Conference on Biodiversity Rehabilitation and Sustainable Development: Organization for Industrial, Spiritual and Cultural Advancement International (OISCA International)

Keynote Speech by Mr. Sha Zukang, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, Secretary-General of the 2012 UN Conference on Sustainable Development

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Other commitments have made it impossible for me to attend this memorable occasion.  Nevertheless, let me start by congratulating OISCA-International on the commemoration of your 50th Anniversary.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The global population is soon expected to reach seven billion.  By mid-century it will be on the way to over nine billion. Meanwhile, biological diversity is being lost at an uncontrollable rate.

Recent research has indicated that the current rate of loss of terrestrial, freshwater and marine biodiversity is more rapid than at any time in human history. And it shows no indication of slowing. This loss forms part of a wider wave of environmental change driven by ever expanding human activities. These touch on virtually every component of our biosphere and the global climate system.

There is no question; humanity must urgently rebalance its relationship with Nature. Biodiversity underpins ecosystem functioning. It is essential for human well-being,

Along this vein, I would like to commend OISCA-International. Your efforts to intertwine livelihoods, environment conservation and education in a holistic model for sustainable development, have been innovative and forward-looking.  Congratulations.

It is a worthy aim that can contribute to reversing biodiversity loss.

I am sure your work will be a valuable contribution to the United Nations Conference for Sustainable Development, or Rio+20, as it is known. Rio+20 arrives at a time of human history when the world is facing multiple crises. The effects of the global financial crisis continue to hit the most vulnerable groups. Unemployment remains high, especially among the youth. The number of people who are undernourished has grown, while progress in reducing the prevalence of hunger has stalled or even reversed. About one in four children under the age of five is underweight, mainly due to lack of nutritious food, inadequate water, poor sanitation and health services, and insufficient care and feeding practices.

Against this backdrop, Rio+20 has to deliver on its objective to secure renewed political commitment for sustainable development.  To secure political commitment however, greater and more concerted effort is needed to ensure that green economy policies are people-centered.

Biodiversity has a central role in a green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication. A shift towards a green economy through investments in biodiversity must create jobs and economic wealth.

Furthermore, we must assimilate the knowledge, experience and expertise on biodiversity that developing countries have accumulated in recent years.  And our approach needs to be built from the bottom up, responding to national and local priorities and challenges.

To this end, in refining your appeal to Rio+20, I would like to encourage you, to highlight how your initiatives advance people-centered policies.

In the final analysis, a green economy should have two tracks.  There should be upward movement in living standards and human development across the globe.

And there also needs to be downward movement in our “ecological footprints”. Our consumption and production patterns must stop straining the earth’s vital life support systems.

I wish you all the best in your deliberations and I look forward to your contribution for Rio+20.

Thank you.