Dhaka, Jun 1 – United Nations Special Rapporteur on human rights and the environment John H Knox has urged all States to do more to fulfill their existing obligations to protect the world’s biological diversity from extinction, reports UNB.
“Governments should ensure public information and participation in biodiversity-related decisions and provide access to effective remedies for its loss and degradation,” said the UN expert while speaking ahead of the World Environment Day that falls on Monday (June 5).
Nearly one-third of natural and mixed World Heritage sites reportedly suffer from illegal poaching, logging and fishing, which have driven endangered species to the brink of extinction and threatened the livelihoods and well-being of communities who depend on them, according to a message UNB received here from Geneva on Thursday.
John Knox said all should be alarmed at the accelerating loss of biodiversity on which healthy ecosystems depend. “We should also be fully aware that we cannot enjoy our basic human rights without a healthy environment.”
While the eyes of the international community are justifiably focused on the future of the Paris agreement on climate change, this year’s World Environment Day brings an opportunity to celebrate human being’s intimate relation with nature.
“We depend on healthy natural ecosystems for so much – nutrition, shelter, clothing, the very water we drink and the air we breathe. And yet, natural forest area continues to decline, marine ecosystems are increasingly under siege, and estimated populations of vertebrate animals have declined by more than half since 1970.”
He said many scientists fear that the world at the outset of the sixth global extinction of species, the first in over 60 million years.
The UN expert said States have reached agreements to combat the causes of biodiversity loss, which include habitat destruction, over-exploitation, poaching, pollution and climate change. “But the same States are woefully failing to meet their commitments to reverse these disturbing trends.”
The extinction of species and the loss of microbial diversity undermine rights to life and health by destroying potential sources for new medicines and weakening human immunity.
Park rangers, indigenous peoples and others who put their lives on the line to safeguard natural ecosystems should be recognized as human rights defenders and protected, said the UN expert.
He said the World Environment Day is an opportunity to appreciate nature’s beauty and its importance to humanity.
“For us to truly connect to it, we must collectively encourage our Governments to fulfill their legal obligations to protect the Earth, its biodiversity and those who defend it from harm.”