Thank you to the @Plant-for-the-Planet for sharing this message from the #InternationalBiodiversityDay2020 webinar.
Solving Crisis: Ecosystem-based Solutions to Biodiversity Loss and Links to COVID19 Pandemic
Plant-for-the-Planet and Global Youth Biodiversity Network
11:30 ET on 22 May 2020
Intervention by Acting Executive Secretary, Elizabeth Maruma Mrema
The theme of this year’s International Day for Biodiversity is ‘Our Solutions are in Nature’. This gives
us an opportunity to celebrate nature’s innumerable contributions to our everyday lives, and to
better appreciate that biodiversity provides many solutions to the global challenges facing us today.
This year, the International Day for Biodiversity takes place at an extraordinary time when bigger part
of the world is locked down, our children and youth learning from home, global priority is on saving
lives and ensuring healthy survival of their population. Nonetheless, COVID-19 which has brought us
all to where we are today, has reaffirmed what we already knew—that biodiversity is fundamental
for human health and survival.
The pandemic has given new urgency to the need to protect biodiversity and its ecosystems and thus
serves as a stark reminder that urgent action is needed to preserve nature, conserve biodiversity,
and protect human health not only for today’s generations but, more importantly, for you, the young
While we need to take immediate action to respond to the health crisis, we also need a long-term
vision for biodiversity; a vison that would help us transform our relationship with nature and reduce
the risks of future pandemics.
The pandemic however, provides us with a reset button on our relationship with nature. This is an
opportune moment for all stakeholders, young and old, to reflect on how human health is intimately
interconnected with the health of our planet and how we can better manage the critical resources
that biodiversity and ecosystems provide.
Presently, human activities are being held accountability for disturbing both the structure and the
functioning of ecosystems through large-scale deforestation; habitat conversion and fragmentation;
agricultural and livestock intensification; the unregulated trade in species used as food and medicine,
and the overharvesting of species to the brink of extinction.
The unfortunate reality is that biodiversity is still being lost at an unprecedented rate in the history
of humankind, and this represents both direct and indirect threats to our health and wellbeing. For
instance, biodiversity is the source of medicine, such as, antibiotics, so the loss of fauna, flora and
microorganisms – some yet to be discovered – limits the discovery of potential treatments for many
diseases and health problems.
Biodiversity loss also disrupts our cultures, traditions and livelihoods. It limits the ability of indigenous
peoples and local communities to use traditional medicinal practices that use wild animals and plants.
This means that the traditional knowledge can not be passed on from generation to generation.
These and many other impacts of biodiversity loss affects the wellbeing of the world’s poorest, and
the wellbeing of youth since the global population of young people now stands at 1.8 billion, with
close to 90 per cent of them living in developing countries.
Through your on-going actions, we know that youth are particularly willing and enthusiastic when
the time comes to find solutions to our current environmental and health challenges. Youth have a
unique perspective on the nature that surrounds them, and with their creative minds, they can help
develop solutions that will benefit us all.
Since 2009, through Plant-for-the Planet, youth have been planting billions of trees to replenish the
degraded forests and landscapes. This inspiring movement has contributed to reducing greenhouse
gas emissions and to protecting and conserving biodiversity throughout all regions of the world.
Restoration of biodiverse forests and other ecosystems can greatly reduce climate risks, including
droughts and floods. It can help restore rivers and wetlands, reconnect rivers to floodplains, and
prevent soil erosion and desertification. Restoring forests in an urban or peri-urban context can help
create corridors for fauna and flora and even contribute to improving mental health!
These and other ecosystem-based solutions to interrelated global challenges play an important role
in keeping the planet healthy and ensuring that human beings can enjoy safe drinking water, food
security and good health.
Fortunately, youth are at the forefront of global change and innovation. Youth are taking advantage
of various technologies and communication tools to develop innovative solutions, while advocating
for biodiversity friendly practices, that can reduce pressures on ecosystems, which can in turn reduce
the risk of disease emergence and spread among people, animals and other living species.
In these times of social distancing and isolation, youth have been active in connecting communities
together through social media platforms, and are reaching out to people in the most remote areas
thus helping to lift community spirits, while encouraging them to share information and
implementing biodiversity friendly solutions.
The Convention on Biological Diversity recognizes the benefits of engaging the youth in finding
solutions to biodiversity loss. Several of its decisions encourage youth to take an active role in its
processes and invite Parties to collaborate with youth in implementation.
Decisions taken at our meetings of the Conference of the Parties (or COPs) also invite youth to
contribute to the development of the post-2020 global biodiversity framework, due to be adopted
next year at COP 15.
Through the Global Youth Biodiversity Network, youth like you have already provided important
inputs to the draft post-2020 framework, working with other youth and stakeholders but also with
government officials to ensure that this framework can contribute to increasing nature’s benefits for
people now and for generations to come.
It is my greatest hope that the fight against COVID-19 will soon be won; and that, as we recover, we
can pursue the opportunity to re-imagine and transform our relationship with nature. As critical
allies, I hope that you, the Youth, will continue to help find solutions in nature and contribute to this
much-needed transformation towards sustainable development. So, as Youth, do take action today,
make changes and thus do good for the current and future generation for which you will be the
leaders of tomorrow.
Happy International Biodiversity Day!