Press Conference to Commemorate International Day of Biological Diversity

22 May 2013

Press Conference to Commemorate International Day of Biological Diversity

22 May 2013
Press Conference
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Press Conference to Commemorate International Day of Biological Diversity


Biodiversity and ecosystem services have an important role to play in attaining the sustainable development goals relating to food security, water, energy and poverty eradication, the Executive Secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity said at Headquarters today.

Addressing a press conference to commemorate the International Day of Biological Diversity, Braulio de Souza Dias said that his office tried every year to raise awareness of biodiversity’s importance for all.  It had been promoting the idea of biodiversity as a key element of many of the discussions taking place in the United Nations today about sustainable development, especially those of the Open Working Group on the sustainable development goals, which was dealing with such issues as food security, water and land degradation, among others.

Noting this year’s theme, “The links between biodiversity and water”, he said that his office was collaborating with a number of other United Nations agencies in looking into how enhancing collaboration could provide better ways to implement the agenda on water.  Contrary to the traditional way of doing things — or “working in silos”, whereby each of the Millennium Development Goals was dealt with in isolation — they should all be addressed together because they all benefitted from biodiversity and ecosystem services.  He called for new, innovative, cheaper and more cost-effective ways to deal with issues of water and biodiversity.

“So we have got to think beyond the traditional engineers’ solutions,” he continued, explaining:  “Engineers, if you ask them, they will tell you, ‘Let’s build another dam, let’s build a canal, let’s build a wall.’”  The powerful Hurricane Sandy, which hit the north-eastern United States at the end of 2012, clearly demonstrated that even such a rich part of the country was quite vulnerable to extreme climatic events, he said, pointing out that it was the surge of water that had caused the major damage.  He explained that, because people had been developing land use by covering the land with cement and other ways, that had had the effect of reducing the capacity of ecosystems to absorb excess water.  The outcome had been more floods and more destruction of lives and infrastructure.

“What we are promoting is a more integrated view to deliver these sustainable development goals,” he said.  Instead, people must look more to ecosystems as part of the solution instead of seeing the Millennium Development Goals in isolation.  “Ecosystems can play an important role through their biodiversity and ecosystem services for the food security agenda, for the water agenda, for the energy agenda and for the poverty-eradication agenda.”  Doing that in a more integrated way could lead to cost savings and result in more “win-win solutions”, which were not only good for the environment, but also for the people.

Responding to questions, he said he agreed with the Secretary-General’s statement that “we live in an increasingly water-insecure world”, and with a 2000 United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) report warning that nations would be fighting wars over water in another 10 or 15 years.  The dire CIA prediction was indeed a possibility because, unfortunately, the world still took a “business-as-usual” approach to events, for the most part.  That attitude only led to further destruction of natural resources and ecosystems, and interrupted the natural cycles, including the water cycle.  It, therefore, could not be sustained.

Secretary-General Ban’s message for the International Day states in part:  “We live in an increasingly water-insecure world where demand often outstrips supply and where water quality often fails to meet minimum standards.  Under current trends, future demands for water will not be met.”

* *** *

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