World Environment Day 1997 is special. This year the world celebrates a number of significant milestones since the creation of UNEP 25 years ago at the Stockholm Conference. The world also marks the 10th anniversary of the historic negotiation of the Montreal Protocol to preserve the ozone layer; 10 years since the groundbreaking Brundtland report; and five years since world leaders gathered in Rio for the Earth Summit.
Each year UNEP, the United Nations agency responsible for coordinating World Environment Day activities, selects a city as the main venue for the international celebrations. This year, this special event is taking place in the Republic of Korea - a country of emerging importance in a region of dramatic change.
"Today, as South Korea and its neighbours in the Asia Pacific region are being shaped and animated by the innovations of their technocrats and by the social awakening of their people, it is imperative that the tectonic strains on their environment not be ignored", says Ms. Elizabeth Dowdeswell, UNEP's Executive Director.
As the host of World Environment Day '97, the Republic of Korea has made a concerted effort to promote environmental awareness and action, nationally, regionally and internationally, by organizing a series of important events, including an International Media Conference on Environment and Development; an Environment and Ethics Conference which will launch the "Seoul Declaration"; a Global Youth Forum with 200 young people from 45 countries participating; and the Asia-Pacific Parliamentarians Conference on Environment and Development.
The main event will be held on 5 June in Seoul's Olympic Stadium and will culminate with the presentation of UNEP's Global 500 awards to 21 environmentalists, from every corner of the world, who have made outstanding contributions to the protection of the environment.
"These environmentalists are members of a broad and growing environmental movement that is flowering around the world. They have taken the path that most of us hesitate to take for want of time or caring, and in honouring them UNEP seeks inspiration from their extraordinary deeds," says Ms. Dowdeswell.
World Environment Day, established by the United Nations General Assembly in 1972, is a people's event, with governments and communities organizing clean-up campaigns, tree planting, street rallies, bicycle parades, green concerts, essay competitions in schools, recycling efforts and much more.
In many countries, this annual event is used to enhance political attention and action. Heads of State, Prime Ministers and Ministers of Environment deliver statements and commit themselves to care for the Earth. More serious pledges are made which lead to the establishment of permanent governmental structures dealing with environmental management and economic planning. This observance also provides an opportunity to sign or ratify international environmental conventions.
World Environment Day is also a multi-media event which inspires thousands of journalists and broadcasters to report enthusiastically or critically on the environment. It is a visual event with television documentaries, photo exhibits and displays. It is also an intellectual event for those who organize and participate in seminars, round-table meetings and symposia.
"On this World Environment Day, let us examine the state of our environment. Let us consider carefully the actions which each of us must take, and then address ourselves to our common task of preserving all Life on Earth in a mood of sober resolution and quiet confidence," adds Ms. Dowdeswell.
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Note to Journalists
The full text of the Secretary-General's and UNEP's Executive Director's World Environment Day messages are available from UNEP Nairobi.
For more information:
Tore J. Brevik
Chief, Information & Public Affairs
P.O. Box 30552, Nairobi, Kenya
Patricia L. Jacobs
P.O. Box 30552, Nairobi, Kenya
UNEP News Release 1997/21