In a commemorative ceremony organized by the United Nations University, in collaboration with the Ministry of the Environment of Japan, Ishikawa Prefecture, Kanazawa City and the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), the United Nations Decade on Biodiversity (UNDB) was launched in Kanazawa, Japan, on 17 December 2011.
The declaration of the 2011–2020 UNDB was initiated by Japan and endorsed at the tenth meeting of the CBD Conference of the Parties (COP10), held in Nagoya, Japan, in October 2010. It was formally proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly at its sixty-fifth session in December 2010.
The UNDB, which builds on the achievements of the 2010 International Year of Biodiversity, aims at implementing the first Aichi Biodiversity Target of the Strategic Plan on Biodiversity 2011–2020: to ensure that by 2020 all the people of the world will be aware of biodiversity and its value.
Over 600 persons attended the first day of the commemorative ceremony, which included a speech by Kiyotaka Akasaka, Under-Secretary-General, United Nations Department of Public Information. He conveyed UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon′s message which calls on “all the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity and to all the biodiversity-related conventions, as well as all members of the United Nations system, the private sector, civil-society groups and individual citizens and consumers worldwide, to rally to the call of the United Nations Decade on Biodiversity”.
“We must harness the collective wisdom of humanity and begin and extend concerted efforts across the globe to create societies that exist in harmony with nature,” declared Katsuhiko Yokomitsu, Senior Vice-Minister of the Environment, Japan.“It is incumbent upon us,” he said, “to endeavour continually and unfailingly to achieve the Aichi Biodiversity Targets”.
UNU Vice-Rector Kazuhiko Takeuchi, speaking on behalf of UNU Rector Konrad Osterwalder, emphasized that ”it is not too late to prevent the further loss of biodiversity…. It is my strong belief that we have at our disposal all that is necessary to ensure that these discussions are supported with effective policies and initiatives.
Ishikawa Prefecture Governor Masanori Tanimoto pointed out that “biodiversity is a global issue but it is also very close to people living in each local area….For this reason, we have been making efforts to conserve biodiversity through conservation and sustainable use of satoyama and satoumi in collaboration [with UNU and Kanazawa University]. We will enhance our efforts on this occasion, the starting year of the United Nations Decade on Biodiversity”.
But to reach the Aichi Biodiversity targets, it is necessary to include the private sector in the implementation process. Japan Airlines President Masaru Onishi suggested that the aviation sector could work towards several biodiversity targets by sampling and monitoring air quality to prevent global warming, and also work against the unintentional introduction of invasive alien species.
On the event′s second day, a workshop on National Biodiversity Strategic Action Plans (NBSAPs), with some 60 participants, discussed three topics: “Preparation and updating of NBSAPs in line with the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011–2020”, “Effective means for mainstreaming NBSAPs” and “Enhancing international cooperation on biodiversity and the satoyama initiative”.
Ahmed Djoghlaf, Executive Secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity, said the discussions were necessary to develop crucial policies for the next decade and the future of our planet. “Japan, as the motor force behind the declaration of this United Nations Decade, has demonstrated leadership and vision in support of sustainable development and, indeed, life on Earth,” he said.
The final day, 19 December, was for reserved for an excursion to various sites within Ishikawa Prefecture, showing the participants examples of Japanese efforts for biodiversity conservation, sustainable usage of natural resources, green economy business models and traditional methods for living in harmony with nature (such as satoyama and satoumi). A highlight of the excursion was the “Shiroyone Senmaida” rice terraces in Noto, which along with Sado this year were the first sites in Japan to be designated as a Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Site (GIAHS).
With the launch of the United Nations Decade on Biodiversity, the importance of acting now received a broader public awareness. The next decade will be crucial to prevent the permanent loss of many species of life on earth — a goal that can only be truly realized with the active participation of each and every one of us. The United Nations University will continue in its efforts of contributing to protect biodiversity though our various research and education activities.