Awareness matters

DIPLOMATIC POUCH - Gordon Kricke (The Philippine Star) - March 15, 2018 - 12:00am

If you check on the Internet you will be surprised how many international awareness days exist. Some are already well established and widely accepted, such as International Women’s Day and the Human Rights Day. There are others that might have their merits as well, but are still somewhat struggling to make their mark, such as the World Toilet Day or the International Day of Laughter (make sure not to miss that one, it is on 10 January – in case you didn’t know). A few seem – at least to the uninitiated – to be even a bit odd or quaint, like the International Asteroid Day or the World Sword Swallower‘s Day (participate on your own risk).

And then there are those which are not so well known but deserve certainly much more attention. The World Wildlife Day on 3 March passed unfortunately largely unnoticed. Established by the United Nations General Assembly in 2013 it is an apt reminder that the world’s wild fauna and flora is under ever more pressure and species are dying out at an alarming rate. That is often due to habitat destruction, but illegal traffic in protected wildlife is also a huge problem. Rhinos, tigers and pangolins could sooner or later be poached to extinction and disappear from the face of the earth just because superstitious people in some countries are paying a lot of money for their body parts in the belief that they have curative power. All over the world there are many wild species which are under increasing pressure: The number of sharks for example has been reduced massively all over the world due to the cruel trade in shark fins for soups in restaurants. The most serious declines have been in the Coral Triangle in South East Asia and in the Mediterranean. Shark finning is certainly very cruel. More often than not sharks are mutilated alive and thrown back into the water to perish slowly. But it is also economically wasteful. These animals are more valuable alive than dead. Divers are willing to travel from faraway places and pay a lot of money to see sharks and rays underwater. Man has been far too aggressive about exploiting ocean wildlife, not appreciating that there are limits and even points of no return.

The fact that wildlife is disappearing fast is a growing concern also for the Philippines, which is one of the most important global hotspots for biodiversity. The natural beauty of the country is something many Filipinos are very proud of – and with good reason. However, this treasure is under a lot of pressure from many sides. To concentrate forces to protect nature and the remaining biodiversity is certainly important.

It is clear, the idea of wilderness needs no defense, it only needs defenders. During the last two years I had the chance to visit many of the beautiful provinces in the Philippines. One of the most inspiring experiences for me was often to meet dedicated and committed representatives of the local authorities or of NGOs who are trying to protect that heritage.

 I am glad that Germany is  since many years a close partner of the Philippines in the fight against climate change and in the protection of biodiversity, which is one of the two focal areas of our official development cooperation with the Philippines (the other being “Peace Building and Conflict Transformation in Mindanao”). One regional project for example supports the protection of the unique Sulu-Sulawesi marine ecoregion in the Coral Triangle. Extinct species are lost forever and a destroyed natural habitat can never be fully restored. To prevent this from happening must be a priority for everyone.

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(Gordon Kricke is the Ambassador of Germany.)

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