Closing remarks by UNEP Deputy Executive Director at the 6th World Conference on Sport and Environment

Sport, Peace and Environment
Nairobi, Kenya 9 - 11 November 2005

Honourable Stephen Kalonzo Musyoka, Minister of Environment and Natural Resources, represented by Permanent Secretary Professor George Okeyo Krhoda

Gunilla Lindberg, Vice-President, International Olympic Committee;

Pál Schmitt, Chairman, IOC Sport and Environment Commission;

Alfred Khangati, Vice-Chairman, Kenya National Olympic Committee;

Honoured athletes and guests from the world of sport,

Colleagues, ladies and gentlemen,

It is my honour to be with you today for the close of this conference.

On behalf of the Executive Director of UNEP I would like to thank the IOC for working so closely with us to make this conference a success.

I would also like to thank you for a fruitful partnership that goes back more than 10 years.

During that time, environmental issues have become front-page news across the world.

Partly this is because of increased awareness of the major challenges that face us.

But it is also because of the initiatives that are being taken by organizations such as the IOC, and by governments, business and industry, to incorporate environmental sustainability into their plans.

I think the IOC is a leader in this regard.

During this conference we have heard about the environment plans for the forthcoming Olympic Games in Torino , in 2006, in Beijing , in 2008, in Vancouver , in 2010, and in London , in 2012.

We also saw this year just how important the environmental component was in all the bids put forward for the 2012 Games, and I congratulate all the competing cities in this regard.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Dr. Pal Schmitt has just presented you with the Conference Declaration.

It is a clear call to action by this conference to build on the achievements we have made so far, and increase the momentum for promoting peace and sustainable development through sport.

At the opening of this conference, the Honourable Moody Awori, Vice President of the Republic of Kenya , gave us a poignant image of young children kicking a ball made of rags.

Yes, it spoke of the hard reality of poverty.

But it also spoke of the irrepressible spirit of youth, and the overwhelming attraction sport has for all people of all ages across all cultures.

Sport has enormous potential for good.

From the ancient spirit of Olympic Truce, to modern sports stars acting as ambassadors for peace and sustainable development, the power of sport to bring people together and to motivate has been demonstrated time and again.

I would like to give special thanks to the athletes from Kenya and beyond who have contributed so much to the success of this conference.

We have all seen just how well thought of these athletes are.

They have reached the top of their sports through talent, but also through application.

For many the road has been hard.

They understand first-hand the problems of poverty, the importance of education, the need to combat disease and the need to overcome the marginalization of women and girls.

Many have grown up in areas where the environment is under extreme pressure.

These issues are central to our work at the United nations. They form the core of the Millennium Development Goals, a set of objectives for sustainable development that governments have committed to achieving by 2015.

Reaching these goals is essential if we want to live in a world of peace and security.

Yesterday we heard from Professor Wangari Maathai, Nobel Peace Prize laureate and Assistant Minister for Environment and Natural Resources here in Kenya .

She spoke eloquently of the direct link between environment and security.

She also explained how she has personally seen how sport can be used to promote peace among communities, and how she has used people's interest in sport herself to motivate care for the environment.

We also heard from Liz Odera, who has worked so hard with us to make a success of the UNEP Nature and Sports Camp, which is bringing hope and important life skills to underprivileged children in Nairobi .

People like Liz Odera and Wangari Maathai are an inspiration to us all.

Yesterday Professor Maathai told us a story, of how a small hummingbird refused to accept that it couldn't make a difference, flying endlessly back and forth to a stream to try to put out a forest fire, even though all the other animals stood round saying it was no use trying.

Professor Maathai did not say whether this story had a happy ending.

But the moral of the tale is that we all have a role to play, and that we must have faith in our ability to make a difference.

We must be able to say to ourselves, ‘it is worth the effort'.

Our guests from the world of sport know the value of effort, of never giving up.

They provide an example we can all follow.

We also hope that they can be ambassadors for all the values we believe in: peace, development, and a clean and healthy environment.

Ladies and gentlemen,

You have graced us with your presence here at the UN's headquarters in Africa .

I hope you have enjoyed your stay with us.

I also hope you will go away better informed and inspired to renew your efforts to incorporate the principles of environmental sustainability into all your sports work, and in your own lives.

You have just heard the Conference Declaration.

It acknowledges the advances that have been made.

And it throws down a challenge to build on those advances do even better.

I urge you to take its recommendations and encouragement to heart for the sake of all the young people of this world who need a healthy environment to grow up in—and to play in.

Thank you.


 

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