MedWetCoast Project for conservation of Wetlands and Coastal Ecosystems in the Mediterranean Region MedWetCoast Project for conservation of Wetlands and Coastal Ecosystems in the Mediterranean Region
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Meeting report of regional technical seminar
National strategies and policies for wetlands
Beirut, Lebanon, 16-18 February 2004
Thursday 18 March 2004, by Web Team

2. Introduction and opening


The seminar was opened with the Lebanese national anthem.

Ms. Sylvie Goyet, MedWetCoast regional coordinator, welcomed the participants. She reminded of the importance of wetlands because of their functions and values, highlighting their contribution to:
- biodiversity (migratory routes, bird sanctuary, breeding grounds for fish and bird species, endemism, etc)
- water regulation (flood control, water ground water recharge)
- water purification (against pollution)
- sources of human livelihood (reed cutting, fishing, etc.) She then insisted on the need for policies to consolidate and also guide the field and local work. A clear strategy is needed at the national level in order to identify areas of high values, define a protection strategy and develop the regulatory and institutional instruments. She also pointed out that national wetland strategies have often been developed within the framework of national biodiversity strategy and the need to ensure that the specificities of their management are correctly addressed. She then spelled out the objectives of this seminar, underscoring that the aim was to exchange experience and practices in order to help countries launch and/or further develop a national process of wetland strategy making. She concluded by expressing her gratitude to the Government of Lebanon and the Ministry of Environment for the efforts in organizing this meeting, her thanks to the MWC partner organizations, Ramsar secretariat, MedWet, IUCN, WWF and the Mediterranean countries (France, Spain, Turkey) for their support and participation.

Mr. Tobias Salathe, Senior Advisor for Europe, Ramsar Secrétariat, commenced by referring to the Biodiversity COP7 currently being held in Kuala Lumpur, thereby making the link with the Biodiversity process. He then underscored that the MWC was a good example of a regional initiative at policy setting and this meeting was therefore important, as it laid the ground for encouraging national processes at that level. The fact that participants do include representatives from sectoral ministries, parliamentarians, NGOs as well as environmentalists and policy makers provides as well a solid platform for spreading the message and starting the process at home. He concluded by thanking the organizers and the MedWetCoast project, a ’lighthouse for further GEF efforts in the region’.

Mr. Spyros Kouvelis, MedWet Coordinator, expressed his appreciation at the convening of this meeting, confirming that this is what MedWet is about, i.e. encouraging exchange of experience and practices for policy setting. He referred to the 1996 approval of the first wetland strategy for the Mediterranean, a theme that he will further develop in his next presentation. He concluded by thanking the Ministry of Environment and the participants.

Mrs. Lamia Mansour, Acting Regional Biodiversity Coordinator for the Arab States, GEF/UNDP, welcomed the participants, confirming that UNDP GEF will put all necessary arrangements to ensure continued backstopping of this project. She highlighted the role of the GEF in supporting environmental policy making, in particular through assistance to the national biodiversity process..... Copy of her speech is attached as Annex 1

Mr. Yves de San, UNDP Resident Representative, Lebanon, commenced by paying tribute to Mr. Hani Daraghma, former regional biodiversity coordinator for the Arab States who tragically passed away in November 2003 and called for a one minute of silence in his memory. He welcomed all countries and reminded of WSSD development goals that were agreed as targets by 2015. He highlighted the one for ’the efficient use of natural resources’ in order to achieve sustainable development. He also pointed out that UNDP is partnering with a large number of institutions to mainstream environmental concerns into sectoral policies, as one of the ultimate goal to achieving sustainable development. He reminded that the MWC Lebanon project started in 2002, thanks to support from the FFEM and the AFD, and with the objective to develop a clear strategic framework for wetlands and coastal zone in Lebanon. He concluded by looking forward to the results of this seminar, as it provides a platform for following up on policy issues for wetlands. Copy of his speech is attached as Annex 2.

On behalf of H.E. Mr. Fares Bouez, Minister of Environment, Lebanon, Mr. Berj Hartjian thanked all parties for their support. He extended his thanks to UNDP for their continued assistance; his appreciation to MedWetCoast RCU for opting to work with Lebanon for the staging of this seminar; his recognition to Ramsar for their support, also extending his congratulations to Mr. Bridgewater for his recent appointment as Ramsar Secretary General; his welcome to the MedWet coordinator also underscoring his dynamisms as a strength that the region needs; his thanks to Lamia Mansour for her work in following up on the GEF issues; and his thanks to the colleagues from MWC, wishing them a fruitful stay. He greeted the Lebanese participants, in particular those from other ministries such as agriculture and public works, pointing out that their presence attests that the issue is a priority on their agenda as well. Finally he registered his appreciation to AFD, complimenting that it does not spare efforts to support the Ministry. He expressed concern though with the future of the environment in general, pointing out that our role gets more and more limited as we move to increased privatization and monetization. In that context, he queried the fact that the investment sector is not participating in this meeting, underscoring that the key is to involve the investment sector in environmental matters. He then quoted the example of Citibank which recently moved to environmentally-friendly loans and financial instruments under pressure from their clients, themselves apraised of the negative impacts of Citibank’s financial support to activities that lead to the destruction of the Amazon rainforest. He concluded by encouraging all of the participants to foster more of this ethical behavior from investment institutions.

Regional Meeting report of National strategies and policies for wetlands
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