Nature-based solutions can play a key role in ensuring the future sustainability — and, with it, prosperity and stability — of the Arab region, said IUCN Director General Julia Marton-Lefèvre in her keynote address to the recent annual conference of the Arab Forum for Environment and Development (AFED).
This year’s AFED Report titled Survival Options: Ecological Footprint in Arab Countries, prepared in partnership with the IUCN Member Global Footprint Network and dedicated to the late Mohamed Kassas, former President of IUCN, focused on the use of natural resources in the region. The report underscored that environmental degradation severely limits the survival options in the Arab countries.
The 2012 AFED conference, which took place in Beirut, Lebanon, 29-30 November, brought together 500 participants from nearly 50 countries despite the ongoing upheavals in the region. Reflecting on the significance of the event, AFED Secretary-General Najib Saab remarked, “...after wars, revolts, and all sorts of miseries, people will still have to eat and drink and breathe, and therefore manage their natural resources.”
The conference also presented an opportunity to meet with IUCN Members and partners in the Arab region. During her meeting with Nazem El Khoury, Lebanon’s Minister of Environment, IUCN Director General highlighted progress in the development of the Lebanon Action Plan by the IUCN National Committee in the country. The action plan, first presented during the 2012 IUCN World Conservation Congress, clearly states the priorities for intervention in Lebanon and the impact that the nine NGO Members of IUCN can make by working together.
Julia Marton-Lefèvre was also given a tour of the Jabal Moussa Biosphere Reserve by the President of the Association to Protect Jabal Moussa, Pierre Doumet. The Association, which has recently joined IUCN as a Member, is engaged in conservation work and in generating livelihood opportunities for local communities living next to the reserve.