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Speech by President Halonen at the IUCN Regional Conservation Forum for Europe

Speech by President Tarja Halonen

Patron of the IUCN Regional Conservation Forum for Europe,

North & Central Asia, Helsinki, 14.12.2015


Dear Participants, Dear Friends,

I would like to warmly welcome you to Finland. This is the first time that a Nordic country is hosting this Forum and we feel very proud.

We have a wonderful group of people gathered here at this special moment – “the morning after Paris”. The negotiations that took place at the COP21 were intense, but the work was of course started much earlier. And in fact it took years of efforts to reach this point.

We now have an historic agreement that provides a very good framework for further action. It is not perfect, but it is better than what some expected. It puts us on the right path in fighting climate change more intensively. World governments agreed that efforts so far have not been enough and that global warming cannot continue. Everyone needs to be part of the fight. Transformative change requires the efforts of every nation. Governments, the private sector, scientists and the civil society will now need to start the implementation phase with full speed and determination.

I was myself in Paris last Tuesday during the gender day. And the good news is that gender is now included for the first time in a climate agreement and it gives a good basis for our work ahead.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Conservation of biodiversity and sustainable use of natural resources are fundamental to human life and well-being. Conserving biodiversity is also a solution to many challenges posed by climate change. Yet, the speed of biodiversity loss is increasing. It brings drastic changes and weakens our efforts to combat hunger, water scarcity, poverty and inequality.

Severe food and water scarcity and general degradation and destruction of habitat are already forcing people all over the world to leave their homes and lands. Resource shortages also increase the risk of conflict and violence – especially when combined with undemocratic governance and human rights violations, as we have seen, for example, in Syria.

As we know, many conflicts today are about the control of natural resources. Effective and equitable governance of natural resources could therefore mitigate or even prevent many conflicts. Good governance, conservation of nature and sustained ecosystem services can make a significant contribution to building resilient societies and strengthening global peace.

Dear Participants,

We have the tools and methods to manage our ecosystems in sustainable ways, so let’s act now. We must make sustainable practices the norm. Civil society actors and international environmental organizations like the IUCN have a vital role to play in advancing this change and in promoting sustainable practices. Sustainable practices such as nature based solutions, which help to mitigate the effects of climate change and adapt to its adverse impacts.

In Finland we are very much aware of the fact that environmental degradation knows no borders. Our Baltic Sea is a good example. I am very pleased that I had the opportunity of initiating the Baltic Sea Action Summit in 2010. At that Summit we committed ourselves to work for a cleaner Baltic Sea, emphasising especially the implementation of the Helsinki Commission’s Baltic Sea Action Plan. The plan addresses various challenges, including biodiversity and nature conservation.

Today, I’m pleased to say, the marine protected areas cover more than 10 % of the Baltic Sea. It is the first sea in the world to reach this important target set by the Convention of Biological Diversity. The good results include also that inputs of nitrogen and phosphorus have gone down with 18% and 23% respectively since the mid-nineties.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am very glad for the long-term collaboration with the IUCN in promoting the role of women and gender equality on the sustainable development agenda. If we are to have a sustainable future, we cannot ignore women’s experiences, needs and potential. Women need to be involved as decision makers and agents of change, and educated and empowered because their impact is considerable. Gender equality is a human rights question, but it is also smart climate and environmental policy. It is a necessary part of sustainable development.

Similarly, indigenous peoples have valuable knowledge about for example nature-based solutions, and at the same time they are the ones often the most affected by a degrading nature. Everyone should be listened to and involved on an equal basis in our common efforts.


The new universal sustainable development goals were adopted less than three months ago in New York. The Agenda 2030 sets 17 Goals for all countries – developing and developed countries alike. Social progress, economic growth and environmentally sustainable development are no longer separate issues, but a coherent whole. I call it a modern trinity.

The SDGs together with the new Climate Agreement give all stakeholders, but particularly the civil society and organizations like the IUCN, a new elevated platform to participate and make change happen. An integrated and multi-stakeholder approach to implementation of the agreements is the only way we can succeed.

This Forum is very timely. You have an excellent opportunity to discuss how the IUCN can contribute to make the needed change truly transformative.

Let me conclude by wishing you fruitful meeting and successful actions.

Thank you.