Remarks by Bakary Kante, Director of the Division of Environmental Law and Conventions of the United Nations Environment Programme at the International Tiger Conservation Forum on behalf of Achim Steiner, UNEP Executive Director
St. Petersburg, Russia, 22 November 2010
2010 is the UN's International Year of Biodiversity - the year in which nations pledged to substantially reverse the rate of loss of biodiversity.
This did not happen - scientists tell us that we are amidst a sixth wave of extinctions.
The tiger is emblematic of a global crisis and an international challenge that is about the fate of all life on Earth: humans included.
But 2010 has proven that humanity can rise to the challenge. The recently concluded meeting of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in Nagoya, Japan demonstrates this.
Countries put aside differences and came together to agree on inspiring new actions and targets to complete a job unfinished.
After 20 years of paralysis, they also agreed to an international regime on the access and benefit sharing of genetic resources.
Developed nations from Spain to France and Japan to Norway came forward with finance across a wide range of biodiversity issues.
The economic importance of biodiversity-and of ecosystems such as forests, soils and coral reefs-to rich and poorer nations alike moved from the fringes into the centre of political and developmental debate.
This is in large part through the work of the UNEP-hosted Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB) which has been putting the hard numbers on the table.
The International Tiger Forum, organized by the Government of Russia; the City of St Petersburg; the World Bank; the Global Environment Facility and WWF-Russia, is part of this remarkable year.
It expresses a new level of political will - perhaps the missing link needed to bridge the ambition, the experience, funding and the hopes of so many involved with the fate of the tiger and the decisive action so urgently needed.
UNEP stands ready with its skill sets and its experience to assist this endeavor.
The pioneering UNEP project to improve the conservation of, for example the critically endangered Siberian Crane - funded by GEF and involving countries from China to Russia and India, Iran to Khazakstan underlines that if a pro-people policy is adopted success can be achieved.
Since 2001, we have been working with a wide range of partners from governments and NGOs to communities and law enforcement organizations such as Interpol on boosting the prospects for human-kind's closet relatives through the Great Ape Survival Partnership.
Strengthening cross border customs and law enforcement between countries such as the Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda has been a key element and part of UNEP's wider work in the area - for example in respect to the issue of illegal trade in ozone damaging chemicals.
It will also be key to the successful outcome of tiger conservation within and between range states.
The role of the judiciary, from lawyers and barristers to senior judges and attorney generals, will also be vital.
UNEP has decades of experience in building the capacity of developing country legal systems in terms of environmental law including via the 2002 Johannesburg Principles on the Role of Law in Sustainable Development.
Experience and principles being evolved to support the Rio+20 summit in Brazil in 2012: experience and principles that can support the efforts to save the tiger.
Finally, the full and cooperative implementation and strengthening of the biodiversity-related conventions for which UNEP is the secretariat needs to be part of our collective efforts.
I refer of course to the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS).
These are the international treaties, with others, that governments have established to deal with issues such as the threat to the tiger and thousands upon thousands of other species.
if the world loses the tiger in the wild when it could have saved it, we will have lost more than just a charismatic animal - we will have lost a key species in the web of life that makes humanity's existence possible in the first place.
So there is a lot at stake.
UNEP and its international network of partners and institutions fully backs the aims and objective of the International Tiger Forum which has not comre a moment to late.
It is part of the overall efforts to make 2010 a landmark year in terms of a decisive response towards bringing new levels of intelligence and transformational creativity to the sustainable management of our natural world.