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Secretary-General Says Unsustainable Biodiversity Use Increasing Animal-to-Human Disease Spread, Calls for Action, at Zoonotics Report Launch

Following is the text of UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ video message for the launch of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) International Livestock Research Institute Zoonotics Report, in New York today:

Ebola.  SARS.  Zika.  HIV/AIDS.  West Nile fever.  And now COVID-19.

These diseases all have one thing in common.  They are transmitted from animals to humans.

There are many reasons why zoonotic diseases are becoming more prevalent.  Habitat loss, agriculture intensification and wildlife exploitation — including its illegal trade — are reducing barriers between the human and animal world.  That is making it easier for germs to pass from other species to us.

The cost is steep.  According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) the COVID‑19 pandemic is expected to cost the global economy $9 trillion over the next two years.  So, what can we do?

To prevent future outbreaks, countries need to conserve wild habitats, promote sustainable agriculture, strengthen food safety standards, monitor and regulate food markets, invest in technology to identify risks and curb the illegal trade in wildlife.

Finally, a new ambitious framework must be adopted to protect and sustainably use biodiversity globally, with clear targets and means of implementation.  That is how we can keep people safe and protect the global economy.

For information media. Not an official record.