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Governments, private sector and non-governmental organizations come together to celebrate World Environment Day

Nairobi, 13 May 1999 - The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) is encouraging people and communities the world over to celebrate World Environment Day (WED) on 5 June in a way that will make a difference both locally and globally.

Unlike many other days, this special United Nations Day is one in which every single living species on the planet has a stake.

As stated by the United Nations Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, in his World Environment Day message, "The theme for this year's World Environment Day, Our Earth - Our Future - Just Save It! is an urgent appeal to each and everyone of us to renew our pledge to cherish and respect the planet that sustains us.

"Once a species is extinct, no wishful thinking can bring it back. Not the best landscaping can resurrect the beauty and majesty of the mountain that has been stripped of its forest and vegetation," says UNEP's Executive Director, Klaus Toepfer.

"Hunger, disease, poverty, air and water pollution, land degradation, ozone layer depletion and all the environmental problems with which we struggle every day can be corrected, but we need to take adequate steps to achieve this end," adds Toepfer.

As the host of this year's main international World Environment Day celebrations, Japan is taking a significant step in addressing some of these environmental problems by organizing a World Conference on Global Commons. The aim of this Conference is to send a political message to the people of Japan and the international community that the responsibility must be shared. Some of the items on the agenda include: financial mechanisms and empowerment of international organizations; science, technology, information and communication; resources management and energy-related technology development; and urban environmental problems and regional cooperation.

UNEP is also pleased to announce that its third International Photographic Competition, entitled Focus on Your World, will be launched on 4 June during the celebrations in Japan. This competition, once again sponsored by Canon Inc., aims to raise awareness of our environment through photography. Entries are invited from people the world over - young and old, amateur and professional photographers alike - to illustrate how they see our planet. Winners will receive their awards at the United Nations Millennium Assembly, which will take place in New York in September 2000.

Also of note, the Learning and Ecological Activities Foundation (LEAF) will be hosting and organizing an Asia Pacific Children's Conference from 5-6 June. The conference will focus on the role young people can play in environmental conservation.

The main event to be held on 5 June will culminate with the presentation of UNEP's Global 500 awards to 17 individuals and organizations from 12 countries who have made outstanding contributions to the protection of the environment.

"These `silent heroes' have demonstrated in the most concrete way that we have the knowledge, the power and the technology to solve many of our environmental problems," says Toepfer. "More importantly, they have set an example many of us should follow".

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 the environment. In many countries, this annual event is used to enhance political attention and action. Heads of State, prime ministers and ministers of the 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.

World Environment Day is also a multi-media event which inspires thousands of journalists and broadcasters to report enthusiastically and critically on the environment. It is a visual event with television documentaries, photo and art exhibits and poster displays. It is an intellectual event for those who organize and participate in seminars, round-table meetings and symposia.

"On this special United Nations Day, let us take those adequate steps to stop the careless exploitation and destruction of the environment by making the necessary changes in our own lives, in our own attitudes and in our own behavior. We don't have another thousand years," says Toepfer.

"Because all human activities affect the Earth, and the State of the Earth affects us all, every day should be World Environment Day. Until then, the United Nations will take seriously its responsibility towards our planet and to those who will inhabit it after us," says Kofi Annan.


Note to journalists:
Klaus Toepfer will hold a press conference at 10.00 a.m. on Friday 4 June at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Japan, Tokyo.

For more details, contact
Thelma O'Con-Solozarno
Yasuko Senoo
of UN Information Centre Tokyo on
tel: (81-3) 5467-4451/4, fax: (81-3) 5467-4455,

For interview requests with Klaus Toepfer,
contact Robert Bisset
in Nairobi on tel: (254-2) 623084, fax: 623692,

and from 2 June, in Japan, at the Tokyo Prince Hotel,
tel: (81-3) 3432 1111, fax: (81-3) 3434 5551.

The full text of the United Nations Secretary-General's and UNEP Executive Director's messages are available from UNEP Headquarters and regional offices.

For more information, contact:

Tore J. Brevik
Communications and Public Information
UNEP, P. O. Box 30552, Nairobi, Kenya
Tel: (254-2) 623292; Fax: 623927

Elisabeth Guilbaud-Cox
Coordinator, Special Events
UNEP Headquarters,
P.O. Box 30552,
Nairobi, Kenya
Tel: (254-2) 623401/623128; Fax: 623692

UNEP Web Site:

UNEP News Release 1999/29

Friday 14 May 1999
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