WITHOUT CONSERVATION, ECONOMIC GROWTH CANNOT BE
It is a great pleasure and an honour to be here with you today, and I would like to thank Their Majesties, King Albert II and Queen Paola, who have invited me to this moving ceremony. Let me also pay tribute to the King Baudouin Foundation for all it does to improve the lives of people around the world.
I must say that I am greatly impressed by the activities of FUNDECOR in the Costa Rican Central Volcanic Range, which has been declared a biosphere reserve under United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)'s Man and the Biosphere Programme. You certainly deserve the Prize you have won today. Our wholehearted congratulations.
What impresses me most is that you have succeeded in making conservation, and the sustainable use of forests, an economic alternative and a central element of forest development for forest owners in Costa Rica. That proves that those who say we face a choice between economic growth and conservation are wrong. In fact, we now know that without conservation, growth cannot be sustained.
Alongside failures of governance, negligence and greed, poverty is one of the causes of the ecological crises we confront today. Indeed, many parts of the developing world are caught in a vicious cycle of environmental degradation and deepening poverty. That is why any strategy to achieve sustainable development must address economic, ecological and social concerns all at once.
By basing its approach on these three pillars of sustainability, FUNDECOR is not only serving the interests of the local population. It is also working for the benefit of the entire planet. Conservation and reforestation help to preserve biodiversity, which in turn provides a bountiful store of medicines and food products, and reduces vulnerability to pests and diseases. Reforestation also helps to reduce atmospheric carbon levels that would otherwise contribute to global warming.
Sustainable ecosystems are in everyone's interest, and they are everyone's responsibility. It heartens me to see that, around the world, civil society organizations like FUNDECOR are taking up the challenge of protecting our planet and preserving it for future generations.
I often quote an African proverb which says: "The earth is not ours, it is a treasure we hold in trust for our children and their children". The World Summit on Sustainable Development, to be held next year in Johannesburg, will offer world leaders an opportunity to prove that they are worthy of this trust. May they be inspired by your success.
I hope they will take concrete measures to reflect the "new ethic of conservation and stewardship", which they resolved to adopt at the Millennium Summit in New York last September. And I hope they will follow the lead of those who, like FUNDECOR, have understood that the earth is our unique heritage.
Thank you very much.
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