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Eöffnungsrede von Kerstin Müller (Staatsministerin im Auswärtigen Amt)

Under Secretary General Diabre, Ms Eichhorn, Mr Umana, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am delighted to welcome you this evening on behalf of the German Government to the opening of the exhibition "Focus on Nature/ People, Forests and Biodiversity". I am particularly pleased that this opening is taking place during the current Session of the Commission on Sustainable Development. The pictures focus in an impressive manner on the CSD's goal: fostering sustainable development in all countries of the world without jeopardizing the sources of life on our planet.

Ladies and gentlemen, the earth's biodiversity is an invaluable asset. Its deterioration has already reached dramatic proportions. Ecosystems of global importance are at risk all over the world. In many regions of the world, biodiversity is depleted so much that it is no longer possible to provide clean water, air or fertile soil. The consequences of the worldwide destruction of nature have long since become an economic problem. Biodiversity is not distributed evenly across the planet. Nearly 90% of animal and plant species live in developing countries. For the mostly poor people living there, biodiversity represents one, indeed the key resource on which life depends, in particular a source of food, medicine and building material. Furthermore, biodiversity offers poor people in developing countries in particular an additional source of income through the marketing of products derived from biodiversity. The loss of biodiversity thus leads directly to a decline in living conditions among the local population in developing countries. Of course, the deterioration in biodiversity also has an impact on us in industrialized countries. Often we can only try to compensate for what can no longer be produced by degraded ecosystems by employing considerable technical - that is to say financial - resources. However, we should remember that we are also depriving ourselves of future opportunities by thoughtlessly destroying nature: for biodiversity is - thanks to its potential for the development of new foodstuffs and medicines - a valuable asset for the future of everyone.

At the 1992 UN Conference on Environment and Development held in Rio de Janeiro, the international community acknowledged its responsibility for biodiversity. One significant outcome of this Conference was the Convention on Biological Diversity, the CBD. With its three objectives, all of equal importance,

  • the conservation of biological diversity,
  • the sustainable use of its components
  • and the fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising out of the utilization of genetic resources, so-called benefit sharing,

it provides a framework for preserving biodiversity in the future. The fact that there are now 188 states parties to the CBD shows that governments all over the world are aware of their responsibility for the preservation of biodiversity.

Ladies and gentlemen, the preservation of biodiversity plays a prominent role in the Federal Republic of Germany's development cooperation. For we regard the protection and sustainable use of biodiversity as an important key to reducing poverty. The first projects began way back in the early eighties, thus long before the Convention on Biological Diversity was adopted. At present, Germany makes available roughly 70 million euro each year via the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development for financial and technical cooperation projects in the field of biodiversity. Within the framework of bilateral development cooperation, we are supporting, in about 180 projects, the efforts of our partner countries to protect and sustainably use their biodiversity. Germany is also participating at multilateral level in measures to preserve biodiversity. For example, Germany, with a share of 11.5%, is the largest donor to the Global Environment Facility (GEF).

Ladies and gentlemen, biodiversity was also one of the main issues negotiated at the World Summit on Sustainable Development held in Johannesburg in 2002. The Johannesburg Plan of implementation provides that a significant reduction in the current rate of loss of biological diversity should be achieved by 2010. In order to attain this ambitious goal, the commitment of many different players is necessary, as well as alliances among strong partners. For that reason, too, I am very pleased that such a large number of people and organizations have made this evening possible by acting as organizers. I would like to thank the Equator Initiative, UNDP, the German magazine GEO and the Wildlife Conservation Society which have organized this event in cooperation with the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, the Gesellschaft für Technische Zusammenarbeit (GTZ) and Germany's Permanent Mission to the United Nations. We are pleased to invite you to the German House again on 19 May for the presentation of this year's Equator Initiative Awards and for a panel discussion on biodiversity.

The exhibition which we are opening here today consists of two parts: firstly the "Focus on Nature" which was assembled by the magazine GEO and the Gesellschaft für Technische Zusammenarbeit prior to the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg. "Focus on Nature" is supplemented by the GTZ special exhibition "People, Forests, Development" which documents concrete projects and the work with local communities in tropical rain forests in western and central Africa.

With the help of these impressive pictures, we want to raise visitors' awareness of the earth's biodiversity and the threats facing it. At the same time, it is intended to demonstrate that although developing countries will be hit hardest by the loss of biodiversity, there are many communities in these countries which are meeting the challenge of a changing environment and are developing innovative approaches to sustainable development. In this way, these local communities are helping to improve living conditions and to break the vicious circle of poverty and environmental destruction. Three objectives are thus being achieved simultaneously: protecting natural resources, reducing poverty and preserving development opportunities for coming generations.

Thank you for your attention. I wish the exhibition every success.

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