UNEP-Led "Environment Outlook for the Arab Region" Launched at League of Arab States Meeting in Cairo
15 March, 2010 - Multiple challenges are facing the Arab region from climate change and food insecurity to decreasing water availability and unemployment according to a new assessment by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).
The Environment Outlook for the Arab Region (EOAR), compiled at the request of the Council of Arab Ministers Responsible for the Environment (CAMRE) says important progress is being made to address sustainability.
Much of the progress has focused on the development of the environmental frameworks including the necessary legislation alongside improved public awareness and involvement of countries in the region in international treaties and agreements.
The focus now is to translate these institutional gains into transformative action across countries and on the ground in order to catalyze a transition to a low carbon, resource efficient Green Economy.
Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary General and UNEP Executive Director, said: "This assessment has been a truly collaborative one outlining the progress but also the realities facing this diverse but also dynamic region where if policies and resources are better focused could be a beacon of sustainable, Green Economic, development for millions of people".
"One factor that is both a persistent but also an emerging challenge is water. The EOAR notes that Arab countries are now among most water-scarce in the world and that there has been a worrying decline in per capita water availability with an average of only 1 000 m3 per inhabitant per year, as of 2008," he added.
"Climate change is likely to aggravate these trends. Thus it is in the interests of nations across the region to constructively engage in the climate change negotiations as countries look to Mexico and the UN climate convention meeting later in the year," said Mr Steiner.
He said a transformation towards a low carbon, resource efficient path offered the best opportunity for not only addressing challenges but delivering opportunities in terms of diversified energy supplies, security of natural resources and the chance to generate new kinds of jobs in areas such as clean energy and natural resource management.
The new report, launched at the headquarters of the League of Arab States in Cairo, has been prepared in collaboration with the General Secretariat of the League of Arab States (LAS), the Center for Environment and Development for the Arab Region and Europe (CEDARE), as well as the Arab Specialized agencies and Global Environment Outlook collaborating centers in the region.
It notes that biofuels and food security are among a suite of emerging and intertwined challenges facing the region.
Poverty remains a challenge in most countries in the region and unemployment is wide spread at 13.7 per cent or more than twice the global average, according to the latest estimates.
The report says the Arab region is predicted to be among the hardest hit by the potential of direct and indirect impacts linked with climate change.
Impacts include loss of coastal zones, more severe droughts and desertification, increased groundwater salinity, and a surge in epidemics and infectious diseases.
Dr. Nadia Makram Ebeid, CEDARE Executive Director stresses: "The interlinked environmental challenges facing the Arab region are enormous, but also represent an opportunity for development. There is no contradiction between protecting the environment and achieving economic development. Solving environmental problems contributes eventually to the elimination of a large number of obstacles facing development" she says.
The report affirms that the region's natural resources offer a wide ranging opportunities, if these resources are used rationally and sustainably, and if environmental aspects are integrated into the decision making process.
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