Key Activities

1. Environmental challenges and causes

Ecosystem management (land, water, seas and oceans and their biodiversity)

The West Asia region is faced with a range of challenges in terms of its natural ecosystems; its overarching natural aridity and lack of surface waters across much of the region, issues relating to transboudary management of both surface and groundwater; lands that are characterized by poor vegetation cover, sandy soils, with drylands comprising 64% of the total area (4 million km2) with a lack of appropriate integrated land use planning and management resulting in reduction of ecosystem services, widespread desertification and land resources degradation including biodiversity loss; and coastal and marine resources facing a number of pressures, including rapid development of coastal urban centres, recreational and touristic projects, land reclamation and development of industrial zones, resulting in the degradation of the quality of the coastal and marine environment, depletion of fish stocks, destruction of habitat and depletion of biodiversity and the risks of severe pollution events and of invasive species due to high levels of shipping. High and sustained population and urban growth, coupled with increasing rates of consumption are increasing the pressures on the ecosystems of the region, with land, water, seas and oceans and their natural biodiversity facing remarkable challenges and threats.

Climate Change (Adaptation and Mitigation)

The impacts of climate change are already being recognised in this already arid region and there is also increasing incidence of extreme weather events, and sand and dust storms as an emerging issue, as well as impacts on food security in increasing prevalent drought situations. Adaptation to climate change is an emerging priority with governments requesting UN system support in tackling this issue.  Energy and the issue of climate change mitigation is a sensitive one in the region.  The region is home to 52% of world’s oil reserves and has huge renewable energy potential, but there is still a heavy reliance on fossil fuels with extraction and refining the major economic activities in the Gulf Cooperation Council Countries, leading to high carbon footprints in these countries. 

Sustainable Consumption and Production, and the need for economic diversification

Patterns of consumption in the region are high and recognised as being unsustainable. Production processes in the region also rarely consider environmental protection as a priority and are themselves unsustainable, raising concerns with respect to harmful substances and hazardous wastes.  In many countries of the region, there is a lack of clear strategies / policies / regulations relating to solid waste management and limited infrastructure for its safe disposal (especially in terms of hazardous and medical waste).  The region has in many ways taken a very traditional development path, but without due consideration of the natural resources limitations faced by the region.

Environmental Governance

There are three key challenges relating to environmental governance in the West Asia region and these relate to

  • The structure and capacity of regional environmental governance and Ministries and Agencies responsible for the environment at the national level,
  • meeting obligations under MEAs especially in terms of reporting and negotiating capacities, and
  • data and information for decision-making.

Disasters and Conflicts

Political instability, security, conflict and natural disasters are all issues facing the region.  The region has for many years been a theatre of a number of conflicts, with an ongoing situation in oPt, and great uncertainty in Yemen and Syria. 

2. UNEP response to the challenges faced

Climate Change (Adaptation and Mitigation)

  • Technical support to the assessment of climate change impacts and development and implementation of national adaptation strategies and programmes in the region.
  • Technical support to eligible countries in accessing funding from international sources of finance for climate change initiatives.
  • Policy guidance and support to meeting obligations under the UNFCCC.

Disasters and Conflicts

  • Continuing support as requested in terms of environmental impacts and guidance in to conflict and post-conflict events in the region.
  • Continuing support in terms of environmental impacts and guidance in natural disaster events in the region, particularly through the Arab Strategy on Disaster Risk Reduction.

Ecosystem management (land, water, seas and oceans and their biodiversity)

  • Capacity building and advocacy for Ecosystem Management Based approaches to natural resource management.
  • Technical support is provided to countries and to the Water Science and Technology Association as well as Global Water Partnership (Mediterranean Region) in the promotion of IWRM.
  • Support to Mashreq countries and Yemen to facilitate the implementation of UNCCD and National Action Plans under 10-year strategy.
  • Support to countries of the region, in the revision of their NBSAPs including mainstreaming biodiversity across sectors.

Environmental Governance

  • Work with the Council of Arab Ministers Responsible for the Environment (CAMRE) and GCC Environment Committee, including preparations for Rio+20.
  • Technical support to capacity development of environmental ministries and agencies in the region based on needs assessment.
  • Technical support to countries to improve data acquisition, quality, handling and sharing.
  • Capacity development support of member states in terms of negotiations in MEAs and meeting reporting requirements.
  • Support to the UN Delivering as One programme though increased development of joint projects at the country lelvel with sister UN agencies.
  • Networking and capacity development among civil society organisations in environmental issues, including the preparations for Rio+20.

Harmful Substances and Hazardous Wastes

  • Continued technical support to the implementation of the strategy for curbing illegal trade in HS&HW in the region and addressing integrated waste management.
  • Technical support to countries in e-waste through annual E-Waste Management Forum and support to pilot projects in the region.

Sustainable Consumption and Production, and the need for economic diversification

  • Technical support to countries in the development and implementation of green economy initiatives, including in the elaboration of specific projects.
  • Strengthen efforts to mainstream SCP and resource efficiency at the national level and strengthened regional cooperation.