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United Nations Sponsors World Environment Day

Today marks World Environment Day, which is sponsored by the United Nations to help stimulate global awareness of the environment and enhance political attention and action. This year’s theme is “Deserts and Desertification.” Nick Nuttall is spokesman for the United Nations Environment Program. From London, he spoke with Voice of America English to Africa reporter James Butty about the state of Africa’s environment.

“Africa is facing many, many challenges in terms of their environment. Land degradation is a huge issue in Africa because people are trying to eke out a living in difficult circumstances. One of the major issues, of course, is the issue of forest. In Kenya, where the United Nations Environment Program is headquartered, deforestation is a major issue…. And in fact on World Environment Day…on the fifth of June in Africa, many, many countries are actually involved in tree planting scheme…because people know the relationship between their forest, their climate, their water supply and healthy environment.”

The World Environment Day 2006 theme is “Deserts and Desertification.” Nuttall says it is crucial to emphasize the importance of drylands and that the United Nations is paying close attention to this issue.

“We have a big report coming out tomorrow morning from the United Nations on the state of the world’s deserts. These are fragile, unique ecosystems covering 25% of the land surface of this planet. So deserts right across the world are very much a focus of it…particularly in places like Africa, where people are trying to eke [out] a living on very marginal land.”

He says messages promoting environmental protection are being taken seriously throughout Africa.

“I think one of the big changes in the last couple of years right across the world is that people are really waking up to the fact that the environment is not some luxury; particularly in developing countries people know that the environment is the basis of their livelihood…and I think Africans right across the continent are becoming more and more aware of this.”

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