Arab States Form New Sustainable Development Organization

NAIROBI, Kenya, February 7, 2007 (ENS) - Arab countries are working together to achieve sustainable development in a new regional nongovernmental organization backed by both public and private sectors. The Arab Forum for Environment and Development was introduced to the international environmental community today at the Governing Council of the UN Environment Programme underway in Nairobi.

The Arab Forum for Environment and Development, AFED, is a pan-Arab civil society initiative with a secretariat to be based in Beirut, Lebanon. It groups corporate executives, NGOs, media and scientific experts, together with government agencies that will participate in the capacity of observers.


AFED Secretary General Najib Saab of Lebanon is founding publisher and editor-in-chief of Al-Bia Wal-Tanmia (Environment & Development) magazine. He is a UNEP Global 500 award winner. (Photo courtesy Al-Bia Wal-Tanmia)
"In order that the Arab countries may occupy a decent position in the new world market, we hope that this forum will succeed in encouraging Arab businessmen and economic institutions to collaborate in the direction of opening an Arab common market for products which are friendly to the environment as well as in the direction of harmonizing environmental measures," said AFED Secretary General Najib Saab.

AFED will produce an annual progress report to trace the performance of Arab nations with respect to international development treaties, ranging from those pertaining to the elimination of ozone-depleting chemicals to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals, a series of targets to slash global ills such as poverty and illiteracy by 2015.


From left, UNEP West Asia Regional Director Habib El-Habr and Iraqi Environment Minister Narmin Osman participate in the press conference introducing the Arab Forum for Environment and Development in Nairobi today. (Photo courtesy Earth Negotiations Bulletin)
Saab said that AFED will promote cooperation between the public and private sector in the Arab world - chambers of commerce, industry, scientific research centers and educational institutes Ė to develop joint environmental programs.

"The AFED is a welcome initiative that lays down steps towards achieving sustainable development in a globalized world including through empowerment of civil society and the consumer," UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner said today.

AFED will cooperate with UNEP to develop joint regional programs.

Saab said, "Common environmental problems demanding regional Arab cooperation are not few, among the most acute are water resources, air pollution, land degradation, desertification, and contamination of regional seas with the ensuing problems of low productivity."


In Iran's Dasht-E-Azadegan plains, the lower stretches of the Karkheh River are badly depleted and have become briny after the Karkheh dam became operational in April 2001. (Photo courtesy UNEP/DEWA/GRID-Europe)
AFED announced the launching of its regional work program during a press conference January 31 at the Environment 2007 conference and exhibition held in Abu Dhabi.

Director of Environment and Sustainable Development at the League of Arab States, Fatima Al-Mallah, commended the unique structure of AFED, which allows "true partnership between the civil society and governments."

Mallah announced that AFED will participate in the activities of the Council of Arab Ministers Responsible for the Environment, and said she was confident "it will provide strong contribution to the Arab endeavors towards achieving sustainable development."

The AFED program will be funded by membership dues, contributions to AFEDís Trust Fund, donations by corporate partners and organizations, and income generated by AFED activities and services.