Mantenga Cultural Village
Thursday, May 27, 2021
9:00-1:00pm (AMB Speech 12:25pm)
Honorable Minister of Tourism and Environmental Affairs Moses Vilakati
UN Resident Coordinator Nathalie Ndongo-Seh
EU Ambassador Esmeralda Hernandez
Indian High Commission Radha Venkataraman
Mayor of Ezulwini Bongile Mbingo
Country Coordinator of Eswatini Youth Biodiversity Network Gcina Dlamini
Ladies and Gentlemen,
All protocols observed.
It is an honor and a privilege to be here with you today to celebrate International Biodiversity Day. Eswatini is a stunningly beautiful place. When I arrived here 4 months ago, I was unprepared for the beauty of the natural landscape of this country, with its mountains, magnificent vistas, rivers, valleys, and vibrant vegetation. You are truly blessed with this land, and I have to say that is one of the reasons I’m so pleased to be here today to help build awareness and appreciation for the natural environment around all of us.
Gardening, tending the land, planting trees, nurturing our green spaces—these activities are near and dear to my heart. The beauty of the outdoors and abundance that comes from plants, gardens, and trees is impossible to quantify, and I can think of nowhere I would rather be today. I’m grateful to be part of this celebration.
Natural ecosystems provide essential resources for all of us. They give us food, water, fuel, plant pollination, medicines, protection from storms and floods, and other basic resources that make life possible. We all have a role to play preserving the planet’s biodiversity so it can continue to provide these benefits for generations to come. Protection of our natural resources begins with each of us—it begins with us loving and respecting the greens spaces around us, every day.
We each have a role to play ensuring that our land is not marred or degraded by pollution. For example, the simple action of disposing of trash properly keeps it out of natural environments that can be poisoned or jeopardized by pollutants. The U.S. embassy is proud to support and encourage sound waste management practices, including recycling, which diminish the build-up of our landfills. The U.S. embassy runs its own recycling program, in fact, and we encourage other creative ways of reusing waste. For example upcycling ventures find creative, productive ways to turn waste into products that can be sold; this helps alleviate unemployment by providing economic opportunities to communities, while also re-using waste. We applaud recent steps taken toward the elimination of plastic bags in Eswatini, and we urge the Government of the Kingdom of Eswatini to redouble your efforts to prioritize environmental protection laws and enforcement mechanisms that will continue creating an economy that is resilient to the impacts of climate change. Steps you have already taken do not go unnoticed, and we urge the government to do more.
And in this regard, I am particularly inspired by the work of the Eswatini Youth Biodiversity Network (EYBN) which is raising awareness among the youth and encouraging young people to take the lead, and be part of the solution to in preserving our natural environments. With over 100 youth volunteers and a growing network, EYBN and similar groups are inspiring change from the community level. This is what needs to happen to build grassroots, sustainable commitment among Emaswati to protect the environment.
For Earth Day last month, I helped plant trees at a neighborhood care point in Manzini. It was such an inspirational event. Like today, it was an opportunity to reconnect and recommit to nature. We are all responsible for the preservation of the environment. It’s time to commit to taking action—each one of us, in big ways and in small ways. We all have an obligation to act to protect our environment, not just on International Biodiversity Day, but every day.
In his inaugural address, President Biden said, “We will repair our alliances and engage with the world once again. Not to meet yesterday’s challenges, but today’s and tomorrow’s. We will lead not merely by the example of our power but by the power of our example.” The power of our example. The U.S. is prepared to set a strong example in the global fight against climate change.
President Biden has committed the United States to the goal of conserving at least 30 percent of our lands and waters by 2030, a goal we are encouraging other countries to adopt. I know that Eswatini is proud of its natural heritage—you should be!
Green energy is another area we are focusing our efforts and setting an example to follow. The new Administration is committed to achieving a carbon pollution-free power sector by 2035, putting the United States on an irreversible path to a net-zero-emissions economy by 2050.
Climate change is a pressing global security threat—an impending crisis that will especially impact the most vulnerable people and places on our planet. As such, President Biden is raising global climate ambition and placing action at the top of his agenda. In turn, the U.S. Embassy is also taking this opportunity to revitalize our commitment to programs and policies in Eswatini that conserve and restore forests, promote sustainable agriculture and fisheries, combat wildlife trafficking, and develop green energy practices among businesses and institutions.
I am so grateful to see the depth of commitment from the community, the ministry, and the international community today at this event. And I would like to take this opportunity to call on the government of Eswatini to improve compliance of laws already in place that protect the environment.
Today, we remind ourselves of the importance of protecting our environment and investing in nature so she can continue to thrive and create a sustainable future for all of us, for generations to come. Thank you for your service and thank you for your to the environment!