Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Preaching in a desert?

Each year the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) celebrates World Environment Day on the 5th of June, the anniversary of the 1972 UN Conference on the Human Environment at which UNEP was created. UNEP picks up a thematic issue each year, to encourage the international community to think and act on it. For example, three years ago World Environment Day was about fresh water (Water-2 billion people are dying for it!), two years ago it was The Sea: Dead or Alive?, and in 2005 it was the turn of Green Cities.

Six months before World Environment Day 2006, UNEP staff have started to attach next year's logo to their emails. Next year's World Environment Day will be on Deserts and Desertification; Don't Desert Drylands! is the slogan.

The impact of World Environment Day is incremented when there are good synergies between UNEP and civil society organisations. These synergies can be formal (for example two years ago, UNEP and WWF launched together an important report on the threats facing cold water coral which is often quoted by campaigners promoting a moratorium on high seas bottom trawling) or informal (two years ago also, on 5 June 2004, Greenpeace grabbed headlines in Barcelona when they drew attention in their own way on the need to stop destructive fishing methods).

The success of World Environment Day largely depends on the ability of civil society organisations to seize this opportunity, and of UNEP to encourage them.

Otherwise the risk is that everyone continues to preach in a desert.
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