In 1979, Syria appointed a Minister of State for Environmental Affairs and has since continued to make much headway in developing the country's environmental institutional capabilities by creating a General Commission for Environmental Affairs (GCEA) under the direction of the Minister. This basic framework for environmental protection is constrained, however, by acute shortages in human, physical and financial resources.
In 1994, a World Bank project was instituted in Syria (Program Syria 21) to formulate an Environmental Action Plan with the participation of the GCEA in order to address the country's pressing environmental issues by the promotion and integration of environmental considerations in all development activities. Program 21 began its activities in mid-1995 and has since instituted certain changes to the decision-making process and a reform policy for seven river-basin projects.
Syria is a party to several international agreements for the protection of the environment, including the International Convention for Civil Liability for Oil Pollution Damage (and its amendments); the Convention on the Establishment of an International Fund for Compensation for Oil Pollution Damage; the International Convention Relating to Intervention on the High Seas in Cases of Oil Pollution Casualties; the Convention for the Protection of the Mediterranean Sea against Pollution; the Agreement for the Establishment of a General Fisheries Council for the Mediterranean (as amended); the Convention concerning the Protection of Workers against Ionizing Radiation; the Treaty banning Nuclear Weapon Tests in the Atmosphere, in Outer Space and Underwater; the Agreement for the Establishment of a Commission for Controlling the Desert Locust in the Near East; the Convention concerning Protection against Hazards of Poisoning arising from Benzene and the Convention for the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage.
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