Urgent action on biodiversity for sustainable development

13 - Climate Action
15 - Life on Land

World leaders focused on addressing the root causes of the biodiversity crisis today at the United Nations Summit on Biodiversity in New York. UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay contributed to the leaders’ dialogue on addressing biodiversity loss and mainstreaming biodiversity for sustainable development, with solutions to restore people’s relationship with nature.

The current pandemic has shaken everything in our lives, and has also revealed our total interdependence with the living world and our global interconnectedness. Scientists have demonstrated that the mismanagement of biodiversity and ecosystems has increased the risks of infectious diseases transmission from wildlife to humans, and thus the risk of pandemics. We must now consider this connectivity and translate it into our lifestyles and societies.

The destruction of biodiversity stems above all from a disconnect in our relationship with nature and with other species in the living world. We are responsible for 75%* of the destruction of ecosystems on earth through our daily activities and are destroying our relationship with nature in the process.

And yet all over the world, UNESCO’s designated sited show us that it is possible to live in harmony with nature.

The time for transformation is now. Crises also create opportunities – the opportunity to change how we see our relationships with nature, with each other, and with the Earth. We know that there is no future for business as usual. We need a “new normal” for biodiversity. For this reason, we are moving towards a crucial collective goal: preserving at least 30% of the Earth’s surface in protected areas, across land and sea.

Audrey Azoulay, UNESCO Director-General

Today 701 Biosphere Reserves, 252 natural heritage sites and 161 UNESCO Global Geoparks protect 6% of the Earth’s surface – an area equivalent to that of China. They are a living demonstration of how to sustainably use and restore key ecosystems everywhere on the planet.

They inspire change with concrete examples of practical transformative action:

  • Restoring the relationships between people and nature through education, science, and local and indigenous knowledge
  • Conserving the harmony of our ecosystems - sustainably using key ecosystems by mobilizing the knowledge and know-how of committed and dedicated citizens and partners
  • Amplifying the power of youth - providing universal and open access to diversity of knowledge, create possibilities and share solutions to empower the next generations

Young people are demanding action to protect our planet, and they must be involved at all levels, from local action to setting global targets for the protection and conservation of the planet’s biodiversity and ecosystems. This is why UNESCO is working with youth to include their voices in the process of developing the post-2020 global biodiversity framework.

UNESCO is using the experience and expertise of its networks of designated sites,  Centers and Chairs,   and engaging key partners with the support of its Member States to work on a set of values and principles that should guide actions to restore, conserve and transmit the value  of biodiversity.  

More information


IPBES Global Assessment on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, 2019