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Speech by Achim Steiner, at the Second meeting of the Conference of Parties to the Framework Convention on the Protection of the Marine Environment of the Caspian Sea

Tehran, 12 November 2008 - Your Excellency Fatemeh Vaez Javadi, Vice President and Head of the Department of Environment of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen.

It were the growing concerns about threats to the marine environment of the Caspian Sea which brought the Ministers and High level representatives of the Caspian littoral States to Tehran in November 2003.

This resulted in the Framework Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the Caspian Sea, or in short the Tehran Convention, which entered into force in August 2006.

You celebrated the first Conference of the Parties in Baku, Azerbaijan in May last year and the Presidents of the Caspian countries welcomed the Convention in their joint Declaration here in Tehran in October 2007.

Honourable delegates, the time has come to take this Convention onto an operational footing and, as the Presidents urged, develop and adopt Protocols.

The Caspian Sea is a vital economic asset in this region and one, like so many across the world that has witnessed degradation and damage as a result of less than optimal management.

The headlines of the past few weeks have been about the credit crunch and the financial crisis.

But we are facing other looming challenges from the climate change crisis or carbon crunch to the natural-asset crisis or ‘nature crunch’.

The increasing scarcity of nature-based assets and the goods and services they provide is set to become a defining economic issue over the coming years and decades.

In a sense we have been living of the capital of planet Earth when we need to live of the interest.

It is time to re-invest in this ‘natural’ capital’- in this ecosystem infrastructure - so that we can sustain and enhance the lives and livelihoods of six billion, going shortly to nine billion people.

The Tehran Convention is aimed at nothing less than this-of bringing intelligent and creative management to a trans-boundary asset of major regional and indeed global importance.

Ministers today you have a draft statement for adoption that will take the future sustainability and viability of the Caspian Sea forward.

You are requested to adopt a ten-year agenda and a two Year program of work derived from that. The POW does provide for the finalization of protocols under review. It also involves essential monitoring of the health of the sea, which can serve as a base line from which you can judge your success.

The establishment of a Caspian Information Centre will furthermore serve the information and public awareness needs of the people living in and around the sea.

Experience gained by UNEP and for instance the European Environment Agency may be of assistance in meeting this important objective.

Meanwhile the issue of fisheries, managed as part of a broad ecosystem approach, is central and along with tourism perhaps the most tangible expression of this ecosystem’s economic importance.

It is clear from your discussions that formalizing regional cooperation is the way forward.

Your Presidents requested you to reach an early agreement on the location of the permanent secretariat. We all hope that such an agreement will be reached soon. 

The Convention is a partnership-a problem shared is a problem halved.

Servicing the Convention process is also a partnership and I would like to thank UNDP, the Global Environment Facility, the European Union, the IMO and others for their important collaboration and support.

The new UNDP GEF CASPECO project is a most welcome development given its central role in assisting the Convention’s programme of work.

The question of funding is also before you today. In Baku you decided to collectively contribute $360,000 to the Convention’s interim Secretariat and its work. The draft Ministerial Statement contains the proposal that, pending full agreement on arrangements for the permanent Secretariat, in 2010 and future years you continue doing so.

UNEP, which is supporting the interim Secretariat and its work as part of its newly established Program for Marine and Coastal Management, will be honoured and happy to continue to assist and administer the Permanent Secretariat of the Tehran Convention if you so wish.

The future off the world’s largest enclosed water body is in your hands.

Current and future generations will, I am sure, look back on the decisions taken by your governments in the early 21st century-not least today- and say the Caspian was indeed in safe hands.

I wish you a successful Conference.