WASHINGTON, USA – On International Mother Earth Day we must recognize the urgent need to take care of our planet, its ecosystems and the resources and services they provide to sustain the lives of present and future generations, while we must bet on a harmonious development with the environment that promotes well-being with equity.
2020 was an unprecedented year in our modern history. The health emergency caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, added to other emergencies caused by extreme weather events, including floods, droughts and in particular hurricanes Eta and Iota in Central America, had a severe impact on our communities and economies.
These risks are of special importance for Latin America and the Caribbean. In our region, more than half of the population lives in areas of extreme and high climatic vulnerability and four percent of our gross domestic product could be lost due to the effects of climate change.
In addition, 80 percent of the population lives in urban areas, with a large proportion concentrated in 6 megacities, characterized by inequality and informal urbanization. This reality has made us vulnerable to the economic and social impacts of the pandemic.
For more than 50 years, the Organization of American States (OAS) has been promoting an agenda aimed at achieving the well-being of all the men and women of the Americas, in harmony with nature and the Earth and in solidarity, cooperation and peace among our peoples. We must continue on this path together with the international community, governments, the private sector, civil society and our citizens.
The magnitude of this crisis requires innovative solutions to stimulate economic and social recovery.
In the personal tragedy that the pandemic has meant for many, new opportunities arise to accelerate the transition to clean and renewable energy and to practice a more rational and efficient use of natural resources, soil, water and energy.
The pandemic also allows us to rethink the use of the territory, urban planning that allows for the reduction of transport times and costs, improving the quality of life and the physical and mental health of our inhabitants and moving towards a more equitable distribution of resources. It also demands that we accelerate our efforts to achieve more gender equality and access to rights for all.
From the OAS General Secretariat, we will continue to support our member states so that all of our population – regardless of their creed, race, origin, gender identity, or association or political choice – has access to drinking water, clean energy, and greater opportunities.
It is time to restore our land, let us move toward a more sustainable and resilient development, in harmony with the environment and respect for biological diversity.