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    Press Release No: UNIS/ENV/83
    Release Date: 4 July 2000
    New UN Environment Programme World Conservation Monitoring Centre
    Opens Today in Cambridge, United Kingdom

    CAMBRIDGE/NAIROBI, 3 July (UNEP) -- The blue United Nations flag will be raised today in Cambridge, United Kingdom, at a public ceremony to celebrate the opening of the first new United Nations institute in Great Britain in 50 years. The World Conservation Monitoring Centre (WCMC) joins the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) as its global biodiversity information and assessment centre.

    In his video address to the ceremony, the United Nations Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, tells WCMC that, "As part of the UN Environment Programme, you will help the world community confront one of its most daunting challenges:  protecting the Earth's precious biodiversity.  We may be at the dawn of a new millennium, but the environmental problems we face are painfully familiar.  They may even be getting worse."

    The UNEP, the global environmental authority, has as one of its core functions within the United Nations system the responsibility for assessment and information on all aspects of the natural environment.  As an integral part of UNEP, WCMC will assess the health of species and ecosystems, and threats to their survival.  The Centre will also help nations to create their own biodiversity information systems, enabling them to develop science-based policy and regulations for the environment.

    "The impact of poverty in developing countries and of unsustainable consumption levels in industrialized countries is leading to the widespread loss of Earth's biodiversity", said Klaus Toepfer, UNEP's Executive Director.  "Overall, ecosystems and species populations have declined by 30 per cent in the past 30 years and the trend is continuing."

    "We must urgently address the threats to biodiversity.  Accurate, accessible scientific-based information is a prerequisite for informed decision-making", explains Mark Collins, the Centre's Director.  "WCMC is ideally placed to make a major contribution to the world's understanding of our precious living resources."

    The transition of WCMC to a UNEP Centre has been achieved by retaining its close links with the non-governmental community, while at the same time building important new partnerships with the private sector and Governments.  In  particular, WCMC's transition has been achieved with the active political and financial support of the United Kingdom Government.

    Michael Meacher, United Kingdom Minister for the Environment, and Peter Hain, UK Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, will participate in today's ceremony in Cambridge.  "I am proud that the British Government and British expertise have been so instrumental in the safe passage of WCMC to its new status as a UN agency.  Its future security, and its cutting-edge technology, are key to the conservation of biological diversity throughout the globe", says Mr. Meacher.

    Information about UNEP-WCMC and video streamed coverage of the ceremony can be accessed at the WCMC website -- http://www.unep-wcmc.org/July3

    For further information, please contact:
    Laura Battlebury, Head of Enquiries and Information, UNEP-WCMC, 
    tel: +44-1223-277314, fax:  +44-1223-277136, 
    e-mail:  info@unep-wcmc.org
    URL:http://www.unep-wcmc.org;
    or 
    Tore J. Brevik, UNEP Spokesman, 
    tel:  +254-2-62-3292, fax: 62-3692, 
    e-mail:  cpiinfo@unep.org
    UNEP Web site: www.unep.org

    Press information (UK):
    Rachel Holdsworth/Susanne Bayer-Crosby, Holdsworth Associates. 
    tel/fax:  +44 1954 202789. Mobile:  UK 07931 561956.
    email:rachel@holdsworth-associates.co.uk

    UNEP Nairobi, Kenya (HQ)
    Tore J. Brevik, UNEP Spokesman on 
    tel: +254-2-623292, 
    or 
    Robert Bisset, Office of the Spokesman/UNEP Media Unit, 
    tel:  +254-2-623084, fax: 623692, 
    email:  robert.bisset@unep.org
    UNEP Web site:  www.unep.org

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