On International Mother Earth Day, Assembly Urges Solutions to Contemporary Environmental Challenges, Conditions for Enduring Peace, Development

22 April 2010

On International Mother Earth Day, Assembly Urges Solutions to Contemporary Environmental Challenges, Conditions for Enduring Peace, Development

22 April 2010
General Assembly
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Sixty-fourth General Assembly


83rd Meeting (AM)

On International Mother Earth Day, Assembly Urges Solutions to Contemporary


Environmental Challenges, Conditions for Enduring Peace, Development


Bolivia, Commended for Initiating Observance Last Year,

Says States Should Respect ‘Nature’s Rights’ Alongside Human Rights

The international community must find solutions to today’s environmental challenges to produce the right conditions for sustainable peace and development, said General Assembly President Ali Abdussalam Treki at a special meeting to commemorate International Mother Earth Day, with speakers stressing that those solutions must be equitable, fair and reasonable.

First celebrated on 22 April 2009, International Mother Earth Day was a time to recognize the ties that bound humans to nature in one system and created a forum where States could “bring better awareness in the world for life in harmony with Mother Earth”, he said.

He recalled a meeting held by the Assembly last month on the concept of “water for life”, which he said should be addressed along with other issues, such as the need for clean air and food security.  In addition, both the developed and developing world must come together to find ways to improve modes of production and sustainability of natural resources.

The representative of Japan, who was among more than two dozen speakers addressing today’s meeting, said the International Day was a very good occasion to deepen understanding on the common but differentiated responsibilities of States to protect the planet.  One area requiring immediate action was climate change, he said, calling for broad support for the Copenhagen Accord agreed last December under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change process.

Adding that one third of the world’s species was at risk of extinction if global warming trends continued, he drew attention to two meetings on biodiversity which he thought could move discussions forward -- a high-level meeting on biodiversity in September and the tenth Conference of Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity in October.

However, while many speakers agreed on the need for concerted action on climate change, several others, including Iran’s representative, noted that the political agreement produced in Copenhagen absolved States from taking the legally binding action they felt was needed to maintain the world’s temperatures at acceptable levels.

On that score, the representative of Grenada, speaking on behalf of the Alliance of Small Island States, applauded the resumption of the ad hoc working group on the Kyoto Protocol, and on long-term cooperative action under the Climate Change Convention, expressing hope that those moves would lead to a legally binding outcome at the sixteenth Conference of States Parties to be held in Cancun, Mexico, later this year.  Like others, she called for increased support for the climate change adaptation fund and for technology transfer to mitigate the consequences.

Throughout the meeting, numerous speakers praised the Bolivian Government for its role in initiating International Mother Earth Day.  Decades of irresponsible human activity, said Bolivia’s speaker, had consequences that went beyond even climate change.  Arguing that development had its limits, he said industrialized nations -- whose ecological footprint was three to five times greater than the global average -- must learn to curb their consumption, while developing countries must adopt a different model of development.

He explained that Bolivia was advocating several measures to address the imbalance caused by human activity to the natural world, which he said was made worse by a pattern of consumption that resulted in half the world’s wealth being held by 1 per cent of its total population.  The United Nations should monitor progress by States to address nature’s imbalance, he said, adding that States should respect “nature’s rights” even as they upheld human rights.

The representative of Argentina acknowledged the dedication shown by many States to revise consumption and production patterns in order to achieve sustainable development, but also noted “unfulfilled objectives and goals”.  He said the high-level dialogue for a mid-term review of the Millennium Development Goals, also scheduled for September, was a chance for States to make concrete recommendations to generate successful policies.  That meeting would be followed by the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development in 2012.

Brazil’s delegate was among those who stressed that initiatives to protect the environment were inseparable from efforts to combat poverty.  She expressed concern that, while much had been said about the promotion of sustainable development, implementation of already existing agreements on those issues continued to lag behind.  Brazil expected upcoming United Nations conferences to engage world leaders in support of sustainable development.

Turning the Assembly’s attention to Africa, the representative of Cape Verde, speaking on behalf of the African Group, said that the continent held a large share of the earth’s natural resources, and that it needed to ensure the sustainable development of those resources.  He referred to initiatives of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) to protect the environment, which demonstrated a clear political commitment to sustainably manage Africa’s environment.

Also speaking today were the representatives of Spain, Ecuador, Cuba, Nicaragua, Italy, Venezuela, Uruguay, Paraguay, China, Peru, Lebanon, Sri Lanka, Belarus, Tajikistan, El Salvador and Indonesia.

Earlier in the day, the Assembly re-elected Achim Steiner as Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) for a further four years, beginning 15 June.  It also re-elected António Manuel de Oliveira Guterres to the post of United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees for a further five years, also beginning 15 June, which drew praise from the representatives of Syria, the United States and Yemen.

The representative of Syria commended Mr. Guterres for his work on raising awareness of the plight of Iraqi refugees currently housed in Syria, Jordan and other neighbouring countries, while the representative of Yemen commended work done for Somali refugees.

Lauding Mr. Guterres’ reform efforts, the representative of the United States cited the introduction of needs-based budgeting, results-based management and steps taken on human resources reform.  Mr. Guterres’ commitment to addressing critical gaps in the areas of malaria, anaemia, malnutrition, reproductive health and gender-based violence had allowed the Refugee Commission to better incorporate those into its operational activities.

At the outset, Mr. Treki offered his condolences, on behalf of the General Assembly, to the Government and people of China for the loss of life and damage resulting from the recent earthquake.

The Assembly ended with a round of applause for Carmencita Dizon, from the Department for General Assembly Affairs and Conference Management -- a 30-year veteran of the United Nations -- who today oversaw the last meeting in her career.

The General Assembly will meet again at 10 a.m. tomorrow morning to conclude its discussion on International Mother Earth Day.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.