Statement by H.E. Dr. Palitha Kohona, Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka to the United Nations, at the Special Meeting of the General Assembly on the Occasion of the International Day of Mother Earth,
22nd April 2010, UNHQ, New York


Mr. President,

At the outset, let me extend my thanks to you for convening this special meeting to commemorate the International Day of Mother Earth. I also take this opportunity to thank the delegation of Bolivia for spearheading action on the General Assembly Resolutions: 63/278 and 64/196. My delegation, as a co-sponsor of the latter, has a special attachment to this meeting today.
Mr. President,

To the best of our knowledge, planet earth is the only place in the universe where human life exists. Humanity, while it possesses a unique identity among living beings, is nevertheless an inseparable part of ‘mother earth’. We, humans, have made considerable modification for centuries to the natural character of this planet, but in the most recent centuries our impact has been serious through unsustainable and predatory activity; which has resulted in the colossal increase of burdensome anthropogenic Green House Gas concentrations in the atmosphere, the destruction of eco-systems and the depletion of earth’s biodiversity. The consequences of those activities are yet to unfold fully, but present knowledge on climate change is adequate to estimate disturbing future results. We have to accept that living in harmony with nature is not only fundamental, but also an existential matter for all living beings.  
We have collectively recognised the importance of addressing this complex issue through multilateral action. The Rio Declaration of 1992 acknowledged “the integral and interdependent nature of the Earth, our home”, while Agenda 21 and the World Summit on Sustainable Development of 2002 further consolidated our shared commitments.

Mr. President,

We now look at the immediate challenges. The Fourth Assessment Report of the IPCC concludes that Climate Change poses an unequivocal challenge for human development and even existence. Climate Change will impact on all, in particular, on developing countries. The adverse impacts on developing countries will have far reaching consequences for people. The commemoration of the International Day of Mother Earth is therefore timely and relevant as we search to mitigate these possible outcomes, particularly through a legally binding agreement.   

My own country, Sri Lanka, faces enormous challenges to sustain its development efforts, while confronting environmental depletion and climate change. As a strategy to face these new realities, President Mahinda Rajapaksa has provided the leadership to the decade-long sustainable development initiative, the “Green Lanka” programme, from this year to 2020. This intervention includes coherent activities to protect our water resources and catchment areas, protect the oceans and aquatic resources, prevent air pollution, encourage soil conservation, introduce innovative methods for agriculture, promote renewable energy sources, promote eco friendly industries, build healthy towns and housing schemes, develop an environmentally friendly transport system, implement waste management systems, and prepare the country for environmental change, and to promote cultural awareness and education.  

Mr. President,
At the regional level, the leaders of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) in 2008, by acknowledging the value of living in harmony with mother earth, emphasized the need for “restoring harmony with nature, drawing on ancient South Asian cultural values and traditions of environmental responsibility and sustainability”.  We inherited a rich tradition of living in harmony with the environment.  In furtherance of this regional dialogue, we have adopted climate change as the key theme for the forthcoming Sixteenth SAARC Summit in Thimphu, Bhutan this year. In fact, climate change has become even more relevant, in the context of the increasingly severe threats in the region from sea-level rise, deforestation, forest degradation, soil erosion, loss of crop diversity and productivity, siltation, droughts, storms, cyclones, unseasonal rains, floods, glacier-melt and resultant glacial lake outbursts, and urban pollution.  The possibility of environmental refugees looms large.  
Mr. President,
Our united action therefore will be essential to ensure the protection of mother earth for future generations. We recall Mahathma Ghandi’s profound observation, “The Earth has enough to satisfy all our needs, but not our greed”.  The celebration of the International Day of the Mother Earth will encourage further our moral and legal commitment to respect nature and ensure environmental sustainability.

I thank you Mr. President
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