Gabriel Enenche —
Nigeria yesterday in the nation’s capital, Abuja, hosted the 33rdUN Education, Scientific and Culture Organisation (UNESCO) summit with the aim of reviewing progress, defining priorities and coordinating international cooperation in support of biodiversity and ecological sciences.
Ms Audrey Azoulay, the Director-General of UNESCO, while making a remark at the UNESCO 33rdsession, added that it was the first time such a summit was held in Africa.
Azoulay while expressing concern that biodiversity was collapsing, at an unprecedented speed globally, said that the International Coordinating Council of the Man and the Biosphere (MAB-ICC) provided an opportunity for the council to review proposals for new biosphere reserves.
UNESCO, a custodian of knowledge and know-how concerning biodiversity, has been developing concrete solutions to environmental challenges for over 50 years through the MAB programme and its network of protected sites, covering nearly six per cent of the planet.
With 714 biosphere reserves in 129 countries, including transboundary sites, UNESCO seeks to reconcile humans and nature and demonstrate that it is possible to use biodiversity sustainably while fostering its conservation.
She said that the collapse was from the treetops to the ocean depths and from vertebrates to invertebrates, adding that no species was spared.
“This is the spirit driving UNESCO’s Man and the Biosphere Programme. It is what makes it so pioneering, and so valuable, Azoulay said.
“We all have to stand on the earth itself and go with her at her pace. With this impending collapse, not only is human survival at risk, but also the beauty, the diversity of the world. But this collapse is not inevitable: there is still time to make peace with the planet,” she added.
“We must harness the power of education to rebuild our relationship with nature. UNESCO is fully mobilised to ensure that the environment becomes a key curriculum component by 2025.
“This is in line with the commitment made by the 80th governments we gathered at the Berlin conference last May.
The director-general thanked President, Muhammadu Buhari, for making the meeting a huge success.
The Minister of State for Environment, Chief Sharon Ikeazor, said that the MAB programme presented a unique platform for cooperation on research and development, ecological restoration, capacity-building and networking to share information, knowledge and experience.
Ikeazor said that the MAB programme was on three interlinked issues such as biodiversity loss, climate change and sustainable development, adding that the world was facing planetary crises of climate change and biodiversity loss.
According to her, this global loss of biodiversity is threatening the security of the world’s food supplies and the livelihoods of millions of people including indigenous people and local communities, especially in the African region.
“The good news is that it is not too late to reverse the current trends if conservation efforts are scaled up and protected areas are expanded.
“This is the first time that MAB-ICC is being held on the African continent since its inception and I am proud that Nigeria has taken the lead by hosting this event today,’’ she said.