Ms. Envera Selimovic,
Representative of the Department of Public Information
UN Office in Azerbaijan
Good afternoon - Climate change and the world's environment top the list of challenges for the international community in the current UN agenda, so a warm welcome and thank you to all of you for coming here on the eve of the World Environment Day to help renew the interest in environmental issues in Azerbaijan and to join forces in encouraging people to change attitude towards environmental issues and become active agents of sustainable development for the country.
This day is usually celebrated on June 5th around the globe, but here in Azerbaijan, observance of the Day has already started; and I am very glad that my office, the Department of Public Information in the UN Office in Azerbaijan, has partnered with the Ministry of Ecology and Natural Resources on several occasions in the last two weeks.
With us today is the deputy head of the Ministry, Mr. Firdovsi Aliyev and I am happy that he is going to share some information on current projects and most importantly to shed some light on the overall efforts of the Government regarding this important issue that is tightly connected with the development of Azerbaijan.
You all may know that the UN, in an effort to solve global environmental concerns, is dealing with various problems like ozone layer depletion, toxic waste, loss of forests and species, air and water pollution and overall climate change. Failing to face these issues could ruin development; however, solutions cannot be found by just one country, regardless of how powerful that country is.
So, to help countries translate global concerns into national action, the Global Environment Facility (GEF) was established by donor governments 15 years ago; as managing partners of GEF, together with the UN Environment Programme, the UN Development Programme (UNDP) and the World Bank, I am very pleased that Mr. David Eisenberg, the Deputy Resident Representative of the UNDP in Azerbaijan and Ms. Saida Bagirly, as the World Bank Senior Operations Officer, are also with us today.
As we are always ready to be the catalyst that brings people together to address the challenges that will better the life of the people of Azerbaijan, it is of most importance to have with us some Azerbaijani professionals who understand the concerns of their local communities; so we give a warm welcome to Mr. Donmez Majidov from the Institute of Ecology, Mr. Rafig Verdiyev form the South Caucasus Water Program, Mr. Telman Zeynalov from the National Ecological Forecasting Centre and Mr. Islam Mustafayev from the Ecological Public Union. And last but not least, Mr. Faig Askerov from the BP Azerbaijan Strategic Performance Unit.
With the hope that all of you will help us generate a "perfect storm" of public interest in what can be done for a greener, cleaner, and in the very end, a healthier Azerbaijani environment, let me tell you that during most of our UN events I try to convey a message from the UN Secretary-General for each occasion. This year, on the occasion of the World Environment Day, Mr. Ban Ki-moon highlights the global nature of climate change with the slogan "Melting Ice - a Hot Topic?"
Today I would opt for a simple green agenda and sharing some thoughts on a more personal level, hoping that the local audience will step forward to take up this challenge and leave a better country for their children.
Two days ago, I accompanied the Ministry of Ecology and Natural Resources on their excursion to monitor and water trees recently planted near Siyazan and Devechi. I myself participated in watering and ensuring that the saplings were growing straight and unhindered. Planting trees might seem like a small step in supporting the fast-growing economy of Azerbaijan, but in the long run it could be a very important contribution in poverty eradication and safeguarding the clean socio-economic growth of the country.
And so this is the challenge before you, the citizens of Azerbaijan, to look at what you can do, for starters in your own backyards, your own balconies, and for those that live in big cities, or anywhere else, I challenge you to clean your streets, your building surroundings, to nurture a garden, to plant a tree in front or back of where you live or work, to bring a bit of Mother Nature to you and secure the future of your children. The costs of doing that is so little, but the cost of not doing so might be huge.
And now we will hear from our prestigious panel of speakers who will talk to you about their areas of expertise with sincere hope that the organizations they are representing here today will give a boost to the development of Azerbaijan and re-inspire the people of Azerbaijan to think and live green, starting with their own backyards.