31 March 2005

First Global Assessment of Ecosystems “Unprecedented Contribution” to Development, Sustainability, Peace, Says Secretary-General

NEW YORK, 30 March (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the text of UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s video message to launch the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, issued 30 March:

Four years ago, a truly inspiring group of scholars and environmental leaders embarked on an unprecedented effort:  the first comprehensive global evaluation of the world’s major ecosystems.

We now have the product of their labours:  the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment.

The report describes the vital services that ecosystems provide.

It shows how human activities are causing environmental change on a massive scale throughout the world, and how biodiversity -- the very basis for life on earth -- is declining at an alarming rate.

But it also tells us how we can change course.

It sets out common-sense strategies for protecting species and habitats, and preserving this natural capital for development.

It offers tools for managing the environment, particularly in poor countries where this has to be combined with the quest for development.

It identifies the changes in institutions and policies that will be needed if we are to deal with the root causes of environmental degradation.

And it fills a global knowledge gap.  Only by understanding the environment and how it works, can we make the necessary decisions to protect it.  Only by valuing all our precious natural and human resources, can we hope to build a sustainable future.

World leaders have pledged to reduce the loss of biological diversity by 2010.  They have vowed to achieve the Millennium Development Goals by 2015.

We must hold them to these promises.  And each of us must do his or her part.

The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment is an unprecedented contribution to our global mission of development, sustainability and peace.  I thank all involved for this gift to future generations.  Thank you very much.

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