What's on at the biggest environmental conference ever in the Middle East ?
Preparations are underway in Jordan to properly host the largest environmental gathering in the history of the Middle East. The 2nd World Conservation Congress (Amman 2000) assembles the total representatives of the IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature) and will be held in Amman from Oct. 4-11/2000.
The official opening ceremony of the Congress is due to be held in the impressive roman theatre in Downtown Amman on Oct. 4, 2000. The activities will continue for a week culminating on Oct. 11. More than 2,500 participants from 160 countries are expected to attend.
The IUCN is a world-wide environmental organisation which main interests and mandates lie in the context of sustainable development and biological and cultural diversity. The main objective of the organisation is to influence, encourage and assist societies throughout the world to conserve the integrity and diversity of nature and to ensure that any use of natural resources is equitable and ecologically sustainable. The IUCN was founded in 1948 and its' membership is composed of international and national governmental and non-governmental agencies interested in the environment. It acts as a forum of discussion and debate between organisations of different sectors whether to develop a conservation strategy, to test a new idea through a field project or to build local and regional capacity.
The Congress agenda is comprised of both the main environmental business and sessions for the IUCN to elect the administrative body and commission members and coordinators.
The scientific interactive sessions will cover key conservational and environmental issues. The agenda for interactive sessions is comprised of 12 sessions that will cover the main environmental issues of the new millennium. The sessions will be held on Oct. 5 and 7, six sessions each day. Several IUCN and both international and local scientists will engage in the debates over the issues covered in the sessions. This and next week's articles will examine the 12 interactive sessions that will be held at the Amman 2000 Congress beginning with the six sessions that will be held on Oct. 5.
Session 1 is entitled 'Looking at the big Picture: Ecosystem management in mountains, watersheds and river basins'. This will tackle the environmental and social challenges that are rapidly growing in extent and complexity. Issues such as climate change, extinction of species, poverty and security transcend beyond national boundaries. The session will address the need to look at a combination of innovative, socially acceptable and far-looking approaches. This is particularly relevant in the case of mountains, watersheds and river basins, where individual site-specific approaches, such as protected areas, cannot always ensure the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity. The IUCN's objectives from this session are focused on distilling basic principles that can be applied in a variety of contexts involving all stakeholders and developing new partnerships. Case studies carried out by IUCN members in various parts of the world will be presented examining stakeholder involvement in resource management, appropriate boundaries, integrating biodiversity with other sectors and addressing economic and social concerns as an integral part of the approach.
The second session is entitled 'Environmental Health of Islands, Coastal and Marine ecosystems'. This session as its title implies will tackle an important environmental concern. Around 70 per cent of the Earth's surface is water. There is approximately 504,000 km of coastline, enough to encircle the equator 12 times. Common estimates place over 50 per cent of the human population, 2.7 billion people, within 100 km of the coastal zone, mostly concentrated in a small fraction of the coastal zone. The economic function of the oceans, not only as a medium for transportation, but also as the source for nearly two thirds of the 'goods and services' nature contributed to the global economy (it is estimated to be over $20 trillion per year). This abundance of the seas is a function of the enormous productivity and diversity of the marine environment. The tremendous human dependence upon the marine environment has predictably resulted in its degradation, to the degree that many if not most uses are no longer sustainable. A scoping exercise conducted by IUCN in 1998 identified drivers of marine and coastal biodiversity and organised them around three distinct but interlocking classes of response: protection of essential habitats, protection of the marine environment from land-based activities and sustainable management of fisheries. Debate in the session will focus on identifying new innovative marine programme for IUCN.
The third session will be one of the most interesting. With the title 'Environment and Security', the session focuses on a new concept in environmental management and policies.
For years, public funding for environmental action in developing countries has been falling, while funding for humanitarian emergencies has skyrocketed. Already, it is estimated that one quarter of the world's displaced people have left their homes essentially for environmental reasons. They are 'environmental refugees'. Further, it is now clear that resource mismanagement and degradation is a component in a large number of conflicts. Based on a series of case studies from different parts of the world, a task force of leading experts, chaired by a former member of the Brundtland Commission, will examine the link between environment and security, and sketch out a strategy for the IUCN. The results will be presented in the workshop and the task force will also publish a book on the subject in early 2001.
The fourth session will be entitled 'Forest Ecospaces, Biodiversity and Environmental Security'. Although environmentalists around the world have an unprecedented ability to understand our biosphere and put its resources to good use, forest ecosystems continue to be lost and degraded. Two recent events, the Hurricane Mitch in Central America and the forest fires in Indonesia have again illustrated how forest destruction and degradation can undermine people's very livelihoods. The IUCN aims at getting at the root causes of forest loss and stem the tide of destruction and impoverishment.
The fifth session, 'Ecospaces and a Global Culture of Sustainability' gets more into policy. The most vulnerable of all ecospaces are those ecosystems occupied by the rural poor. While the ecology of these ecospaces varies from region to region, they are all subject to unsustainable harvest of wild renewable measures and/or conversion to agricultural production of cash-crops by rural poor to meet their basic subsistence requirements. This session will examine practical approaches to addressing the factors, which enhance sustainability in regional contexts, serving to implement the second objective of the convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).
One of the most important sessions in the Congress will be session 6, 'Making Waves: Strategies for Averting the World Water Crises'. As Jordan is among the world's most water-scarce countries, all strategies and debates on water resources will be of vital importance here.
The main concerns of this session will be on how the linkage between the degradation of freshwater biodiversity and ecosystems and the over-abstraction of water resources has not yet been adequately acknowledged. However, ecosystems provide a range of goods and services that are directly responsible for maintaining our water resources base.
Therefore, ecosystems need water to preserve their intrinsic values and enable them to continue to provide goods and services to humankind. If humanity continues to misuse and destroy water resources and the ecosystems on which these depend, individuals and societies will ultimately suffer from major social and economic losses. Severely degraded rivers, lakes and groundwater reserves will increasingly lead to serious social and political conflicts, especially in times of scarcity.
The IUCN has been a partner in the preparation of several water strategies, most notably the 'Water and Nature' vision that was presented at the World Water Forum in The Hague in April, 2000 which was presented by the IUCN Patron, Her Majesty Queen Noor. This vision focused on the humane and natural aspects of water resource management rather than supply and demand issues.
This is part one of a two-part series. Part two will be published next week. The writer is the Programme Development Officer at the IUCN National Office in Jordan. For comments he can be reached at email@example.com. ― ( Jordan Times )
By Batir Wardam
© 2000 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)