Opening remark by Nick Beresford: International Day for Biological Diversity

May 22, 2017

Excellency Dr. Say Samal, Minister of Environment, and Chair of the National Council for Sustainable Development,

HE Tith Chantha, Secretary of State, Ministry of Tourism

HE Dr. Chet Chealy, Rector of Royal University of Phnom Penh

Mr. George Edgar, EU Ambassador to Cambodia

Ms Ken Bopreang, Deputy Director of the Department of Biodiversity of NCSD

Excellences, Colleagues, Ladies and Gentlemen.

I am delighted to join the opening of this important event to celebrate the international day for biological biodiversity. I would like to thank the National Council for Sustainable Development, the Ministry of Environment, The Ministry of Tourism, and the Royal University of Phnom Penh for inviting me to this important event.

As you all know, the international biodiversity day has been celebrated every year on May 22nd since 2002. This day is the day to reflect the significance of biodiversity as well as to discuss ways to effectively protect and conserve biodiversity globally and nationally.

Each year, the international biodiversity has a specific theme and this year’s theme is “biodiversity and sustainable tourism”.

“Biodiversity and sustainable tourism” is indeed a timely topic in the context of Cambodia.

Cambodia is endowed with rich biodiversity as exemplified by a diversity of 162 mammal species, and 601 bird species, 1357 fish species etc.

Recently, I had the opportunity to visit two of vital ecosystems of high biodiversity importance. One is Kulen Mountain and another is Koh Rong Samloem Island.

The Kulen Mountain is considered the most sacred in Cambodia and the birthplace of the Cambodian Kingdom. Not only that, but in the parts of the forest that remain, it is home for some of the world’s most precious and endangered species.

The Koh Rong Samloem island is now known to have one of the most beautiful pristine beaches covered with white sands. This place therefore has attracted many tourists from all parts of the world, generating significant tourism income.

In both cases, however, their biodiversity and ecosystems have been under growing pressure. Among others, pressures are due to unsustainable level of use of natural resources and wildlife, and growing levels of pollution and wastes, affecting the health of the ecosystems.

These historical and natural treasures, if lost, are literally irreplaceable.  So it is our duty to ensure we pass on these gifts on next generations.

Therefore, there is an urgency to develop and implement effective management strategies to address major factors negatively affecting the current state of biodiversity and ecosystems.

Under the leadership of H.E Say Samal, in 2016, the RGC developed a National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan (NBSAP). The very objective of the NBSAP is to preserve Cambodia’s biodiversity and ecosystems for future generations.

In line with the NBSAP, the Royal Government of Cambodia has initiated the development of management programmes for key ecosystems including the one in Kulen Mountain.  The RGC is also planning to develop management guidelines for Cambodia’s islands.

These management programmes and guidelines will be vital tools to specify strategies for conserving ecosystems, and biodiversity, and to clarify roles of different governments and other stakeholders in implementing the strategies. Such strategies may include measures to control and regulate extraction and use of natural resources and wildlife, and minimise levels of pollutions and wastes to maintain the health of ecosystems.

Yet, developing management programmes alone is not sufficient. Effective management will also require availability of predictable financial resources to cover the recurrent costs of management. In this respect, sustainable tourism such as eco-tourism can play a pivotal role in providing long-term sustainable conservation financing.  Sustainable tourism should be designed and promoted in a manner which is ecologically responsible and in a manner which contributes to the livelihoods of local communities who depend upon the ecosystems.

For this reason, I am particularly pleased to see the presences of the National Council for Sustainable Development, the Ministry of Environment and the Ministry of Tourism, which can bring together institutional expertise and knowledge to make sustainable tourism possible.

The United Nations of Development Programme has been a committed partner for the Royal Government of Cambodia, in supporting its national effort for preserving biodiversity and critical ecosystems. We have supported development of a management of Kulen Mountain, and implementation of the Environmental Governance Reform Project and the 3 Rio Conventions project.  

Today, I would like to reaffirm our strong commitment to continue supporting the efforts to preserve its national treasures for next generations and I look very much forward to working with all partners in the endeavour.  

Thank you.

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