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An intact environment with fertile soils, clean water and air, a wealth of flora, fauna and minerals are the natural basis for our life. But the global natural ressources are far from being in good condition:
The least developed countries, and especially the poorest people in these countries, are worst affected by environmental destruction and the depletion of natural resources. Three-quarters of the world´s poor live in rural areas and most of them earn their living from agriculture. The shortage of resources such as water, fertile soil or fuel wood threatens their food security and sources of income. As they largely lack any reserves or alternative livelihoods, poor sections of the population are also particularly vulnerable to environmental changes. Their risk of becoming sick due to polluted environment is ten times higher than for Europeans. The World Health Organzation (WHO) estimates than 20 percent of all illnesses are due to polluted water, air or similar environmental impacts. In many least developed countries, environmental pollution figures under the main reasons for child mortality.
The global scale of environmental change calls for worldwide cooperation. The international community has adopted a number of global environmental accords, above all the three so-called Rio conventions on biodiversity, climate change and combating desertification. These attest to its shared determination to take action against environmental destruction, advance sustainable development and cooperate at international level.
It is crucial to coordinate every intervention with national institutions as well as with the local population. An government and a civil society aware of environmental issues, in charge of defining and steering the local development, are the best guarantee for sustainable use and preservation of natural resources.
Environmental change is a global phenomenon, so it needs global cooperation. This is based on a number of environmental conventions, first of all the so called UN "Rio conventions" – the convention on Biological diversity (CBD), the framework convention on climate change (UNFCCC), and the Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD).