Stefan Priesner: Opening Ceremony Eco-Week 2014

02 Jun 2014

On behalf of the United Nations in Uzbekistan, I extend my warm greetings to

Mr. Boriy Alikhanov, Deputy Speaker, Chairman of the Committee on nature protection of the Legislative Chamber of the Oliy Majlis;

Mr. Khamraboy Razzakov, Chairman of the Senate’s Committee on agricultural, water and environmental issues

Mr. Bakhtiyor Abdusamatov, Chairman of the State Committee for Nature Protection of the Republic of Uzbekistan.

I would also like to welcome our distinguished guests, representatives of diplomatic missions and international organizations, governmental agencies, other partners from national institutions and members of the mass media.

We have once again gathered to celebrate the World Environment Day, through what has become a good tradition in Uzbekistan – the Eco-Week.  This Day is celebrated all over the world to encourage worldwide awareness and action for the environment. 

This year’s global theme is “Raise your voice, not the sea level”, which underscores the importance of the International Year of Small Island Developing States – they are increasingly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, from devastating storms to the threat of sea level rise. In Uzbekistan, which is also increasingly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change the global theme has been tailored as “Save the water”.

I recently visited the plateau Ustyurt in Karakalpakstan, including the lake Sudochye, which is a miracle in the middle of the desert with rich biodiversity. At the same time it contrasts vastly with the disappearing Aral Sea – which echoes well with the national theme for this year’s World Environment Day.  

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Healthy environment and natural resources are critical for human development. Every human being, every nation as well as future generations depend upon healthy environment and natural resources for growth and development. However,  - globally, the humanity is consuming 40% more resources than nature can regenerate in a year – we would need 1.4 planet Earths to support our life style, this is not sustainable in the long-run; 

To bring it closer to the context of Uzbekistan - water is a most precious resource. The Aral Sea catastrophe caused not only socio-economic problems, but also may have entailed changes in the climatic conditions in the region. Competition for water exists between irrigated agriculture, hydropower, drinking and municipal water supply and sanitation, and industry. The national theme for the World Environment Day in Uzbekistan in 2014 – “save the water” is an attempt to bring awareness on the need for judicious use of water, as a critical resource for future development of Uzbekistan. In a country with high natural population growth, growing economy as well as potential impacts of climate change, water availability and quality will become even more important.

Ladies and Gentlemen - the Millennium Development Goals recognized that environmental targets are an integral part of core development. MDG-7 – underlines that poverty reduction and social progress are closely related to environment protection. This instrumental relationship between livelihoods and environment is especially intuitive in Uzbekistan with its arid and semi-arid climate, where sustainable agriculture depends on the judicious use of water and land.

Together with the Government of Uzbekistan, we are currently looking into progress on MDGs, and according to official data Uzbekistan has made considerable progress in the field of environment and meeting relevant national MDG targets.

There is less than 1,5 year remaining until the end of the MDG framework, and it is of great importance that the country maintains the same or accelerated pace.

But even after the MDG framework is over, environmental issues will only become more prominent. Sustainability will be at the core of the post-2015 Development Agenda. Never before has it been clearer that natural resources are finite, that our planet is vulnerable (an island of garbage as big as a continent is floating in the Pacific), that biodiversity is degrading and that climate change is the ultimate challenge of the 21st century.  And this is why, balancing of growth with social and environmental dimensions of development, is more important than ever.

UN is a proud supporter of efforts of the Government of Uzbekistan in tackling environmental challenges. UNDP, UNESCO, WHO, FAO, UNEP and other agencies have implemented targeted capacity building programmes in Uzbekistan, including through mobilizing external environmental finance from the Global Environmental Facility, bilateral and multilateral donor agencies, national and international partners;

 UN has:

Supported establishment of the first protected area established after Uzbekistan’s independence – Lower Amudarya Biosphere reserve;

Supported development of the Protected Areas Expansion Plan, which is currently being reviewed by the Government;

Facilitated drafting of country’s first Water Code;

Supported revision of national building codes and standards to include energy efficiency issues;

Is currently supporting revision of the country’s National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan;

Support reporting under various UN and international conventions, facilitate knowledge sharing and participation of representatives of Uzbekistan in international environmental events;

There are many more joint achievements between the UN and the Government of Uzbekistan, which I am confident, will ultimately contribute to improved quality of life of the people of Uzbekistan.

In the start of this special week before Environment Day 2014 - may we jointly recommit ourselves that environmental protection can only be achieved if all of us do their own little contribution – as countries, as municipalities, as organizations, as human beings we need to multiply our efforts to promote sustainable development in Uzbekistan while conserving natural resources and ensuring healthier environment for future generations.

My warm welcome again for the launch of the Eco-Week 2014.