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    Press Release No:  UNIS/GA/1638
    Release Date:   5 June 200 0
    In Environment Day Message, Assembly President Calls for Commitment
    To Ecologically Sustainable Development

     NEW YORK, 2 June (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the text of the message of General Assembly President Theo-Ben Gurirab (Namibia), on the occasion of World Environment Day:

     World Environment Day 2000 coincides with the opening of the General Assembly’s special session on women.  World leaders are assembling in New York to review and appraise how the international community has implemented the   1995 Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, adopted at the Fourth World Conference on Women.  As one of the 12 critical areas of concern for women,   the Platform for Action identified the need to actively involve women in environmental decision-making and action at all levels.

     The Member States of the United Nations recognize that environmental issues are inextricably linked to efforts for sustainable development, that poverty and environmental degradation go hand in hand, and that women form the majority of the 1.5 billion people living in poverty.  Only if poverty is eradicated will the vicious assault on the environment be curbed, sustainable development become a reality, and the ecosystem rejuvenated.

     The theme for World Environment Day 2000 is, appropriately, “The Environment Millennium:  Time to Act”.  It is a timely reminder that there will be no next millennium if we do not act now to safeguard the environment that sustains all life on Planet Earth.  World Environment Day 2000 is, therefore, a fitting occasion to raise public awareness on the ways in which humankind is endangering its habitat and to underscore the urgent need to change our behaviours and protect our fragile environment.

     The global environment connects every human being on this planet, and what happens environmentally in one part of the Earth has far-reaching ramifications elsewhere.  Recall such man-made disasters as the Chernobyl nuclear accident, the cyanide spill into a river in Eastern Europe, or oil spills in coastal waters.  In every such instance, we have witnessed profound environmental effects that extended beyond the borders where the disaster originated.  The thinning ozone layer, escalating carbon monoxide levels and global warming are the result of human activity, and the impact is global.

     Other environmental disasters are occurring with greater frequency and intensity.  Recall, in recent times, the severe floods in Mozambique, cyclones in Madagascar and India, torrential rains in Venezuela and earthquakes in Turkey and Greece, all of which left thousands of people dead and hundreds of thousands more homeless. 

     The statistics of the destruction caused to our planet’s air, water and land resources, as a result of excessive demands on the environment, are sobering.  But as frightening as these numbers may be, it is heartening to know that people, at all levels of society, are starting to pay attention to, and care for, the environment.

     Environmental policy must be integrated into mainstream planning at all levels.  The knowledge and the technology to solve many of the world’s environmental problems already exist.  What is needed is more political will  and resource mobilization.  If people everywhere cooperated to protect the environment, the damage inflicted on the ecosystem that sustains human life can be reversed.  To that end, business and industry have a major role to play.

     Governments can do their part by signing or ratifying, and then implementing, international treaties and conventions relating to the environment, among them the Framework Convention on Climate Change, the Convention on Biological Diversity and the Montreal Protocol to the Vienna Convention on the Protection of the Ozone Layer.

     If generations to come are to enjoy this Environment Millennium, the time to act to save our planet is now.  We have only one Earth.  Let us, therefore, commit ourselves to ecologically sustainable development, and pledge to preserve Planet Earth as a healthy and precious environment for generations of today and generations yet unborn.

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