Living together.

Author:Arthus-Bertrand, Yann
Position:United Nations initiatives in environmental protection - The United Nations at 70

The Charter of the United Nations, signed in 1945, did not address concerns for the natural environment. Neither the word itself, nor a doctrine of environmentalism appears in the founding document. Yet the protection of the environment affects the preservation of the entire planet. It is also a subject closely related to provisions of the Charter, since a sustainable environment decidedly contributes to the assurance of the well-being of its inhabitants. United Nations initiatives are thus critical to finding solutions to most environmental challenges. Over the years, this question has become increasingly important in General Assembly deliberations and has been featured in its resolutions--a development I very much welcome.

A series of conventions addressing the environmental issues have followed, including the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES, 1973), the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal (1989), the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC, 1992), the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD, 1992), the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD, 1994) and the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (2001), to name a few. The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) was established in 1972, and in 20091 was honoured to become its Goodwill Ambassador. The number of such conventions and their importance illustrate how the United Nations has successfully managed to take the situation under control.

In my opinion, the best example and the most pronounced success of the United Nations initiative in the sphere of environmental protection are embodied in the history of the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer, signed in 1987. After a series of international negotiations, which proceeded at an exemplary pace over just a few years, the United Nations put in place measures to phase out most of the gases contributing to the thinning of the ozone layer and provided mechanisms to oversee their implementation. There is no doubt that ozone depletion threatens nothing less than the existence of life on our planet. Today, the "ozone hole", as it is called sometimes, is slowly recovering, and there is hope that the solution to this problem is found. As many as they are, these achievements, however, must not divert our attention from the two major persistent...

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