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Regional action needed for biodiversity decade

The following article was contributed by Ahmed Djoghlaf, executive secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity of the United Nations Environment Program. ― Ed.

It is a great pleasure for me to attend the launch ceremony of the United Nations Decade on Biodiversity 2011-2020 organized by the Republic of Korea. The aim of the Decade is engaging all the citizens of the world to protect life on Earth to ensure the implementation of the new biodiversity strategy for 2011-2020 adopted at the Nagoya Summit on Biodiversity in October by 18,500 participants representing the 193 Parties and their partners. 
Ahmed Djoghlaf
Ahmed Djoghlaf

I am very pleased to note that Republic of Korea, a leader in promoting the green economy, is among the first countries to celebrate this event. Indeed the people and the government of the Republic of Korea have so much to contribute to ensure the success of the Aichi targets. The National Institute of Biological Resources, under the Ministry of Environment, will continue to strive to systematically research, preserve, and manage biodiversity to help meet the targets.

Indeed biodiversity continues to be lost at unprecedented rate, undermining the capacity of the planet to continue sustaining life. Unfortunately this disaster is met with indifference and ignorance by the public at large, including policy makers. In a BBC study last October, members of the public were asked what biodiversity was. The most common answer was “some kind of washing powder”. According to the Eurobarometer, only 38 percent of Europeans know the meaning of the term, although another 28 percent have heard of it but do not know its meaning. The children’s bio-Index issued last year by the secretariat highlights the challenges arising from the nature deficit of the children of today, the citizen of tomorrow.

Building on the momentum generated from the International Year of Biodiversity, the Decade will spur efforts to meet the strategic plan’s targets and secure the future of our planet’ s biodiversity ― the basis of life on Earth. Throughout the U.N. Decade on Biodiversity, governments are encouraged to develop, implement and communicate national strategies for the implementation of the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity.

One of the most important elements of changing this situation is developing a broad consensus across society for the actions needed by individuals and communities. To achieve this, it is essential to continue creating links with global networks to advance the biodiversity agenda and encouraging civil society organizations to develop communication and outreach campaigns that support the strategic plan and increase awareness of the value of biodiversity. I am hopeful that this decade will see increased action at the regional level, particularly where causes of biodiversity loss are trans-boundary or where large biomes require management across several countries.

In addition to this great endeavor, this year’s celebration of the International Day for Biodiversity is being held under the theme “Forest Biodiversity.” Indeed 2011 as a whole has been declared the International Year of Forests to draw attention to the ongoing destruction of our most diverse terrestrial ecosystems. The celebration will also coincide with the Greenwave campaign aimed at reconnecting young people with nature.

The loss of biodiversity often reduces the productivity of ecosystems, thereby shrinking nature’s basket of goods and services, from which industry constantly draws. It destabilizes ecosystems, and weakens their ability to deal with natural disasters such as floods, droughts, and hurricanes, and with human-caused stresses, such as pollution and climate change.

Korea is no exception to these trends. While forests cover 64 percent of the country’s total land area, Korea’s fourth national report to the CBD states that “frequent incidents of natural disasters such as wildfires and long-term issues such as climate change are resulting in a deterioration of the habitats of rare or indigenous species, leading to a reduction in species diversity in forests.”

Allow me to ask Koreans to lead the way in changing these trends and help others start seeing biodiversity as a national asset that not only supports their overall wellbeing, but can also support livelihoods and fuel economic growth if it is wisely used. That is the message you must continue to spread over the course of this decade ― in Korea, and throughout the world. For it is only through the hard work and commitment of leading institutions such as NIBR that we stand a chance of success in the fight to save life on earth.

Korean President Lee Myung-bak has stated: “A Green Earth can only be achieved when the global village works together and starts acting now.”

These words carry great import coming from President Lee, who has helped his country lead by example when it comes to biodiversity. President Lee was recognized by Time magazine in 2007 as a “Hero of the Environment” for his “low-carbon, green growth” initiative, through which he secured national commitments on green investment at two percent of GDP. For these and other reasons we at the convention also honored President Lee, giving him the CBD Award during the 2010 International Year of Biodiversity.

The decade is our opportunity to integrate policies and practices into all aspects of our lives that can guarantee the conservation and sustainable use of the biodiversity, all while ensuring that the benefits from the use of genetic resources are shared with equity. This decade is our chance for “living in harmony with nature.”

By Ahmed Djoghlaf
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