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International Day for Biological Diversity 29 December 1998

Nairobi, 28 December 1998 - Five years ago, on 29 December 1993, the Convention on Biological Diversity came into force. The Convention enjoined nations to cooperate to halt and reverse the accelerating loss of biological and genetic resources of our planet earth. The International Day for Biological Diversity is thus an occasion to remind us that conservation of biological diversity remains one of the greatest challenges facing humankind.

Throughout the world, whether in developed or developing countries, whether North or South, East or West, the Earth's genetic resources continue to diminish rapidly for many reasons and by various causes, and it hurts us all.

It is gratifying that since 29 December 1993, we have witnessed 174 countries ratify and acknowledge the Convention on Biological Diversity as the major international instrument dedicated to the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity as the vehicle for equitable sharing of benefits derived from its use.

For the first time, nearly all countries who are Parties to the Convention have reported the actions they have taken to protect biological diversity within areas under their jurisdiction, as part of their obligations under the Convention. More heartening is the fact that the actions taken include the formulation of National Biodiversity Strategies and Action Plans that seek to find sustainable solutions to the loss of biodiversity, among other solutions to global issues such as the impacts of climate change, desertification, ozone layer depletion, persistent organic pollutants (POPs) and pollution from land- based sources.

Another significant achievement and milestone will undoubtedly be the adoption of the first Protocol to be concluded under the Convention on Biological Diversity. I refer to the final round of negotiations under way for the conclusion and adoption of a Protocol on Biosafety, scheduled for Cartegena Colombia in February 1999. The protocol is aimed at ensuring that transboundary movement of living modified organisms (LMOs) from one country to another occurs without causing harm to the biodiversity or environment of the receiving country. The protocol on biosafety will help to ensure that biological and genetic resources of countries are protected against possible adverse impacts of LMOs whilst countries and nations get to enjoy the benefits that products derived from genetic resurces through modern biotechnology can offer.

In view of the efforts that all countries have put into protecting their national biotic wealth, there is an urgent need to mobilize and avail to the countries the necessary support including scientific, technical and adequate financial resources, in a timely and sustained manner, as part of a continuous effort to make conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity a theme and business of everyday life. All sectors of civil society including the scientific community, NGOs and industry have a critical role to play in support of Government efforts.

Astronomers believe that Mars once sustained life. The problems that the Earth is currently facing include, among others, the impacts of climate change, global warming, desertification and pollution of our oceans and freshwater bodies. To address environmental and developmental issues, the interlinkages of these impacts must be identified and recognized not only in the Convention on Biological Diversity but also in other biodiversity-related conventions such as CITES, the programmes of the United Nations in general. No global issue can be addressed in isolation. However, if we work together to protect the biological diversity of the planet, some lasting solutions may be found that go a long way towards fixing the other interlinked problems.

On this International Day for Biological Diversity, I call upon the international community, the United Nations family of Nations, Governments, the NGO community and all people of goodwill to espouse and promote the philosophy that we each hold the destiny of our planet in our hands; that we hold a solution to the problems facing the integrity of our ecosystems and the biological diversity therein; and that if we exploit the synergies of collective human and institutional endeavour, dedication and resourcefulness available to us we can solve the most pressing problems of the biosphere. In short, we all have a significant role to play. Let us show the way.

For more information:
Tore J. Brevik,
Director of Information,
UNEP Headquarters,
P.O. Box 30552,
Nairobi, Kenya,
Tel.: 254-2- 62-3088, Fax: 254-2-623692,

UNEP News Release 1998/134

Tuesday 29 Dec 1998
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