On the sidelines of the COP21 Climate Change conference in December 2015, the Executive Director, United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), Mr Achim Steiner announced that the 2016 World Environment Day (WED) Celebrations would focus on the illegal trade in wildlife. On the same platform, Angola, where poaching is threatening an already reduced elephant population, was announced as global celebrations host.
WED – the single biggest day for positive action on the environment worldwide, which takes place on June 5 each year was declared by the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment Stockholm in 1972. On that day, each Member State is obligated to reflect on efforts and commitment to sustainable environment management.
WED has since become the United Nations’ principal vehicle for encouraging worldwide awareness and action for the environment. Over the years it has grown to be a broad, global platform for public outreach that is widely celebrated by stakeholders all over the world.
Wed 2016 Celebrations
As later established by UNEP, “Go Wild for Life” was chosen as the WED 2016 slogan. The slogan calls on everyone to join the fight against the illegal trade in wildlife which erodes precious biodiversity and threatens the survival of elephants, rhinos and tigers as well as many other species.
Latest figures from the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, indicate that the African elephant population had dropped from 550,000 in 2006 to 470,000 in 2013, with East Africa seeing the worst decline, from 150,000 to about 100,000, triggering fears that African elephants could be extinct in the wild within a few decades.
At national level, World Environment Day (WED) will be jointly celebrated with the International Day for Biological Diversity (IBD), also known as World Biodiversity Day (WBD) that falls on every 22nd May.
The International Day for Biological Diversity (IBD/WBD) 2016 theme is “Mainstreaming Biodiversity; Sustaining People and their Livelihoods”. Consequently, the two themes have been merged to come up with the National theme: “Conserve Wildlife, Sustain Livelihoods”.
The national theme raises awareness on all species under threat and calls for individual and cooperate action to help safeguard them for future generations. This can also be about animals or plants that are threatened within our local communities as well as at the national – as many local extinctions will eventually add up to a global extinction.
Biodiversity is the foundation for life and for the essential services provided by ecosystems. It therefore underpins peoples’ livelihoods and sustainable development in all areas of activity, including economic sectors such as agriculture, forestry, fisheries and tourism, among others. By halting biodiversity loss, we are investing in people, their lives and their well-being.
Gulu the 2016 Host
The national celebrations will be hosted by Gulu District on Monday 6th June, at the Boma Grounds. Gulu is one of the districts in the Acholi sub-region whose cultural symbol is the elephant. The Acholi region is also home to a big expanse of the Murchison Bay National Park which hosts an estimated 1,330 elephants and was once home to a big Rhino population that became extinct due to indiscriminate poaching during the civil war of the1980’s.
Every Action Counts
While everyone seems to be decrying the general environmental outlook, it is important to note that human activity has almost solely contributed to this degenerating position. Our individual action, galvanised can change this trend. The need to keep our environment clean has never been greater. Whoever, wherever, whatever the individual action, bolstered, we can create a meaningful change. From volunteering to share information, supporting initiatives to save endangered species, to changing lifestyle options, joining the campaign to abandon the use of polythene carrier bags (Kaveera); Every Action Counts!
The Writer is the Senior Information Education and Communications Officer, NEMA