by Koichiro Matsuura, Director General of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO):

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

Biological diversity is one of the pillars of life.  It stabilizes the Earth’s climate and renews soil fertility.  It provides millions of people with livelihoods, helps to ensure food security, and is a rich source of both traditional medicines and modern pharmaceuticals.  It is essential to our efforts to relieve suffering, raise standards of living and achieve the Millennium Development Goals.

Yet unsustainable patterns of production and consumption and other harmful practices, exacerbated by poverty and other social and economic factors, continue to destroy habitats and species at an unprecedented rate.  Moreover, if biodiversity is under-appreciated as a resource, it is also under-appreciated as an issue meriting high-level attention.

I therefore call on those Governments that have not yet done so to ratify the Convention on Biological Diversity and its Biosafety Protocol.  These instruments and the processes they have set in motion are crucial for the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity, and for the fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from the use of genetic resources.  The Convention has become a near-universal instrument, with 188 Parties, and has proven to be an effective vehicle for developing new policies and concepts with regard to all ecosystems.  The Protocol gives us an international regulatory framework to ensure the safe transfer, handling and use of living modified organisms resulting from modern biotechnology, thus making it possible to derive maximum benefits from biotechnology while minimizing the potential risks to the environment and human health.

But the preservation of biodiversity is not just a job for Governments.  International and non-governmental organizations, the private sector, and each and every individual have a role to play in changing entrenched outlooks and ending destructive patterns of behaviour.  The involvement of local communities is particularly important, since many have already devised innovative approaches in resource management and other areas from which others can learn.

Biodiversity is a common concern for all humankind.  I am glad that you are giving this issue such high-profile attention, and offer you my best wishes for a successful conference.

* *** *