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Message from the Secretary-General of the United Nations to the 10th anniversary of GRID-Arendal

23 Aug 1999 - Let me start by congratulating the UN Environmental Programme's Global Resource Information Database node on its 10th anniversary. GRID-Arendal has provided UNEP and the whole UN family with the best possible information as a basis for shaping environmental policy and raising awareness of environmental challenges.

I would also like to thank the Government of Norway for its visionary thinking in helping establish GRID-Arendal 10 years ago. The story of this foundation has provided a model for how a non-profit organization, with strong Government support, can make an effective contribution to the UN system.

The Memorandum of Understanding between WHO and UNEP, signed this morning by Director-General Gro Harlem Brundtland and Executive Director Klaus Töpfer, gives us further cause for celebration. This partnership between two bodies dealing with increasingly crucial issues is heartening evidence of the new era of inter-agency cooperation ushered in by UN reform.

A healthy population and a healthy environment make a healthy planet. One of the points of convergence between them lies in the impact of chemicals on human health. Although the handling of chemicals has improved greatly over the past century, some chemicals have been implicated in disorders and diseases. This is especially true in the Arctic, where persistent organic pollutants are having a disproportionate impact. The outcome of the current talks held under UNEP auspices on this issue is of crucial importance to the world community in general and to the indigenous people of the Arctic in particular.

I would therefore like to extend a special greeting to the leaders of Arctic indigenous people who are present in Arendal today. By bringing you together with the leaders of WHO and UNEP, this meeting represents an important step in giving the UN Decade of the World's Indigenous Peoples real meaning to the people of your region.

And so, on behalf of the United Nations, let me express my sincere encouragement and best wishes to all participants in the GRID-Arendal 10th Anniversary Seminar. I add the hope that the outcome of your discussions will come to benefit the health of our planet as a whole, well into the next millennium. Thank you.

Monday 23 Aug 1999
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