Remarks by H.E. Mr. Abdulla Shahid, President of the 76th session of the United Nations General Assembly
22 April 2022
Ladies and Gentlemen.
Thank you for joining this year’s Interactive Dialogue on Harmony with Nature, and for helping commemorate International Mother Earth Day.
This year’s Dialogue is being convened under the theme “Harmony with Nature and Biodiversity: Ecological economics and Earth-centered law”.
The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development calls for a world which lives in harmony with nature, where all living species are protected, in support of more sustainable development.
Yet, we continue to be far behind on this goal; it is clear that a shift in our thinking, in our approach, in our development path, is necessary.
Our laws and policies must reflect the current concept and understanding of rights. This includes the right to exist in a healthy environment, one necessitating harmony with nature and its ecosystems, and acknowledgement of the fact that our actions today have implications for tomorrow, that the rights of future generations are protected or jeopardized by our actions or inaction today.
Scientists have been clear: our continued and careless encroachment into the world’s ecosystems is not only damaging the planet’s biodiversity, but also endangering our own health and well-being.
These trends have been ongoing since the industrial revolution. In the span of less than two centuries, we have destroyed entire ecosystems; brought about the extinction of several species; and caused rapid and unprecedented changes to the planet’s climate.
We are wrecking havoc on our own home – the only home we have, the one home we all share.
We have an opportunity now to redirect our development efforts and to rectify some of the harm we have done.
But such approaches require us to listen to, and take inspiration from the planet that sustains us. It requires that we recognize the centrality of nature in the context of sustainable development, ensuring that every effort we take is aimed at safeguarding our biodiversity and protecting our ecosystems.
This covers the full spectrum of human activities, from the creation of jobs and livelihoods, to access to social services, to the construction of habitats and cities.
In short, harmony with nature must echo throughout and across the SDGs, and be backed by laws and governance that ensure adherence.
And this can and must start with education. Imparting awareness and knowledge is essential to empowering and engaging people. It is essential to make informed decisions, and informed choices.
As we recognize Mother Earth Day, let us not shy away from accepting responsibility for the reckless behaviours that we have undertaken.
Let us recognize the urgency of collective responsibility to shift to green economies that help meet the social and environmental needs of present and future generations.
Let us embrace education, technology, and science that helps safeguard a healthy planet for everyone, including the young people who will inherit this planet.
And let us turn to the tools and targets of the Paris Agreement and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development as our blueprints for a sustainable recovery from COVID-19, and to a more harmonized relationship with the world we call home.
I look forward to today’s interactive dialogue, and I thank you.