– As delivered –

Statement by H.E. Mrs. María Fernanda Espinosa Garcés, President of the 73rd Session of the UN General Assembly

22 April 2019

H.E. Ms. Cynthia Silva Maturana, Deputy Minister of Environment, Biodiversity, Climate Change and Forest Management and Development of Bolivia,

H.E. Mr. Mr. Syed Akbaruddin, Permanent Representative of India,

H.E. Mr. Luis Gallegos Chiriboga, Permanent Representative of Ecuador,

H.E. Mr. Masud Bin Momen, Permanent Representative of Bangladesh,

Ms. Markie Miller, Lake Erie Bill of Rights Initiative,


First, allow me to express my regret and solidarity with the Government and People of Sri Lanka and the victims of the heinous terrorist attacks, that took place this Easter. I strongly condemn these events. Terrorism and violence, in any of its forms, are not justified and cannot go unpunished

Ladies and Gentlemen:

Welcome to this Interactive Dialogue.

This is a very special year, since we are commemorating the tenth anniversary of Resolution 63/278, through which the General Assembly established each April the 22nd as the “International Mother Earth Day”.

I wish to acknowledge all the States and other relevant stakeholders who have worked tirelessly for this theme to be treated by the General Assembly and thus renovate our commitment with the need to protect the planet and its ecosystems.


Today is a day for reflection, but also for commitment.

Human actions are dramatically altering life on our planet.

Environmental degradation is worsening in all countries and regions. We deforest forests and jungles; we dam rivers; we drain wetlands, we pollute the oceans, the air and the atmosphere; all of this while hundreds of species become extinct every year –it is estimated that 60% of vertebrate animals have disappeared since 1970.

We are living a climate crisis, with extreme temperatures and increasingly frequent and intense phenomena.  In 2018 alone, these phenomena affected more than 60 million people around the world, such as cyclone Idai which recently devastated Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe.

Our Mother Earth is in great danger. We, as human beings, have put her in that danger. It is time to look after her, to repair it, to protect and restore her life cycles, to help her heal, so she can continue to create the life she harbors and breeds.

In recent years, many States have acknowledged that nature has rights: Ecuador has included nature in its National Constitution; and the legislation in Bolivia enshrines the principle of comprehensive development in harmony and balance with Mother Earth; and a recent historical decision of the Supreme Court of Justice of Colombia stipulated that the Amazonia has the same rights as a person.

At the same time, in recent years, we have seen how the idea of the interdependence of the protection of the environment and human rights has grown. States must guarantee a risk-free, clean, healthy and sustainable environment so the full enjoyment of human rights can be made effective, including the rights to life, the highest possible level of physical and mental health, having adequate living standards, food, water and sanitation, housing, culture, development and, of course, the right to a healthy environment, which also is enshrined in most legislation worldwide and in numerous international and regional instruments.

The global consciousness about the right of nature to exist and be protected is growing. This is inspiring, for present and future generations.


A sustainable world, like the one we hope to achieve with the 2030 Agenda, requires us to rethink the way we interact with nature.

Finding balance between the needs of human beings and the resources that Mother Earth provides us does not mean we should not use them, it rather means stopping the irrational, unlimited and unsustainable exploitation of those resources and build a development model in which the thresholds established by nature are observed and nature’s capability to regenerate and is right to exist can be maintained.

In that context, we must redefine the relationships between economy, society and nature and to achieve it, a cultural change is urgent. This is one of the greatest challenges faced by our generation and is a test of solidarity towards the generations to come.

We need urgent answers, with collective actions and we need to build new compacts to responsibly and fairly manage the common goods of humanity.

Caring for nature is also caring for people. Let us respect the nature’s life cycles and let us contribute to maintain the immense biological diversity of the world and make it prosper. Let us renew our relationship with Mother Earth, we belong to her and we come from her. Let us practice a world vision that respects our inheritance, our cultural and natural patrimonies.

María Fernanda Espinosa Garcés

President of the UN General Assembly

There are two topics that require special attention:

Firstly, education is a key driving force to create a better and more sustainable future. Young people and children must acquire the knowledge, competencies and values necessary to forge that future. Topics such as climate change, the conservation of biodiversity, maintaining forests and sustainable production and consumption patterns must be part of all educational programs. We need the next generations to also accept their responsibility and we need to make them feel part of the solution, starting now.

Secondly, we must acknowledge climate change as the existential threat of our time. The latest report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) urges us to make unprecedented changes at a social and global level to limit global warming to 1.5°C and thus avoid catastrophic humanitarian, economic and environmental consequences.

As the young activist Greta Thunberg said a few days ago when addressing the European Parliament when she referred to the tragic fire of Notre Dame Cathedral: “Let us hope that the foundations of our nature and our humanity are stronger, and for that, we need to act now”. 

States must significantly increase their climate action and environmental protection, which requires the necessary resources, capabilities and technology. But above all, it requires our shared action and responsibility. The States, society, and the private sector must do their part. We all have the obligation to look after our planet and protect it. We must all take care of our shared assets.

The truth is that only by means of comprehensively protecting Mother Earth can we fulfill the commitments and obligations undertaken in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the Paris Agreement, the Addis Ababa Agenda and the numerous international environmental and human rights instruments, starting with principle 1 of Rio 1992, according to which all human beings have the right to a healthy and productive life in harmony with nature.


Caring for nature is also caring for people. Let us respect the nature’s life cycles and let us contribute to maintain the immense biological diversity of the world and make it prosper. Let us renew our relationship with Mother Earth, we belong to her and we come from her. Let us practice a world vision that respects our inheritance, our cultural and natural patrimonies.

As Albert Camus said: “real generosity towards the future consists in giving all to the present”.

Thank you.