Speech by Nuno Queirós, UNDP Resident Representative a.i.


February 16, 2023

Dear Fariz Ismailzade, Vice rector of ADA University,

Dear Fuad Babayev, Head of Youth Work Department of the Ministry of Youth and Sport of the Republic of Azerbaijan

Dear Gadir Khalilov, Deputy Executive of the Youth Foundation of the Republic of Azerbaijan,

Dear Parviz Miralamli, Chairperson of Azerbaijan Student Youth Organizations’ Union,

Dear Leadership of ADA University

Dear Students,

Distinguished Guests,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

My name is Nuno Queirós, and I am currently the Resident Representative of the United Nations Development Programme here in Azerbaijan.

I have just recently arrived in Azerbaijan, and it is a pleasure to be able to speak to students for the first time in the framework of this Model United Nations simulation organized by ADA University and facilitated jointly with the United Nations Office in Azerbaijan.

Let me start by saying that these are some remarkable times that we are living through. Times both filled with opportunities but also with immense risks.

On the one hand we as human beings have made significant discoveries and technological advances, during the last centuries and especially last decades, ranging from opening and using the secrets of an atom to discoveries in the oceans, in the atmosphere and in the universe.

On the other hand, all these discoveries and advances have come at a cost for our planet and for us as human beings. We are facing multiple risks derived from the impact that our own actions are having in the destruction of our habitat, our oceans, our atmosphere, our planet, and every life on it.

Let me just give some examples. Who here likes to eat fish or seafood?

Every minute, two garbage trucks of plastic are dumped into our oceans.

This in turn means that as much as 51 trillion microplastic particles – 500 times more than stars in our galaxy – litter the seas.

Even more, do you know that over 1 million marine organisms are killed each year due to plastic pollution in the ocean and if we continue, by 2050 there will be more plastic in the oceans than there are fish by weight.

If previous periods of human history were dominated primarily by economic and political considerations, over the last three decades, starting at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, environmental protection became the priority, and very naturally occupies now the central space in the agenda of the United Nations. Since then, the feeling that we really only have one Earth is getting stronger and stronger.

Out of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, 6 are directly related to environmental protection, whereas the others cannot be achieved without being implemented in a safe and healthy environment.

But what does all of this mean to you.

You, today’s youth, and tomorrow’s future, are and must play a crucial role in environmental protection.

Just last year, two of your female peers, from two prominent youth NGOs of Azerbaijan, participated in the Regional “Youth for Environment” event in Istanbul organized by UNDP. In the meeting, the network of youth activists protecting environment was organized, and it now works on a permanent basis coordinating different activities.

You are tomorrow’s agents and leaders of change. Some of you might one day work for UNDP as I do, and some might in the future be doing this same speech to students just like you. This is why this simulation is so important.

Let me emphasize how important your current and future role is. Despite the Paris Climate Change Agreement reached seven years ago, we were not able yet to revert the negative tendency related to greenhouse gas emissions. The current trends in CO2 emissions are dangerous and do not allow us to keep temperature rise within a reversable 2 degrees Celsius. Unfortunately, neither the Climate Change conference in the UK two years ago, nor the one in Egypt in November of last year resulted in a comprehensive agreement between countries in this regard. Too interests still shape and dominate the environment agenda, preventing countries from reaching consensus regarding common goals.

Similar tendencies continue in other aspects of environmental protection. The forests are cut at unprecedented speed, oceans are full of waste, land degradation continues, and urbanization increases rapidly.

Further to the examples I gave you before, did you know that around 42 million trees are cut down worldwide daily.

Did you know that land degradation affects almost 2 billion hectares of land worldwide, home to 1.5 billion people. Every year, 24 billion tons of fertile soils are lost due to erosion. 12 million hectares of land are degraded each year which means 23 hectares per minute!

Today, some 56% of the world's population – 4.4 billion inhabitants – live in cities. This trend is expected to continue, with the urban population more than doubling its current size by 2050, at which point nearly 7 of 10 people will live in cities.

All this puts increasing responsibility on you and hence why I reiterate that you are our future and our hope. But that does not mean that the generations before you don’t have any responsibility. It must be our focus to help you as you prepare for your future role as the leaders and standard-bearers of environmental protection. It is our role not to just listen to you, but to really hear you.

In this regard let me speak about UNDP’s contribution to environmental protection in Azerbaijan. Since establishing our office here in 1992, we have implemented many projects related to all major directions of environmental protection ranging from climate change to land degradation, and from biodiversity to protection from chemicals.

We are proud of having pioneered Climate Adaptation Activities in Azerbaijan, currently supporting the Government in preparing its Climate Change Adaptation Plan with the focus on three priority sectors identified by the Ministry of Ecology and Natural Resources: water, agriculture, and coastal areas.

Similarly, under our EU4Climate project, UNDP assisted in updating the Nationally Determined Contributions under the Paris Agreement and developed the Low-Emission Development Strategy currently under the Government’s consideration, as well as amending Measurement, Reporting and Verification System, shortly MRV, which is crucial in preparing inventory of green-house gases. We support the Government also in introducing the methodology of Climate budget tagging into the national budgeting system.

We are implementing an energy efficiency project in Barda and Ganja funded by the Government of Japan, improving in an energy efficient manner the living, and studying conditions of people. Very soon we are going to start another big project called “Baku Energy Efficiency: Green Social Housing” funded by the Global Environment Facility aiming to work on the efficient use of energy and minimizing emissions of green-house gases. 

I've talked a lot about climate, and you must already be tired of hearing me, but I cannot conclude and forget that human security is the basis of sustainable development and the subsequent goals.

Sustainable development cannot be achieved without security. One of UNDP’s key priorities is mine action and supporting the safe return of people affected by conflict to their homes and normal lives. In partnership with the Government of Azerbaijan, the National Mine Action Agency, and with the financial support of the European Union and the United Kingdom, we are currently implementing 4 projects working to ensure people's safety and security.

Gender equality, inclusiveness, the involvement of more vulnerable groups of the population and providing economic opportunities to all are also among our priorities under the principle of "Leave No One Behind".

As UNDP we are always committed to accompany the Government of Azerbaijan, academia, including ADA University, civil society, and the private sector to work for the good of all citizens of this country.

Let me conclude by wishing you success during this simulation exercise, and in successfully finishing your education and starting your careers.

Together we can ensure that our planet not only survives, but thrives, because we really have Only One Earth.

Many thanks for your attention.

Çox sağ olun!