Panel Discussion: „Behind the headlines: Award winning journalists discuss disasters, climate change and opportunities for sustainable development”

Jan 8, 2014

(Statement as delivered by Minister Counsellor Dr. Jörg Polster on behalf of Ambassador Peter Wittig:)

"Dear Mr. Kjørven, 

Dear Mr. Nugroho,

Dear panelists,

Excellencies,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a privilege for me to open today’s meeting, on behalf of our Permanent Representative, Ambassador Peter Wittig, who regrets that he cannot be with us. I am delighted that you have chosen the German House as your venue. As you may be aware, we have organized various events in the past dedicated to “Sustainable Development”. Today’s discussion is a perfect continuation of this tradition and it brings a new and fresh perspective into our discussions: the views of journalists, the people behind the headlines.

When UNDP presented us with the proposal to host the event here, I was immediately attracted to the concept. Indeed: why should only representatives of governments, NGOs and business discuss the global challenges which our world is confronted with and ways to handle them? Why do we only answer journalists’ questions but do not listen to them? Do we forget that journalists are often true experts on sustainable development issues as they acquire important knowledge by reporting directly from affected areas reaching a broad audience as well as offering solutions?

As the UN Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals is entering the decisive stage of its work, I am glad that today we are able to address questions to three prominent journalists and listen to their answers. Elizabeth Kolbert, Rajesh Mirchandani and Palagummi Sainath have brought issues of global importance to the hearts and minds of millions of people around the globe. And I am sure that they will present their unique view on biodiversity, climate change and disaster risk reduction in the context of sustainable development.

These insights are much needed as the challenges before us are huge. Let me mention only two of them:

1. Climate Change

With the latest assessment report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change before us, we have to put our economies on the path to low emission, climate- and disaster-risk resilient development, and to use climate action as a catalyst for growth and job creation.

Germany believes that economies must be swiftly and ambitiously transformed into green economies. Our climate policy therefore focuses on enhancing energy efficiency and stepping up the use of renewable energy. In addition, we continue to actively support the international climate negotiations with the aim of agreeing on a new global climate agreement in 2015 which is legally binding and applicable to all.

We often forget to mention one particular threat coming with climate change – the loss of biodiversity. All UN member States acknowledged in the Rio + 20 Outcome Document, that biological diversity constitutes a critical foundation for sustainable development and human well-being. But, despite many noteworthy efforts, the loss of biodiversity is continuing at an alarming rate with all its serious effects. According to the UN biodiversity panel and the Food and Agriculture Organization, 22 percent of the world's livestock breeds are at risk of extinction. The extinction of some domesticated animals and plants is happening in tandem with accelerating losses of wild species caused by factors such as deforestation, expansion of cities, pollution and climate change as well as poaching and illicit wildlife trafficking.

Germany is of the opinion that the UN has an important role to play in enhancing the conservation and protection of biodiversity. One small step forward in this regard could be World Wildlife Day which was recently proclaimed by the General Assembly. We strongly support the call of the General Assembly on all stakeholders to observe and raise awareness of World Wildlife Day and hope that the 3rd of March 2014 will be adequately marked also here at the UN headquarters.

Another small step forward could be the recent establishment, here in New York in the German House, of a Group of Friends on Poaching and Illicit Wildlife Trafficking. This group is composed of UN member States which are united in their ambition to contribute towards an intensified global cooperation under the leadership of the UN and based on partnership. 

2. Natural Disasters

In the past twenty years, the number of natural disasters has doubled from around 200 per year to more than 400. These catastrophes caused the death of around 840,000 people and an estimated 891 billion US dollars in damages. The amount of humanitarian aid needed rose from 5.1 billion US dollars in 2007 to 11.3 billion in 2010. Developing countries in particular are in many cases not taken by surprise, but are nonetheless inadequately prepared for natural disasters.

Germany believes that disaster risk reduction should encompass measures that help avert or mitigate the impact of extreme natural events on human beings and on economic structures in vulnerable regions.

Within the United Nations and the European Union, Germany has long advocated the strengthening of international disaster risk reduction. Since 2011, Germany has especially been working to improve the disaster preparedness of states and actors in the international humanitarian system within the framework of a preparedness initiative.

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am looking forward to your fresh and enriching opinions and to an inspiring discussion.

I thank you."

© GermanyUN