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Rede von UNDP-Administrator Mark Malloch Brown anläßlich der Podiumsdiskussion "Learning from Community Action - Biodiversity and the Millennium Development Goals" und der Verleihung des "Equator Prize" am 19. Mai 2004

Thank you Mr. Ambassador. Distinguished guests, Delegates to the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, Members of the Diplomatic Corps, and Friends,

I am very pleased, as Administrator of UNDP, to address you on this auspicious occasion as we open this Global Dialogue on Biodiversity and the Millennium Development Goals.

Our reason for coming together today is two-fold. First, we are gathered at the German Mission to the UN to commemorate the "International Day for Biodiversity" - an important day in the international calendar which is officially held on May 22nd each year. To mark this occasion we will spend the afternoon discussing some of the most pressing issues facing the global community today related to our planet's biological resources and poverty reduction. We are also gathered here to recognize the finalists and winners of the Equator Prize 2004 and the remarkable work they are doing to promote conservation and development.

Holding this event on the International Day for Biodiversity is especially significant for UNDP because it underscores our strong focus on, and dedication to, environmental issues.

It is very heartening to see that the linkage between poverty alleviation and environmental sustainability is becoming increasingly clear and appreciated. For UNDP, and for our partner organizations [for example, in the Equator Initiative our partners are: government of Canada and Germany, BrasilConnects, Conservation International, IDRC, IUCN, The Nature Conservancy, Television Trust for the Environment (TVE), UN Foundation] the link between the environment and poverty alleviation has long been an area of intense interest and concerted effort.

Impact of Environmental Degradation on the Poor

Although it is an issue of global concern and urgency, the need to connect conservation and poverty alleviation efforts is especially pressing in the developing world. It is in the poorest nations that people depend most intimately on the natural environment for their livelihoods - for food, medicines and income.

Given this linkage, it is from the poorest nations themselves that many of the most effective and realistic sustainability solutions will likely come. One of our goals at UNDP - through programmes such as the Equator Initiative - is to work with local people to ensure that their experiences inform and drive the policies that affect them.

Today you will hear stories and experiences from Equator Prize Winners from Colombia, India and Namibia. These impressive local initiatives exemplify the powerful role that community action can play in conservation and development. The goal of real sustainable development can truly be achieved through the hard work and commitment of local communities such as these.

The MDGs

The Millennium Development Goals, or MDGs, are derived from the United Nations Millennium Declaration of September 2000, where they were adopted by over 189 nations.

These ambitious goals lay out a practical and far-sighted roadmap for achieving sustainable development for the global family. The local stories and lessons that you will hear today remind us that the MDGs must be given life and be rooted in human experience if they are to be achieved.

On the international stage, the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity are increasingly seen as vital to the full achievement of the poverty reduction targets laid out in the Millennium Development Goals and to wider sustainable development because poverty and biodiversity are intimately linked. As I mentioned, the poor, especially in rural areas, depend on biodiversity for food, fuel, shelter, medicines and livelihoods. Biodiversity also provides the critical 'ecosystem services' on which society depends, including air and water purification, soil conservation, disease control, and reduced vulnerability to natural disasters such as floods, droughts and landslides. Biodiversity loss exacerbates poverty, and likewise, poverty is a major threat to biodiversity.

Ultimately the success of this shared vision will be measured at the local level. Although the MDGs are couched in international language, their achievement will be highly dependent on the success of local struggles to battle poverty and biodiversity loss. Together we must assist communities in this challenge.

We are also reminded today that much of the global community's successes in promoting sustainable development have been achieved through effective partnerships - partnerships with governments, NGOs, community organizations, and the private sector.

For instance, today's event would not have been possible without, in particular, the dedicated effort and significant contributions of GTZ, BMZ: the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, the German Mission to the United Nations, GEO Magazine, as well as Canada, Capacity Building International and the UNDP-GEF Small Grants Programme.

Indeed, Germany has been a strong leader in the field of sustainable development and, in particular on Biodiversity issues. Speaking on behalf of UNDP, I would like to formally acknowledge and thank them for their commitment and dedication to these vital issues.

I am also delighted that Equator Prize winners for 2004 are here with us:

  • Mr. Ezequiel Vitonás, Proyecto Nasa, Colombia
  • Dr. Vanaja Ramprasad, Green Foundation, India
  • Mr. Benny Roman, Torra Conservancy, Namibia

And that the following distinguished panelists will also join us later:

  • Dr. Thomas Lovejoy President, Heinz Center,
  • Dr. Mark Plotkin, Director, Amazon Conservation Trust,
  • Ms. Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, Executive Director, Tebtebba Foundation,
  • Prof. Jeffrey Sachs, Director, Earth Institute at Columbia , and
  • Prof. Dr. Manfred Niekisch, First Vice-President of the German League for Nature and Environment will be speaking.

I would like to take this opportunity to welcome you all to today's event and thank you for your attendance. Welcome.

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