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The Environmental Dimension Of The United Nations Year Of Dialogue Among Civilizations

Nairobi, 23 January 2001 - The year 2001 has been proclaimed the United Nations Year of Dialogue Among Civilizations. It aims to demonstrate that the present globalization process does not only encompass economic, financial and technological issues, but also the human cultural and spiritual dimensions of society and their interdependence.

UNEP's recently released Global Environment Outlook 2000 report (GEO 2000) concludes that as we enter the new millennium globalization has become a dominating factor aggravating the threats to ancestral cultures and indigenous communities. "It is a well established fact that without an understanding and tolerance for one another's cultural and spiritual dimensions, peace will remain elusive. However, we have to recognize that respect for nature and the preservation of the ecological balance of our planet are essential for the achievement of international peace and security.

The environmental dimension of the concept of peace and security cannot be ignored any more" says Mr. Klaus Toepfer the Executive Director of UNEP. The current trends undermining the cultural diversity of our planet are also largely responsible for the erosion of biodiversity and the rich heritage of indigenous peoples. UNEP's recent study on the cultural and spiritual values of biodiversity has demonstrated that sustainable development and the richness of cultures are interdependent. It provides ample evidence of the close relationship between cultural diversity, biodiversity-mega-rich areas and indigenous peoples. Of the estimated 6,000 cultures in the world, between 4,000 and 5,000 are indigenous and more than 2,500 languages are in immediate danger of extinction and a number are losing the ecological contexts that keep them functional.

The United Nations Millennium Declaration adopted by more than 110 Heads of State at the United Nations Headquarters in New York in September 2000 agreed on the fundamental values essential to international relations in the twenty-first century. This included: "Differences within and between societies should be neither feared nor repressed, but cherished as a precious asset of humanity. A culture of peace and dialogue among all civilizations should be actively promoted."

Ministers of the Environment attending the Second Global Ministerial Environment Forum to be held in Nairobi, Kenya from 5-9 February 2001 will convene a special event to celebrate the International Year of the Dialogue Among Civilizations from an environmental perspective. "The celebration of the International Year of Dialogue among Civilizations from an environmental perspective by the Ministers of the Environment of the world provides a unique opportunity for the emergence of a new environmental ethic of the twenty-first century based on shared prosperity for present and future generations. To this end, the preservation of a healthy and green planet should be the main concern of a modern culture and should frame how we think, live, behave and relate to nature and its bounty," says Mr. Toepfer.

For more information, contact:

Ahmed Djoghlaf,
Executive Co-ordinator, Global Environmental Facility, UNEP,
P.O. Box 30552,
Nairobi; tel.: (254-2) 624166, fax: 624041,
email:, or

Nick Nuttall,
Media Officer,
254-2-623381; fax: 623692;

UNEP News Release 01/06

Tuesday 23 Jan 2001
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