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Abu Declaration on the Future of the Arab Environment Programme

posted on 05/02/2001: 1619 views

The Arab Ministers Responsible for the Environment, having met in a special session of the Council of Arab Ministers Responsible for the Environment, CAMRE, on 3 February 2001, 9 Du'l-qa'ada 1421H, at the start of the International Exhibition and Conference Environment 2001 in Abu Dhabi.

The Ministers praise the Arab and Global concerns regarding environmental issues, which have been manifested via the Tunis Declaration concerning development and the environment issued by the first Ministerial meeting in 1986, the Conference of the Arab Ministers Responsible for the Environment held in Cairo in 1992, and the United Nations Conference on the Environment and Development, Earth Summit, which was held in Brazil in 1992, as well as the resolutions and commitments included in the Rio Declaration and Agenda 21, in addition to all other recommendations reached by various international conferences leading to the Malmo and Abuja Meetings held in the Year 2000.

Upon: Reviewing the report "The Future of the Arab Environment Programme" which has been prepared as a result of the initiative and support from the United Nations Environment Programme, UNEP, and with generous support from the United Arab Emirates.

Recognise: that the Arab countries, standing at the threshold of a new century and a new millennium, will witness developments of profound impact on various aspects of life as we know it today.

The region enters the New Millennium with the full realisation that significant and far-reaching achievements have been made in the development of Arab society, as reflected in advances in human health, education, socio-economic standards and the environment. They recognise, in particular, achievements in the establishment of institutions, environmental legislation and manpower capacity building, as well as the Arab contribution to Multilateral Environmental Agreements and global environmental programmes. It is only to be expected that such a rapid rate of development will affect the environment. This has led to the call for more effective synergies between the requirements of development plans, poverty eradication and concern for the state of environment. Several negative aspects have been identified, among which is the concern for development and increasing the income of Arab citizens without due consideration for environmental aspects, which has led to intensive utilisation of natural resources and the associated pollution rates that violate the requirements for maintaining a healthy environment conducive to sustainable development.

Hence the need today to adopt more effective approaches to development, including the improvement of the income level per capita, the efficient use of the renewable and non-renewable natural resources and protection of the environment from excessive pollution.

Realise: that in order to achieve sustainable development, two basic challenges must be met. First, the relentless increase in population is a major long term threat as long as the present rates of increase are maintained and the present imbalances in population density between urban, rural and Badia regions, at both the national and regional levels continue. Second, the limitation and deterioration of most natural resources in the Arab countries.

Taking note: that we have, more than at any time before, the expertise to asses the state of the environment and to deal with current environmental problems in innovative ways, yet our stock of environmental specialists remain limited in numbers and in experience. Our environmental protection agencies are still young and of limited experience and are facing difficult and complex challenges.

Recognise: that most of the current environmental issues are those of the last century, but increased in intensity and varying in their order of priority from one place to another. The last few decades of the past century have witnessed negative impacts on the environment resulting from accelerated development and expansion of urbanisation that have led to deterioration of urban infrastructures in most Arab countries, increases in air pollution levels beyond those permissible, land degradation, lowering of the amount of available fresh water per capita. pollution of regional seas and deterioration of fisheries and loss of biodiversity. These impacts are much clearer and more urgent than half a century ago.

Recall: that the last few years have witnessed greater interest among Arab citizens in environmental problems and realisation that if allowed to continue, they represent a real threat to national development effort, a phenomenon that encouraged decision makers to seriously take up the consolidation of this growing awareness of environmental issues and fostering the participation of various sectors of society in addressing them.

Recognise: that there is an urgent need to develop a strategy and clear vision for the future of Arab environmental programme to face current and future challenges in first two decades of the new century. Convinced: that in order to face the challenges, we need better understanding of the state of environment, the magnitude and direction of changes that have resulted from the current development activities, their driving forces and resulting impacts on human health, natural resources and economy. This assessment provides the solid foundation for setting our environmental priorities and the Arab environment programme for the future.

Realise: that in addition to global environmental changes, globalisation, trade liberalisation, advances in information technology, the increased involvement of civil society in decision making and the shift towards decentralisation represent major developments at the global level, that have serious and direct impacts on the Arab region,

Declare First: that major environmental problems of priority faced by the Arab countries at the beginning of the twenty-First century are: * severe shortage of water resources, both in quantity and quality, * limitation of available lands and deterioration of available land resources, * unsustainable consumption of natural resources, * rapid rates of urbanisation and associated problems, * deterioration of coastal and marine areas.

Second: In order to meet the objectives of sustainable development, there is a need to develop a strategy based on the identification of strengths and weaknesses of our past experiences. This strategy should also be based on a thorough understanding of the global environmental changes in their various manifestations. This strategy should be based on following principle elements:

1- The realisation that the environmental problems vary in cause and in both immediate and long-term effects, it is neither possible, nor useful, to try to address them all at once. This calls for drafting and pursuing environment rehabilitation plans on two time horizons. In the short term, those most acute environmental problems, where there is a real chance to achieve success in solving them will be addressed. This will reinforce the credibility of environmental institutions and generate more resources to deal effectively with more difficult problems at greater depth and on a more sustainable basis. The second time horizon is that of the long term, requiring more resources to allow in-depth studies of these more intricate problems and resulting in the formulation of effective solutions and the provision of the needs for their implementation.

