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Speech by Klaus Toepfer, United Nations Under Secretary General and Director General of the United Nations Office at Nairobi, at the Official Launch and gala Premiere of Heart and Soul

Last week we witnessed the drama of the World Cup Final. Today we are here to celebrate the drama of Heart and Soul and the best thing is, we do not have to wait four years.

This soap opera for Africa will be hitting a screen near you in just a matter of weeks.

Germany, and I can say this because as you may have guessed I am German, were the luckiest team in the tournament. But it is not by chance that Heart and Soul is soon to be broadcast.

It has taken huge vision, dedication and confidence to overcome the skeptics to bring this kernel of an idea to the small screen. And those founding fathers and mothers of Heart and Soul deserve rich applause.

Heart and Soul is also an idea whose time has come.

In Europe there is a beer called Heineken. One advertisement used to say that Heineken reached parts other beers cannot reach.

We in the United Nations have our successes and our failures. Possibly our toughest task is to reach the man and women in the slum, the child in the bush, the teenager in the rural village.

I think Heart and Soul can reach the parts we find it tough to reach, illuminating issues such as AIDS, poverty and development, through drama, through stories and let's face it, humankind learnt to tell stories as a way of communicating ideas and difficult issues long before it learnt to write UN documents.

We live in an increasingly globalized world. We are in danger of losing our identity. If we lose that, we lose ourselves.

Television is part of that globalization. If you travel as much as I do, you see the same programmes from Bangkok to Berlin, from Nairobi to Norway.

A soap opera made in Dallas, Texas, or the East End of London, can appeal to people everywhere. We all share the same humanity and we all love a good tale. We enjoy seeing the goodies and the baddies, the flawed personality-an accident waiting to happen.

But Africa has its own tale to tell. Africans have their own issues to deal with, their own humor, their own perspective on the world. That is why Heart and Soul is important.

It is also important to the UN as well. A lot of the soap opera is about families, with all their loves and hates, joys and jealousies.

The UN family, you may not be surprised to know, can be a bit of a soap opera too. So the fact that 25 UN agencies have managed to get together and work so well in helping to get Heart and Soul off the ground is a feather in our caps.

I look forward to the next episode and hope we can continue in this positive direction.

In a few weeks time, world leaders will meet in Johannesburg, South Africa, for something called the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD).

This is ten years after the Earth Summit in Rio, Brazil, where countries agreed to a whole range of actions to fight pollution and set the planet on a healthy course.

Well much has been achieved but even more needs to be done, especially in the area of fighting poverty in poorer countries.

Heart and Soul is in many ways a mirror in which world leaders can see, reflected, how sustainable development can be achieved.

The soap opera has brought together the knowledge and skills of actors, technicians, marketing people from both the developed and developing world in a spirit of partnership that has been mutually beneficial.

I hope world leaders get to learn about Heart and Soul and take its spirit, its achievements, and its vision on board so that Johannesburg turns the promises of Rio into reality.

For More Information Please Contact: Nick Nuttall, Acting Director, UNEP Division of Communications and Public Information, on Tel: 254 2 623084, Mobile: 0733 632755, E-mail: nick.nuttall@unep.org or Steve Jackson, UNEP Head of Audio Visual, on Tel: 254 2 623332, E-mail: steve.jackson@unep.org