By Joyce Mukucha
The UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has urged governments, businesses, and people everywhere to work tirelessly in scaling up efforts to create awareness about flora and fauna as well as conserving so as to contribute to the attainment of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
He communicated this in his message on World Wildlife Day which was celebrated on Wednesday.
“So, on this year’s World Wildlife Day, I urge governments, businesses, and people everywhere to scale up efforts to conserve forests and forest species and to support and listen to the voices of forest communities.
“The theme for World Wildlife Day 2021 aligns with some specific UN Sustainable Development Goals that aim to conserve life and eradicate poverty. Therefore, if we conserve these species, we will contribute to achieving the SDGs for people, planet, and prosperity,” said Guterres.
He stressed that the planet’s forests play a crucial role in protecting the environment as well as sustaining the livelihoods of people worldwide.
“The planet’s forests are home to some 80 percent of all terrestrial wild species. They help regulate the climate and support the livelihoods of hundreds of millions of people.”
He also pointed out the significance of how forests give a livelihood to many communities, especially indigenous and local communities.
Some 90 percent of the world’s poorest people, he highlighted, are dependent in some way on forest resources particularly indigenous communities that live in or near forests with a symbiotic relationship existing between the forest, forest-dwelling wildlife species, ecosystem services, and people.
“Some 28 percent of the world’s land is managed by indigenous communities, including some of the most intact forests on the planet. They provide livelihoods and cultural identity.”
The UN Secretary-General also underscored that the unsustainable exploitation of forests harms these communities and contributes to biodiversity loss and climate disruption.
“Every year, we lose 4.7 million hectares of forests, an area larger than Denmark. Unsustainable agriculture is a major cause. So is global timber trafficking, which accounts for up to 90 percent of tropical deforestation in some countries. It also attracts the world’s biggest organized crime groups.”
The illegal trade in wild animal species, he added, is another threat, increasing the risks of zoonotic diseases, such as Ebola and COVID-19.
World Wildlife Day is observed on 3 March in order to celebrate the flora and fauna of the world and also raise awareness about them.
It was decided by the United Nations General Assembly on 20 December 2013 at its 68th session that World Wildlife Day will be celebrated on 3 March. The reason this date was selected for the occasion was that the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) was signed on 3 March 1973.
This year’s World Wildlife Day celebrations were running under the theme ‘Forests and Livelihoods: Sustaining People and Planet’.
Celebrating the livelihoods that are based in forests, the UN also aims to promote practices that can help in sustainable development, including traditional practices and knowledge.