International efforts to promote security, development and human rights, and to pursue sustainable development, would all be in vain if environmental degradation and natural resource depletion continue unabated, according to United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan.
In a message to the International Conference on Environment, Peace and the Dialogue among Civilizations and Cultures, the Secretary-General said the international community – although often divided by faith, culture or history – was bound by its common humanity and its common dependence on the environment.
"We need clean water, fertile soils and pure air if we are to build a world of peace, freedom and dignity for all," he said in a message to the gathering in Tehran, Iran, delivered by Klaus Toepfer, Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP).
Mr. Annan noted that the environment was one area were countries were cooperating more extensively and more progressively, adding that although environmental degradation and competition for scare resources were potential flashpoints for conflict, history has repeatedly shown that they were often catalysts for cooperation.
"Problems of shared resources regularly produce shared solutions," he declared. "In such solutions – in such dialogue – lie the seeds of reconciliation, mutual understanding and peace."