The Convention on Biodiversity was conceived out of the concern that many species and ecosystems are threatened with extinction. It was born of the conviction that biological diversity is a global asset of incalculable value to present and future generations. It affirms that the conservation of biological diversity is a responsibility of humankind and its sustainable use is crucial to meeting the food, health and other needs of a growing world population.
The threat to biodiversity stems mainly from habitat destruction, over-harvesting, pollution and the inappropriate introduction of foreign plants and animals. The General Assembly's special session in June urged decisive action to conserve and maintain genes, species and ecosystems with a view to promoting the sustainable management of biological diversity. It urged all Governments to ratify and implement fully and effectively the Convention, together with related recommendations.
It is gratifying that as the new millennium approaches, the Convention has evolved from a negotiating document to an active programme that makes itself felt at the local, national, regional and international levels. Now that the procedures and programmes are in place, the challenge facing the 170 parties to the Convention is to make real and visible changes in humankind's relationship with biodiversity.
Today, I urge all actors of the global community - Governments, international funding agencies, non-governmental organizations, civil society and the private sector - to embrace and redouble efforts to meet the goals of the Convention. You should consider this not as a mission impossible but rather, as a mission impossible to ignore.
UNEP Information Note 1997/38