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Rede von Botschafter Dr. Pleuger anläßlich der Podiumsdiskussion "Learning from Community Action - Biodiversity and the Millennium Development Goals" und der Verleihung des "Equator Prize" am 19. Mai 2004

Administrator, Ambassador Niclas Rivas, President of the Kerry Center Dr. Tom Lovejoy, Prof. Niekisch, Executive Director of GEO TV Martin Meister, GTZ-Director Andreas Gettkant, Vice Presidents of the UN Foundation Melinda Kimble and Jean-Claude Faby, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

On behalf of the German Government I am delighted to welcome you to the Permanent Mission of Germany to the United Nations for this year's Prize Winning Ceremony of the Equator Initiative and the Panel Discussion on Biodiversity. It is a particular pleasure for me to co-host this event together with UNDP, the Partners of the Equator Initiative, GEO Magazine and GTZ.

The motto of today's gathering "Learning from the Locals: Biodiversity and the Millennium Development Goals" is meant to highlight two key messages. Firstly, the recognition that - as UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan has pointed out - unless biodiversity is preserved, achieving the Millennium Development Goals throughout the world is going to be more difficult, if not impossible. Secondly, the crucial role local communities play as care-takers of biodiversity and the importance of the contribution they make to its global preservation.

Biodiversity is the capital on which our future, everyone's future, is built - whether we live in the developing world or the industrialized countries. Nearly 90% of animal and plant species are to be found in the developing countries. For the mostly poor people living in these countries biodiversity is vital to their livelihoods. The natural habitat of these communities is a key resource, supplying them with food and medicines as well as building materials. Marketing products derived from this habitat provide particularly poor people in the developing countries with an additional source of income. For people in the industrialized countries biodiversity is a vital asset as well, a source of innovative developments and improved products in the food and pharmaceutical industries, for example.

The loss of biodiversity we are seeing today is unprecedented and has already reached dramatic proportions. People in the developing countries, whose livelihoods depend on their local habitat, are particularly hard hit by this loss. There is a direct link between the loss of biodiversity and deteriorating living standards particularly of local communities in developing countries.

At the 1992 UN Conference on Environment and Development, the international community acknowledged its responsibility for biodiversity by adopting the Convention on Biological Diversity, the CBD. Now 188 states are parties to the Convention and subscribe to the 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.

Ladies and gentlemen, the international community has recognized that poverty reduction is a major global political challenge. At the UN's Millennium Summit in September 2000 Heads of State and Government agreed on a set of common goals - the Millennium Development Goals - aimed at reducing poverty, hunger, disease, illiteracy, discrimination against women and the degradation of natural resources. By 2015 the number of people living in extreme poverty is to be halved. Clearly biodiversity has a major role to play in achieving the Millennium Development Goals, for it is one of the keys to combating poverty effectively. Its importance goes beyond the "environmental target" - ensuring environmental sustainability - proclaimed in Goal number seven. Biodiversity is also crucial to eradicating hunger around the world, for example, Goal number one. Germany's contribution to reducing poverty and hunger around the world as spelled out in the Federal Government's Program of Action 2015 highlights also the importance of biodiversity in ensuring food security and safeguarding the environment.

For many years now biodiversity has been an important dimension of Germany's development cooperation with our partners. The first projects in this field were launched in the early eighties. Germany is now providing around 70 million euro a year through the Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development for projects in the field of biodiversity. We are currently supporting some 180 projects designed to assist our partners in safeguarding biodiversity and exploiting the natural habitat on a sustainable basis.

At the multilateral level, we support a range of activities designed to preserve biodiversity. Germany is the third largest donor to the Global Environment Facility (GEF), providing 11.5% of its budget, of which an average of 40% is spent on activities to preserve biodiversity and exploit the natural habitat on a sustainable basis.

In our development cooperation program we recognized early on the key role played by local communities in the preservation of biodiversity and sustainable habitat exploitation. Local communities living in areas with a rich natural habitat generally have a keen awareness and understanding of its value. Yet, they also tend to be the hardest hit by environmental degradation, natural disasters and health hazards caused by environmental pollution, as they often lack the means to take appropriate counter-action or protect themselves and their health. Many local communities have found innovative and effective ways of coping with the challenges posed by environmental change as well as novel approaches to preserve the natural habitat on which their livelihoods depend. They not only build better lives for themselves but also ensure that biodiversity is preserved for future generations.

The Equator Initiative has set itself the goal of publicizing and seeking greater recognition for the role local communities play in preserving biodiversity, sustainably managing the habitat and combating poverty effectively. The UNDP, the United Nations Foundation, the Canadian Government, IUCN, The Nature Conservancy, Conservation International, TVE, BrazilConnects, the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, GTZ and GEO Magazine have joined forces to support such local success stories and make them known to a wider public. One example of the Initiative's activities are the Equator Awards. Entries for the Awards were invited last June, and in February of this year representatives of the 26 finalists attended the seventh CBD Conference in Kuala Lumpur, where the seven award-winning entries were chosen.

Ladies and gentlemen, I am delighted to welcome here today three representatives of the award-winning projects: Dr Vanaja Ramprasad from the Green Foundation in India, Ezequiel Vitonás from the Proyecto Nasa in Colombia and Benny Roman from the Torra Conservancy in Namibia. The three initiatives are active in very different fields, but there is one thing they have in common: by helping local communities to exploit their natural habitat on a sustainable basis, they are helping to safeguard their livelihoods and long-term future. This work is a splendid example of what achieving the Millennium Development Goals means in practice and at local level.

Today's gathering is part of the run-up to the International Day for Biological Diversity on 22 May, as was the opening of the GEO-exhibition "Focus on Nature" at the Visitors Lobby in the UN Headquartors organized by the same partners. I encourage you to visit this extraordinary photo exhibition. The motto this year of Biodiversity Day is "Biodiversity: Food, Water and Health for All". This is intended to demonstrate the determination of the parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity to play their part in achieving the Millennium Development Goals. That shows just how important the issues are which we will be exploring in the discussion to follow.

Let me thank all partners, UNDP, the Equator Initiative, GEO and GTZ for their joint work to bring this event about - truly a multistakeholder partnership! Our special thanks go to UNDP - and you allow me to specially thank Eileen de Ravin, Charles Mc Neill, Sean Southey - as well as Cristina Hoyos from GTZ without whose personal devotion it would not have been possible.

I wish you success and look forward to a very stimulating discussion.

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