The International Day for Biological Diversity - 22 May 2005

Message from the UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan

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Message from the United Nations Environment Programme , Klaus Toepfer

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Ministerial Statements

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Background

The United Nations proclaimed May 22 The International Day for Biological Diversity (IBD) to increase understanding and awareness of biodiversity issues. When first created by the Second Committee of the UN General Assembly in late 1993, 29 December (the date of entry into force of the Convention of Biological Diversity), was designated The International Day for Biological Diversity. In December 2000, the UN General Assembly adopted 22 May as IBD, to commemorate the adoption of the text of the Convention on 22 May 1992 by the Nairobi Final Act of the Conference for the Adoption of the Agreed Text of the Convention on Biological Diversity. This was partly done because it was difficult for many countries to plan and carry out suitable celebrations for the date of 29 December, given the number of holidays that coincide around that time of year.

Biodiversity: Life Insurance for our Changing World

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Introduction

The United Nations has proclaimed May 22, the International Day for Biological Diversity, to increase understanding and awareness of biodiversity issues. Biodiversity is the source of the essential goods and ecological services that constitute the source of life for all. The celebration each year of the International Day for Biological Diversity is an occasion to reflect on our responsibility to safeguard this precious heritage for future generations.

As announced by Hamdallah Zedan, the Executive Secretary to the Convention on Biological Diversity, the theme for International Day for Biological Diversity 2005 is:

Biodiversity: Life Insurance for our Changing World.

The world is changing faster than ever before. Growing human populations and expanding consumption are placing great pressure on biological Diversity. This year’s theme for IBD reminds us that, in addition to providing the physical conditions for all life, biodiversity also plays an important role in protecting life and making it resilient to the pressures brought about by change.

Key messages and how they relate to Biodiversity Day

IBD 2005’s theme asks people to look at Biodiversity beyond its value for short-term consumption, extraction and direct use. The message for the year is simple: Biodiversity is the life insurance of life itself.

More specifically, diversity within species helps a given species survive rapid changes in the surrounding ecosystem. Diversity between species increases the resilience of ecosystems, by enhancing functions and providing multiple sources for ecosystem services. Greater resilience in ecosystems make sustainable development possible and protect all life from the potential consequences of non-linear change, including sudden changes to ecosystems, such as that brought on by disasters.

This message has been part of the work of the Convention for years and was reiterated at the World Summit for Sustainable Development in Johannesburg in 2002, and should be a fundamental understanding of any approach to the long-term conservation and use of biodiversity.

The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment’s biodiversity synthesis report has an important bearing on this year’s theme for IBD – “Biodiversity: Life Insurance for our Changing World”. Among other aspects, the report highlights the role of ecosystem services in sustaining life and providing protection for the vulnerable. It also draws the link between the risks of rapid non-linear change and the increased demands that people are placing on ecosystems around the world. Ecosystem services provide human beings with options, which is of particular importance to the poor and the vulnerable.

The report contains six key findings which can be rewritten to suit the different target audiences you may be trying to reach. We recommend that these main findings be stressed in all communications materials related to the International Biodiversity Day. Below we present the findings from the report, rewritten for a general audience.

What is the problem? (finding 1) In the last 50 years, Human actions have changed the diversity of life on the planet more than at any other time in history. Our activities have lifted many people out of poverty, but at the price of a loss of biodiversity. If we continue down this road, we will reduce biological diversity, with life-threatening consequences.

Why is biodiversity loss a concern? (findings 2 and 3) Biodiversity is the foundation for human well-being. Not only does it provide the materials we need for food, clothing and shelter, but also gives us security, health and freedom of choices. The current pace and rhythm of our activities are harming ecosystems, consuming biological resources and putting at risk the well-being of future generations.

What are the causes of biodiversity loss and how they are changing? (finding 4) Human activities are leading to the loss of the variety of life. Population increase and economic activity, fuelled by technological change and our patterns of political and cultural life are placing undue pressure on ecosystems. Our actions are changing habitats, the climate, overexploiting resources, creating pollution and promoting the spread of invasive alien species. If current patterns continue, the loss of biodiversity will accelerate, not diminish.

What actions can be taken? (finding 5) We know that in the past, actions and programmes that promoted conservation and the sustainable use of biological diversity limited biodiversity loss. This is promising, but we are not doing enough. To further reduce and to stop the loss of biodiversity will require a whole host of new and stronger actions. Sustainable human development remains the primary goal and we need to strengthen the range and power of our ability to respond to biodiversity loss.

The 2010 target and its implications (finding 6) The size of the task ahead of us is so great that the 2010 biodiversity target will only realistically be achieved in certain areas and regions if we engage in substantial efforts. This sobering conclusion is not hopeless. Humankind can choose to act now for the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity if it changes the way it is causing change, carefully chooses the ways it responds to change and makes the right tradeoffs.

  • United Nations
  • United Nations Environment Programme