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Zayed moots global body to assist victims of natural disasters: Environment 2001 Conference opens

posted on 04/02/2001: 1544 views


President H.H Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan today proposed that an effective international structure be created to offer assistance on a global scale for the victims of natural disasters. Such a structure should be created under the umbrella of the United Nations, and should involve both Governments and non-governmental organisations, he said.



In an inaugural speech delivered on his behalf by Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Minister of Information and Culture, who opened the Environment 2001 Exhibition and Conference in Abu Dhabi today, Sheikh Zayed said that the UAE calls for the holding of a preparatory conference of experts from Governments and from appropriate organisations like the world's Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.



This meeting should prepare the necessary legal framework and statutes for this new international body, he said. "Our Government hereby undertakes to facilitate the holding of such a meeting, and to present its conclusions to the Secretary General of the United Nations. We welcome comments and suggestions on this proposal from Governments and organisations, and we look forward to seeing the holding of such a meeting as soon as is considered practical,” Sheikh Zayed said. Sheikh Zayed stressed that it was time that a global approach is taken to the issue of organising effective emergency relief to deal with natural disasters.



"Last week's massive earthquake in India is only one of many recent examples of such events. Often the aftermath is more than a single country can tackle on its own,” he said. Sheikh Zayed pointed out that the protection of the environment is a global issue and it requires global solutions. "If we fail to take action quickly, we all will lose,” he said.



He said that from the regional context, first step has been taken by issuing the Abu Dhabi Declaration, which was issued at the conclusion of the Arab Environment Ministers' meeting. This declaration forms the blueprint for a strategy of environmentally sustainable development for the Arab world, he said.



The five-day Environment 2001 Exhibition and Conference is being held under the patronage of Sheikh Zayed.

The following is the full text of Sheikh Zayed's speech.



Ladies and Gentlemen, I welcome you all to Abu Dhabi on the occasion of the holding of the ENVIRONMENT 2001 Exhibition and Conference. This event provides us with a further opportunity to celebrate the diversity of our environment and wildlife, and re-dedicate ourselves to its conservation and protection.

For us in the United Arab Emirates, the protection of our environment is not simply a fashionable modern slogan. It is an integral part of our history, our heritage and our way of life.



Our ancestors survived in this land only because of their skills at exploiting the scarce resources that were available and because they learned how to use the resources in a sustainable manner. Co-existence between Man and Nature has been the key to our way of life for thousands of years.



Today, we remain committed to maintaining that co- existence. Our growing population and our development programme demand that we utilise more of our resources, but we try to do so in a way which can be sustained, not just for a year or two, but as a continuing process. It has always been our belief that the conservation of our environment is a responsibility that affects us all. It is not simply a subject for action by Governments.



Every organisation, every individual has the responsibility to take action. But Governments need to take a lead, to adopt policies that are in tune with our environment, not in conflict with it. We must be forever alert to the changing situation created by the demands of development. In the UAE, we have sought to develop in a manner which is responsive to the needs of our environment. We have adopted a target of zero flaring of gas, to limit harmful emissions into the atmosphere. Many thousands of years ago, we had more rain in the Emirates, and our land was lush with trees and plants.



Today, we are attempting to re-create that environment. Over the last thirty years, we have rapidly expanded the area of our land devoted to agriculture. Nearly 150 million trees have been planted most irrigated by desalinated water. These are capturing Carbon Dioxide from the atmosphere, helping to offset the damage to the global environment being caused by the cutting down of the world's rain forests. We have introduced legislation to create a framework for the protection of our terrestrial and marine resources. We are working to protect our endangered wildlife, both in the wild, and through captive breeding programmes. We are determined to continue to play our part. There are times, though, when Nature can over-awe us with its power, with natural disasters occur that bring untold suffering. Floods, droughts, hurricanes, tidal waves, earthquakes: such events can be immense in their power, and catastrophic in their consequences. Man often has little or nothing to do with causing them, but has to face the challenge of remedying the suffering that follows in their wake.



Last week's massive earthquake in India is only one of many recent examples of such events. Often the aftermath is more than a single country can tackle on its own. It is time that a global approach is taken to the issue of organising effective emergency relief to deal with such natural disasters.



Today we propose, therefore, that an effective international structure should be created to offer assistance on a global scale for the victims of natural disasters. Such a structure should be created under the umbrella of the United Nations, and should involve both Governments and non-governmental organisations.



The United Arab Emirates calls for the holding of a preparatory conference of experts from Governments and from appropriate organisations like the world's Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. This meeting should prepare the necessary legal framework and statutes for this new international body. Our Government hereby undertakes to facilitate the holding of such a meeting, and to present its conclusions to the Secretary General of the United Nations.



We welcome comments and suggestions on this proposal from Governments and organisations, and we look forward to seeing the holding of such a meeting as soon as is considered practical. Ladies and Gentlemen, As we have said, protection of the environment is a global issue. It requires global solutions. If we fail to take action quickly, we all will lose. The meeting of Arab Environment Ministers here yesterday puts the tasks ahead into a regional context. The Abu Dhabi Declaration lays down a blueprint for a strategy of environmentally sustainable development for the Arab world for the next century. We will work with our Arab brothers and with relevant international bodies to implement it.



Our environment and the resources within it are not ours. They are simply on loan to us, and in our charge. It is the responsibility of us all to care for them, and pass them on unharmed to future generations. We wish you well in your discussions. It is not just OUR world that you are discussing, but that of our children and our children's children. (The Emirates News Agency, WAM)

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