23 February 2005

Safeguarding Global Environment as Urgent as Ever, Secretary-General Says in Message to Governing Council of UN Environment Programme

NEW YORK, 22 February (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the text of Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s message to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Governing Council/Global Ministerial Environment Forum in Nairobi, yesterday, 21 February:

It gives me great pleasure to send my greetings to the environment ministers and others who have gathered for this important session of the Governing Council of the UN Environment Programme.

The task of safeguarding the global environment is as urgent as ever.

As has long been clear, this is an undertaking that none of us can carry out alone.  And as we try to galvanize the world’s efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals, it is equally clear that success depends to a great extent on healthy ecosystems -- the watersheds, aquifers, forests, soils, seas and atmosphere that provide vital economic goods and services, and the resources that can help us defeat poverty, treat disease and foster sustainable economic growth.

The links among these issues have been amply illustrated in the recent reports of the Millennium Project and High-Level Panel on Threat, Challenges and Change. Yet, as both reports argue, environmental concerns still need to be better integrated into policy-making and strategies for security, development and humanitarian action. September’s General Assembly Summit meeting on implementation of the Millennium Declaration offers an opportunity to give environmental and sustainability issues the attention they deserve, and to strengthen international institutional arrangements for addressing environmental challenges.

There is much at stake this year for the United Nations.  In recent months, we have seen an unprecedented response to the tsunami disaster, important advances at the Mauritius meeting on Small Island Developing States and at the Kobe conference on disaster management, and the entry into force of the Kyoto Protocol.  Global understanding of the relationship between the environment and economic development has gained fresh significance.  It falls to you, working closely with your civil society and private sector partners, to sustain this momentum.  I also urge you to do your part in ensuring that UNEP has the policy and other support it needs to play its proper role.

Together, we can make 2005 a year of accomplishment and renewal for the United Nations and the environment.  Please accept my best wishes for the success of your deliberations.

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