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         30 May 2001

On 6 June, the United Nations University (UNU) will host an international symposium on "An Ecosystems Approach to Sustainability." This symposium, which is being organized by the UNU Institute of Advanced Studies (UNU/IAS) in cooperation with the World Resources Institute (WRI) , will mark the official launch of Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MA) in the Asia-Pacific region. It will immediately follow the global launch of the MA in New York by United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment is the first collaborative attempt to assess the overall state of the earth's environment and its ability to provide a sustainable supply of goods and services for human welfare and development. This four-year, US$21 million endeavour is sponsored by the Global Environment Facility, United Nations Foundation, David and Lucille Packard Foundation, and The World Bank. Core financial support for the MA will be administered by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), with other components supported by a variety of international academic and non-governmental organizations. MA activities will be managed by a director based at the International Center for Living Aquatic Resource Management in Malaysia.

The MA Advisory Board, comprising representatives from national governments as well as from the UN and its specialized agencies, will be co-chaired by Dr. Robert Watson, Chief Scientist of the World Bank, and Prof. A.H. Zakri, Director of UNI/IAS. Ms. Yoriko Kawaguchi, Minister of the Environment, Japan, has been involved in the Board as a member at large.

In sharp contrast to previous environmental assessments that have been conducted on an issue-by-issue basis in response to a specific threat, the MA will utilize an integrated, cross-sectoral "ecosystem approach" on a global scale. The goals of the MA are bring more detailed and reliable information to bear on resource management decisions at local, national, regional and global scales, and to provide the scientific underpinning to a wide range of existing and new efforts to address our increasingly complex environmental and development challenges. The Convention on Biological Diversity, the Convention to Combat Desertification, and the Convention on Wetlands have all endorsed the establishment of the MA as a joint assessment project.

The June 6 symposium will start at 1:00 p.m. in the Elizabeth Rose Conference Hall at the UN House in Tokyo with welcoming remarks by UNU/IAS Director Prof. Zakri and WRI President Mr. Jonathan Lash (to be read by Ms. Kurosaka on his behalf) and an address by Mr. Hironori Hamanaka, Director General of the Global Environmental Bureau of Japan's Ministry of the Environment. Discussions and roundtable sessions will examine the topics of why an ecosystem approach is needed and how the MA results will be used in Japan and the Asia-Pacific region.

Media representatives are cordially invited to attend. A copy of the tentative programme is attached for your reference. More information about the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment is available online at

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For further information please contact the UNU Public Affairs Section: Tel. (03) 5467-1243, -1246; Fax (03) 3406-7346




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