The Arab Forum for Environment and Development (AFED) 10th annual conference was held in Beirut, Lebanon, on 2-3 November 2017. The conference was opened with the launch of the new report entitled “Arab Environment in 10 years”, presented by Najib Saab, Secretary General of AFED. The report, which is the tenth in a series on the State of Arab Environment, tracks changes in environment in Arab countries over the last decade, using AFED’s 2008 report as a baseline for comparison and proposing an alternative path for the future.
Over fifteen ministers, corporate leaders and heads of international and regional organizations participated in the conference. Forty leading Arab and international experts and decision-makers discussed key topics related to sustainable development in the region. Civil society organizations shared their views in a special session on how to integrate all players in the sustainable development process. The conference also featured the special session “We are the future”, hosting students from across the Arab region.
Mr. Gaetano Leone, Coordinator of UN Environment/MAP, participated in the conference as panelist of the session on “Green economy, green finance, and the private sector”.
In his address, Mr. Leone emphasized that the green, low carbon, resource efficient and socially inclusive economy, is a pathway for achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, eradicating poverty while safeguarding the ecological thresholds. He explained that the transition towards a green economy – called blue economy when applied to the coastal, marine and maritime sectors of the Mediterranean – is at the heart of the Mediterranean Action Plan and Barcelona Convention, highlighting the vital importance of seas and oceans to life and livelihoods. In line with Sustainable Development Goal 14 on conservation and sustainable use of oceans, seas and marine resources, “transition towards a green and blue economy” is also one of the six objectives of the Mediterranean Strategy for Sustainable Development (MSSD), a strategic guiding document for all stakeholders and partners to translate the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development at the regional, sub-regional, and national levels.
Mr. Leone stated that today’s dominant economic model, generates widespread environmental and health risks, encourages wasteful consumption and production, drives ecological and resource scarcities, and results in inequality. The transition towards a blue economy illuminates the path for the necessary decoupling between prosperity and use of resources. Governance is key for achieving this transition: it is a long-term process, demanding strong political will and involvement of all stakeholders. In this context, blue economy as a tool to achieve sustainable development provides an opportunity for Arab countries to address the main economic, social, and environmental challenges that they face.
The "Arab Environment in 10 years” report starts by tracking changes in the field of policies and governance, including responses to international and regional agreements. Changes in priority areas are analyzed: water, energy, air, food security, green economy and finance, environmental research and education, and waste management. Experts from the public and private sectors, civil society and academia have contributed case studies to the report, based on their experiences. The report also contains the results of a public opinion survey, tracking people’s views on the environment in 22 Arab countries, and comparing them to findings of similar survey carried out by AFED at its inception in 2006.