World Environment Day 1998 is special. Each year, UNEP, the agency responsible for coordinating World Environment Day activities, selects a city as the main venue for the international celebrations, and this year, for the first time since the inception of this event, the venue will be Moscow in Eastern Europe - a region of dramatic change.
"The rapid economic, social and political changes which have taken place in Eastern Europe over the past few years, have greatly influenced the lifestyle of the people in the region," said Mr. Klaus Töpfer, UNEP's Executive Director. "World Environment Day provides a unique opportunity to raise environmental awareness and mobilize action."
"Action should be initiated by all sectors of society - governments and non-governmental organizations, individuals and major groups, business and industry alike, and only by sharing the responsibility can the quality of life improve," adds Mr. Töpfer.
As the host of World Environment Day '98, the City of Moscow and the Russian Federation have made a concerted effort to promote environmental awareness and action nationally, regionally and internationally, by organizing a series of important events. These include, an International Congress and Exhibit on Water, Ecology and Technology from 25 to 30 May; an international Urban Environment Forum (UEF) entitled UEF-Euro '98, a joint UNEP and the United Nations Centre for Human Settlements (Habitat) effort, which will bring together more than 200 urban and development practitioners to discuss ways of improving social and economic conditions in cities through better urban environmental planning and management from 1 to 4 June; a Conference on Sustainable Cities, from 7 to 9 June, also a joint UNEP and Habitat effort, which will bring together urban specialists from some 20 countries around the world to discuss how to better manage and address urban environmental problems by involving the very people who inhabit those cities. Parallel to the Euro '98 event, the Government will also host an all-Russian People in Big Cities Congress.
The main event to be held on 5 June will culminate with the presentation of UNEP's Global 500 Awards to 23 individuals and organizations from 19 countries who have made outstanding contributions to the protection of the environment.
"These environmental defenders have demonstrated that it is at the community and local level where action to protect the environment acquires its full meaning," said Mr. Töpfer. "UNEP is proud to recognize and pay tribute to their achievements," he said.
World Environment Day, established by the United Nations General Assembly in 1972, is a people's event with governments, individuals and community groups organizing countless activities to improve their environment. These include: clean-up campaigns, tree planting, street rallies, bicycle parades, green concerts, essay competitions in schools, recycling efforts and so 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 and art exhibits and poster 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 aim higher than creating a year of awareness raising," said Mr. Töpfer. "Let us boldly plan to achieve real results. Our survival depends on it," he said.
Note to journalists:
The full text of the United Nations Secretary-General's and UNEP's Executive Director's World Environment Day messages are available from UNEP Nairobi.
For more information, contact:
Tore J. Brevik
Director, Information and Public Affairs
P.O.Box 30552, Nairobi, Kenya
Tel: (254-2) 62-3292
Fax: (254-2) 62-3927
UNEP Web Site: http://www.unep.org
UNEP News Release 1998/23