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On International Biodiversity Day, UN officials urge protection of key resources

On International Biodiversity Day, UN officials urge protection of key resources

Marking the International Day for Biodiversity, United Nations officials today stressed the value of the Earth's many and varied species and urged support for international efforts designed to protect them.

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan called biological diversity "one of the pillars of human life," noting that it stabilizes the Earth's climate, renews soil fertility and provides goods and services that contribute to material well-being. Despite their importance, habitats and species were being destroyed at an unprecedented rate by human activity, including unsustainable patterns of production and consumption, he said.

Mr. Annan stressed that the main legal weapon to fight this challenge was the Convention on Biological Diversity. That treaty had achieved much since its adoption 10 years ago, including "significant inroads towards the fair and equitable sharing of the benefits generated by the utilization of genetic resources," but much remained to be done. He called governments that have not yet done so to ratify the Convention and its Biosafety Protocol.

"I urge the entire international community to focus urgent and creative attention on the devastating impact of human activities on the rich diversity of life with which human beings share the planet," Mr. Annan said.

For his part, Klaus Toepfer, the Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), used the occasion to highlight the importance of forest biodiversity to the global environment and to human well-being.

"Forests contain some of the most vibrant ecosystems on the planet; they are home to a wondrous variety of birds, animals, insects and plants," he said. "Forests provide fuel, materials for building, natural medicines and foods such as nuts and berries. They also play a critical role in regulating river flows and - by soaking up carbon dioxide from the atmosphere - the climate."

Hamdallah Zedan, the Executive Secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity, agreed that forests furnish a range of benefits and services. "By conserving and sustainably using these invaluable ecosystems we can also contribute to the goals of social equity and economic development," he observed. "Forest related policies and programmes should provide for local needs, national priorities and international commitments."