– As delivered –

Statement by H.E. Volkan Bozkir, President of the 75th Session of the United Nations General Assembly

30 September 2020


Distinguished delegates,

Ladies and gentlemen,

Allow me to be direct: our existence on this planet depends entirely on our ability to protect the natural world around us.

And yet:

Every year, 13 million hectares of forest are lost.

1 million species are at risk of extinction.

And in the last 50 years, vertebrates – the category that includes everything from frogs to parrots to elephants – have declined by 68%.

If we continue down this path, we not only lose the beautiful riches of the world around us but jeopardize food security, water supplies, livelihoods, and our ability to fight diseases and face extreme events.

Excellencies, we must be pragmatic.

Our healthcare systems rely upon rich biodiversity.

Four billion people depend upon natural medicines for their health and 70% of drugs used for cancer treatments are drawn from nature.

More than half the world’s GDP, which is US$44 trillion, is dependent on nature.

It is no surprise then, that the World Economic Forum’s 2020 Global Risk Report, ranked biodiversity loss and ecosystem collapse among the top five threats facing humanity.

We are challenged by those threats right now.

COVID19, much like Zika, Ebola or HIV/AIDS, is amongst the 60% of infectious diseases considered zoonotic, originating from animal populations under severe environmental pressure.

The scientific community have been warning us about the spread of these viruses for decades.

Their message is clear: the degradation of local and regional ecosystems, unsustainable agricultural practices, and the exploitation of natural resources, are putting critical pressure on world ecosystems.

Clearly, we must heed the lessons we have learned and respect the world in which we live.

COVID-19 has presented us with the opportunity to do just that.

A green recovery, with an emphasis on protecting biodiversity, can address these concerns, mitigate risks, and build a more sustainable, resilient world.

Doing so can help unlock an estimated US$10 trillion in business opportunities, create 395 million jobs by 2030 and encourage a greener economy.

Today, at the first ever UN Summit of world leaders on Biodiversity, we set the stage for a global movement for Urgent Action on Biodiversity for Sustainable Development.

Volkan Bozkir

President of the UN General Assembly

Today, at the first ever UN Summit of world leaders on Biodiversity, we set the stage for a global movement for Urgent Action on Biodiversity for Sustainable Development.

We must use this opportunity to build political momentum towards the post-2020 global biodiversity framework, to be adopted at COP15 in Kunming, China.

Considering this and to ensure participation from all Member States who wish to engage, I have organized two spillover events in this Hall today to hear the recorded statements of your leaders and Ministers. 

All voices must be heard.

COP15 in Kunming must do for biodiversity what COP21 in Paris did for climate change.

It must elevate the discourse to the mainstream and place it firmly on the political agenda.

It must help ensure that biodiversity and ecosystem management are core to sustainable development.

It must provide a platform to private sector, to invest in the protection and promotion of biodiversity, not in its elimination.

And it must engage civil society and transform their role from an activist to a partner. 


I assure you that I will support and stand firmly behind this agenda.

I hope you recognize that there is every reason, either from a moral standpoint, or from an economic standpoint, and also from an existential standpoint, to protect biodiversity.

An investment in the health of our planet is an investment in our future; one that we leave for future generations.

I hope you will join me in standing for nature.

Thank you.