Stefan Priesner: Opening speech on World Biodiversity Day

22 May 2014

Dear co-organizers, dear participants

Welcome and happy World Biodiversity Day!

Recently travelled to Karakalpakstan for a field trip to Ustyurt – Sudochi in the middle of the desert, which is a true miracle of biodiversity with many species of birds. However it was heartbreaking to see the dying Aral Sea. Difference was Planets Earth and Mars.

The diversity of the Earth’s natural assets are made up of many millions of distinct biological species of plants and animals - on land, in water, in atmosphere – linking humans and environment into one interdependent ecosystem! Biological diversity, or “biodiversity” for short makes world unique and beautiful.

This also applies to the beautiful country Uzbekistan - more than 4800 species of higher plants; fauna of vertebrates and invertebrates is of more than 15000 species, many endemic species

But the world is losing biodiversity at an ever-increasing and alarming rate. Biodiversity has declined by more than a quarter in the last 35 years in terms of number of species.

Triggers for this are population growth and infringement into eco-systems, and unsustainable use of natural resources – we use resources faster than they can regenerate, we cut trees faster than they re-grow, and catch fish at a rate faster than they repopulate.

Globally, humanity uses 40% more resources than nature can regenerate in a year – we would need 1.4 planet Earths to support our life style.

This is important because biodiversity is critical for human development. Every human being, every nation as well as future generations depend upon healthy biodiversity.

Biodiversity provides humanity with a number of life-important products and services such as water availability and purification, soil formation and protection against shocks, pollution break down and absorption, climate stability and recovery from natural disasters. All this we take as for granted.

It is about saving lives, as the traditional and modern medicine are totally based on natural plants and animals, and about food security, as biodiversity provides food for the Earth population and sustain productivity chains.

It is about a huge contribution to the world economy: According to IUCN, the World Conservation Union, the monetary value of goods and services provided by ecosystems is estimated to amount to some US$33 trillion per year. For comparison, the whole European Union GDP in 2008, when the assessment was done, generated $14.94 trillion.

As an example, nature-based tourism in Africa generates approximately the same amount of revenue as farming, forestry and fisheries combined

Hence preserving biodiversity is key for a future where people have sufficient food supplies, agriculture keeps on producing what it ought to, where there is resilience to pests and diseases, where fresh water is in sufficient supply, where climate changes is mitigated, and many more.

This is why for the UN biodiversity is integral part of our efforts to support development.

At the 1992 UN Earth Summit, the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) was born. 192 countries, plus the EU, are now Parties to that convention. Uzbekistan became a party of the convention in 1995.

Uzbekistan benefited from 12 regional and national UN projects on biodiversity for the total amount of 28 million USD.

UN helped to establish the first newly created protected area since Uzbekistan’s independence – Lower Amudarya Biosphere reserve, develop 1st National Plan on biodiversity conservation, focusing on threatened species in water/near water ecosystems, deserts and mountain ecosystems, supported development of a Protected Areas Expansion and Development Master Plan and is in process of helping to reformulate and adjust new National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan. 

We believe that all development pathways should take into account priorities of biodiversity conservation.   

We look forward to cooperating with the Government of Uzbekistan in biodiversity conservation, improving biodiversity conservation management, moving forward towards realizing the plans that are being jointly developed such as Master Plan for Protected Area System Expansion and exploring alternative paths of country’s economy development where sustainable use of biodiversity can become an important source of revenue for local population and country as a whole.

Ladies and gentlemen – on World Biodiversity Day let us commit to cooperate for sustainable development and biodiversity conservation.

Thank you.