President Karis calls for World Cleanup Day to be an official UN event

President Alar Karis and friends presenting World Cleanup Day at the UN.
President Alar Karis and friends presenting World Cleanup Day at the UN. Source: Office of the President of the Republic of Estonia.

President Alar Karis has called on the United Nations to make a global environmental initiative which was born in Estonia 15 years ago an official international day.

The head of state has been in New York this week, attending the UN General Assembly, which he addressed.

On the sidelines of the assembly and at a meeting dedicated to the event, the president called for September 20 to be officially named International World Cleanup Day, and for UN member states to support the proposal.

President Karis said: "I hope the day, which started in Estonia, inspires everyone to take the next step towards a cleaner and greener planet that is fit for us to live on."

World Cleanup Day (WCD) draws attention to the importance of waste handling and promotes community inclusion and cooperation, President Karis says.

"The impact of the campaign is not measured in the tonnes of waste collected, but in the number of people who change their way of life as a result of it," he remarked, via a press release.

"It encourages individuals, communities and organizations to adopt sustainable habits and to take responsibility for their production, consumption and refuse."

 WCD is also vital in environmental education and policies, emboldening central and local governments to address waste-handling infrastructure, to reduce the amount of waste they generate and to promote economical practices, the president went on.

Around 2 billion tonnes of solid waste are generated around the globe annually, 40 percent of which is handled in a manner which constitutes an environmental hazard and 16 percent of which goes uncollected altogether.

"This crisis threatens the quality of life of billions of people, kills endangered plants and animals and deepens the climate crisis," President Karis noted.

 WCD started small, back in 2008 when it was an Estonian-only affair known as "Teeme Ära!" ("Let's Do It!"), and showcased the best of Estonian civic-mindedness and capacity to set egos aside to pull together.

From those small beginnings it has grown into one of the biggest global, environment-related civic societal actions and involves around 20 million people from 190 nations worldwide.

Since WCD is literally that, a day, the entire event runs for at least 24 hours, crossing the international date line and every single time zone in the process.

As such it also contributes to the UN's Sustainable Development Goals, which include making towns and cities safer and more sustainable places and bringing about changes in production and consumption habits.

Estonia is submitting a debate resolution to the UN General Assembly this fall, to have WCD officially added to the UN calendar, so as to raise global awareness of the initiative even further.

This follows a recommendation issued to the UN Environment Assembly in Nairobi, Kenya, in June, to the effect that the UN General Assembly should declare 20 September International World Cleanup Day.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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