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Ministers to seek comprehensive halt to destruction of biological resources

Bratislavia, Slovakia/Nairobi, 30 April 1998 - Environment ministers from around the world are meeting here in Bratislava from 4-5 May to promote new national policies and international programmes for the conservation and sustainable use of the Earth's rich heritage of biological diversity.

Hosted by the Government of Slovakia, the Ministerial Roundtable on Biological Diversity will explore how to integrate biodiversity concerns into key economic activities and how to engage the private sector in this effort. There will be a particular emphasis on the tourism sector. The Roundtable sets the stage for a two-week intergovernmental meeting on the Convention on Biological Diversity, which runs from 4 to 15 May.

"Humanity needs a sustainable relationship with the remarkably varied and interdependent plant and animal life of this planet," says Klaus Toepfer, Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), which administers the Convention. "One of the chief areas of concern for implementing the Convention is the fair and equitable sharing of the results from research and development and of the benefits arising from the use of genetic resources. This will require implementing fully the relevant articles of the Convention and strengthening capacities at the local, national, and international levels," he said.

Tourism offers a compelling example of the benefits of a sustainable relationship with biodiversity. In many countries this industry benefits enormously from the existence of intact ecosystems and animal populations. However, tourism often damages biodiversity by destroying habitat for birds or sea-turtles to build hotels, over-using limited natural resources such as freshwater, and increasing the human impact on vulnerable coral reefs or alpine meadows.

Today tourism developers and tourists alike have a great interest in choosing to tread more lightly on the land, including through better investment and management decisions. Tourism can also actively promote education and a general awareness of, and respect for, global biological diversity. The challenge is motivating and empowering national and local policymakers and the private sector to act responsibly in a consistent way.

Some 1,500 participants from 180 countries are expected to attend the two-week meeting on the Convention. Drawing on the political momentum of the Ministerial Roundtable, the fourth meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP-4) will promote global action on freshwater ecosystems, marine and coastal areas, forest biodiversity, and agricultural biodiversity.

Participants will also discuss and analyze new cooperative programmes, more effective national policies, methods for measuring biodiversity trends, benefits sharing and access to genetic resources, incentives for conservation and sustainable use, impact assessments of projects and policies, education and awareness-raising, and more.

The Convention on Biological Diversity was signed at the 1992 Rio Earth Summit by over 150 countries. Its objectives are "the conservation of biological diversity, the sustainable use of its components and the fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising out of the utilization of genetic resources." The Convention is thus the first global, comprehensive agreement to address all aspects of biodiversity: genetic resources, species, and ecosystems.



Note to journalists:
COP-4 will take place at Incheba a.s., Viedensk cesta 5, Bratislava, Slovakia. Official documents and other information can be found via the Internet at

the press kit will be posted at

For more information or to arrange interviews, please contact Michael Williams in Geneva at
(+41-22) 917 8242, fax (+41-22) 797 3464,

In Nairobi:

Tore J. Brevik,
UNEP Information and Public Affairs,
Tel: +254-2-623294, Fax: +254-2-623927,

Robert Bisset,
UNEP Media and Communications Officer
Tel: +254-2-623084, Fax: +254-2-623692,

UNEP News Release 1998/22

Monday 04 May 1998
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