9 November 2010

Address by H. E. Mrs Eleonora Valentinovna Mitrofanova Permanent Delegate of the Russian Federation to UNESCO, Chairperson of the Executive Board of UNESCO


Good evening, distinguished colleagues, ladies and gentlemen, I am pleased to welcome you to the opening of this exhibition on the Russian Federation’s role in conserving and maintaining biodiversity. Biodiversity is the diversity of life on Earth, encompassing all life forms, from microscopic viruses to the largest animals on the planet, and people are an integral part of this ecosystem. The United Nations has proclaimed 2010 International Year of Biodiversity. Many events have been held, some of them under the auspices of UNESCO, in Paris and in many of the Organization’s Member States. The Russian Federation, too, has been involved in this notable event. As a country with a vast territory in which numerous rare species of animals and plants live and grow, it is making a tremendous effort to preserve and increase them, first and foremost through the large, ever-growing network of UNESCO biosphere reserves, of which there are almost 40 in the Russian Federation. The danger of losing biological diversity is one of the most serious problems of our time and, in terms of significance and immediate relevance, finding a solution to it is as crucial as such a major contemporary challenge as climate change. Biodiversity is the very foundation of life on Earth and reflects the full range of the diversity of living nature, from the genetic composition of plants and animals to cultural diversity. People depend on biodiversity in their daily lives, but this dependence is not always apparent or given its full due. In recent times biodiversity has become one of the most widely mentioned concepts in scientific literature, environmental issues and international relations. It has been proven that a level of natural biodiversity on our planet is a prerequisite for the normal functioning of ecosystems and the biosphere as a whole. In one of her letters to American correspondents, the famous Russian philosopher, Helena Ivanovna Roerich wrote, as early as 1930, that there was nothing worse than monotony. Monotony of thought, monotony of life and everything else inevitably led to stagnation and death. What was most important, as Helena Ivanovna wrote, was that there should always be change in form, constantly changing life. These thoughts were expressed more than 70 years ago, when the word “biodiversity” had not yet appeared in scientific literature. It is now the most important line of research, the most important trend in humanity’s thinking. In 1992, at the well-known Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, many countries, including the Russian Federation, adopted and signed the Convention on Biological Diversity. It has now become quite clear that the functioning of the biosphere, a concept developed in the past by V.I. Vernadsky, is based on the provision that the biosphere on Earth exists precisely because of the immense diversity of living beings, from the simplest to the most complex organisms, including human beings. The preservation of biodiversity is not merely a matter of discussions at the political level followed by the adoption of an intergovernmental convention or agreement. It is a mission that concerns each and every one of us. As the English poet John Donne once said so rightly: “No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend’s or of thine own were: any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.” We must all understand our shared responsibility. According to UNESCO statistics, 17,000 species of plants and animals currently face extinction. Only joint efforts, to which science, the business community, the media, NGOs, individual citizens and governments have agreed, will enable us to take the necessary steps and halt the catastrophic reduction in biodiversity. I thank you for attending the opening of this exhibition, which stands as evidence that this problem does not leave us indifferent to the future of the Earth, the future of coming generations, of our children, that is, to our common future.