5 JUNE 1996

Message by UNEP Executive Director Ms. Elizabeth Dowdeswell

NAIROBI, 3 June 1996 -
"On the 5th of June, every year, the Global community comes together to celebrate World Environment Day.

At the heart of the celebrations of World Environment Day is the belief that every individual human being has the right to enjoy clean air, pure water and the benefits of our biological diversity. And that every living being has the right to fulfill the unknown measure of its potential.

This is, and must be, our commitment.

On this day, we evaluate the accomplishments made in the defense of the environment and we look forward to meeting greater challenges, we must also recognize the acts of courage and determination of ordinary people who play an extraordinary role in conserving the environment.

The ultimate solution to every environmental problem, from deforestation to pollution lies in each of us taking the responsibility for our own acts and not giving up hope.

Each time an individual stands up for the environment or acts to improve it, there is a tiny ripple of hope. The achievement of every single individual is significant when assessed alone, but monumental when the global community acts together.

It is appropriate that in the year of the Habitat II Conference, the theme 'Our Earth, Our Habitat, Our Home' has been chosen for this year's World Environment Day.

Most people want to improve the quality of their lives. This having a clean, decent, safe home in which to live and raise a family.

But this quality of life is threatened by the explosive and continuing growth rates of urban areas. And now, cities are expanding into fragile ecosystems. Nearly 40 per cent of cities larger than 500,000 are located on coasts. Air pollution already exceeds health standards in many mega cities. Especially dangerous is the public health hazard of contaminated water supplies, and unlovely wastes are all too evident.

One thing is clear, and it is that the fate of cities will determine more and more not only the fate of nations, but also of our planet. If cities are to continue to be the engines for economic growth, as they have been throughout human history, their future development has to be based on considerations that are environmentally sustainable.

Beyond the immediate priorities for improving the urban environment lies the need to strengthen local governments, to implement new approaches to alleviating poverty and supporting communities and to develop more environmentally friendly cities. On this World Environment Day, let us rededicate ourselves not only to conserving the environment, but also to spreading the message of global environmental citizenship - the opportunity, indeed the responsibility, of all citizens to care for those around them and make this world a better place."


For further information, please contact:

   Mr. Robert Bisset
   Information Officer
   P.O. Box 30552
   Tel: (254-2) 62 3084
   Fax: (254-2) 62 3692
UNEP News Release 1996/38

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