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The COVID-19 pandemic: our response

24 June 2020
Whitecomberd   Adobe Stock

Photo: Whitecomberd / Adobe Stock

Statement from Neville Ash, Director of the UN Environment Programme World Conservation Monitoring Centre (UNEP-WCMC):

“The Covid-19 pandemic has reminded us that our own health is inextricably linked to the health of our ecosystems and food systems.

UNEP-WCMC’s focus has always been on ensuring the real-world impact of our work and this has become more important than ever as we play our part in the global response to the pandemic.

We will bring our unique skills, knowledge and expertise to bear in two main areas: understanding and addressing the drivers of zoonotic disease emergence, and seeking transformational change in the relationship between people and nature to reduce future risks.
Building back better from this crisis will be a collective challenge. We will continue to work with our partners to make positive change and build a better, healthier future.”


The Covid-19 pandemic caused devastating human, social, and economic distress in almost every part of the world and has reinforced the need for urgent action on reversing ecological degradation worldwide.

Covid-19 is just one of a range of diseases to have made the jump from wildlife to people in recent years. It is estimated that one new infectious disease emerges in society every four months and 75% of all emerging infectious diseases are zoonotic, that is, transmitted to people from other animals.

Drivers of biodiversity loss like climate change, pollution, and unsustainable consumption and land practices disrupt the balance of nature and can raise the risk of zoonotic disease transmission.

Building back better from the pandemic must include an urgent effort to better understand and manage this intimate link between people and nature.

At UNEP-WCMC, we are uniquely placed to ensure our science, knowledge and insights shape global and national policy, in addition to promoting and facilitating the use of science and knowledge more broadly.

Our contribution to the global response to the pandemic will focus on two main pathways:

Understanding and addressing drivers of zoonotic disease emergence

We will use our existing expertise to better assess the risks posed by disease emergence and how these risks can be managed.

Specific work will include:

Seeking transformational change in the relationship between people and nature

We will work with our network of collaborators, and seek new collaborations, using our knowledge and skills to help improve the resilience of ecological, economic and social systems.

Examples of this work will include:

Read more about UNEP-WCMC's response to the Covid-19 pandemic for further details of the work we have planned.