Speeches - May 2005 - Secretary-General’s Message on Environment, Peace and Cultural Dialogue - United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)
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Secretary-General’s Message on Environment, Peace and Cultural Dialogue

In September, world leaders will meet at the United Nations in New York to review implementation of the Millennium Declaration. In preparation for this Summit, I issued a report, In Larger Freedom, Towards Development, Security and Human Rights For All, in which I warned that all our efforts to promote security, development and human rights, and to pursue sustainable development, will be in vain if environmental degradation and natural resource depletion continue unabated.

I therefore welcome the initiative of the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran in organizing this conference to highlight the link between environment and peace, and the importance of dialogue among civilizations and cultures. Although often divided by faith, culture or history, we are bound by our common humanity and, like all species on Earth, by our common dependence on the environment. We need clean water, fertile soils and pure air if we are to build a world of peace, freedom and dignity for all.

The recently published Millennium Ecosystem Assessment confirmed that almost all the planet’s important ecosystem services are in decline, presenting a major obstacle to achieving the Millennium Development Goals. We also know that many of the world’s indigenous cultures and languages, which are found overwhelmingly in the most biologically rich areas, are threatened. These cultures not only depend on biodiversity, they actively protect it. Arresting their decline must be a priority.

My report for the Summit stresses that the cause of larger freedom can be advanced only if states work together. The environment is an area where states are indeed cooperating more extensively and more progressively. Moreover, although environmental degradation and competition for scarce resources are potential flashpoints for conflict, history has repeatedly shown that they are more often catalysts for cooperation. Problems of shared resources regularly produce shared solutions. In such solutions -- in such dialogue -- lie the seeds of reconciliation, mutual understanding and peace.

That is a message your conference can project to the September summit. I hope you will also deliver a message of urgency – that on the environment and other challenges before the international community, the time for bold decisions and actions is now. In that spirit, please accept my best wishes for a successful conference.