2- Initiate actions to halt environmental degradation before trying to deal with consequences. It would be a waste of effort, time and resources to try to address the consequences of environmental degradation without dealing with the causes. In some serious cases, there may be a need to address both simultaneously. It is clear that such situations represent a severe burden on society, this highlights the danger of delaying action on tackling environmental problems by simply rolling them over, from one place to place, or from one time to another. International experience has shown that such policies can only lead to greater costs and impacts that could have been avoided by dealing with environmental problems at an early stage.

3- Implement modern environmental economics techniques so as to provide decision-makers with better ways of comparing the cost of investing in environment protection with the long-term costs resulting from ignoring the environmental dimension in development planning.

4- Adopt the Cleaner Production strategy in its complete sense, starting from the sustainable use of natural resources, exclusion of hazardous materials inputs, maximisation of the use of efficiency of design and production methods and minimisation of emissions, effluents, and wastes in production and use to levels that are well within the carrying capacity of the environment. Cleaner Production also includes maximum utilisation of wastes in new industries and the examination of consumption patterns that lead to the social demand for a given product or service.

5- Take adequate measures to ensure Arab involvement in efforts to develop advanced technologies related to improving the environment in the Arab countries.

6- Recognise the importance of the environment in the living conditions and economic standards of Arab citizens, due to the profound correlation between poverty and environmental issues. The main objective of development is to guarantee individual happiness and prosperity. The continuation of lower standards of living among certain Arab communities, small and large, as well as the alarming deficit in development patterns will demand special attention in the foreseeable future, especially as it has been proven that poverty is the major source of deterioration and environmental pollution and natural resource mismanagement.

7- Capacity building and institutional upgrading through:

One) Development of human resources at all levels and in all fields of the environment, and at unprecedented intensity.

Two) Development of curricula at all levels of education with view to making the environment and essential component in our education system, and seeking to prepare a generation who is aware of its responsibility towards the environment. A generation whose environmental awareness is based on sound understanding of the environmental issues and conducive to behaviour that respects the limits of nature and endeavours to protect the environment in whichever career path is followed.

Three) Encouraging Arab media to show greater concern and offer more in-depth analysis and clarity in their coverage of environmental issues in addressing Arab citizens of all ages, gender, level of education or degree of influence and with a view of sensitising them to the environmental problems and calling for responsible patterns of behaviour that are supportive to environment protection efforts and regarding them as guardians of such efforts.

Four) Further develop environmental institutions, benefiting from the experience of other nations and guided by our social values and cultural heritage.

Five) Enabling civil society organisations, to participate more effectively in environmental decision making to ensure effective support in implementing such decisions, with greater emphasis on the role of women and the family.

Six) Working towards qualitative change in the efforts of our scientific research institutions in providing the technological base and field expertise that would enable them to effectively address our environmental problems that have accumulated over recent years, including the new global dimension of these problems and their impacts on the Arab region.

Seven) Emphasise the importance of developing the Council mechanisms in order to achieve the objectives of tackling new and future issues regionally and internationally.

Third: Their commitment to implement, over the next two decades, the programmes and projects addressing the priority problems, identified in the "Future Outlook of the Arab environmental Programme" Report, presented to the Abu Dhabi Special Session of CAMRE, 3 February 2001.

Fourth: Confirm the need for undertaking effective measures to support environmental administrations in Arab countries and their supporting activities and to seek the necessary finding for carrying out their duties. In this context, the Ministers:

One- Welcome the interest shown by Arab Kings and Heads of States in environmental issues and their decision to include the preparatory process for the Rio10 Summit in the agenda of their next summit in Amman. They also look forward in having the environment as one of the fixed agenda items in future summits.

Two- Welcome further the decision of the 7th Islamic Summit, November 2000 in Doha, to endorse the Jeddah Declaration of the international Forum on the Environment from Islamic Perspective, 22-25 October 2000, looking forward to the recommendation of the Forum becoming the basis for a work programme that will complement the regional and global environmental programme.

Three- Realise the importance of securing ongoing financial resources in order to solve current and future environmental problems in the region through national and regional funds, as well as co-operation and partnership with developed countries and international regional agencies.

Four- Emphasise the importance of preparing for the Rio10 Summit, which should include the draft of a comprehensive report that reflects the expectations of the region, reviews what has been achieved in the past 10 years in the area of the environment, outlines the main objectives and assesses the human and financial resources required, based on the outcome of a joint meeting with their counterpart Ministers of the Environment in Muslim and African states before the Rio10 summit so as to formulate common positions that would have considerable influence in the international arena.

Five- Invite the strengthening of the co-operation with the Developing Countries, G77 and China, and the international regional organisations with mutual concern regarding environmental and development issues.

Fifth: Emphasise the importance of enhancing co-operation with the United Nations Environment Programme, UNEP, as the specialised UN agency for the environment, calling upon UNEP to provide further support to CAMRE in accordance with the Jeddah Regional MOU, May 1999, so as strength the Arab Environment programme and increase its involvement in the global environment programme. In the context, they highlight the need to support the Environment Fund to enable UNEP to sustain its regional and global programmes.

Sixth: They welcome the initiative of the Kingdom of Morocco to host the seventh Conference on the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and they call for support in her efforts to achieve a successful conference.

Seventh: The Arab Ministers will insure follow up of these commitments in their regular CAMRE sessions. (The Emirates News Agency, WAM)


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