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Environment and Development Forum

By Najib Saab, Issue 39, June 2001

Environmental awareness has increased all over the Arab world, and every country has now a number of non-governmental and scientific agencies that deal with environmental concerns, in addition to the ministries of environment and specialized government agencies. However, the nature of environmental difficulties calls for empowering non-government organizations, coordinating national efforts and cooperating on regional and international levels. Hence the need for an Arab national environmental forum that is effective and efficient in terms of setting policies and plans to support sustainable development, and focusing on common environmental concerns within a scientific frame that helps in planning to face future challenges. This is the essence of cooperation between the non-governmental sector on one hand, and environment government agencies and international organizations on the other, so that citizens can have a say in setting environmental policies and thereby assuming their responsibility for protecting the environment.


Establishing an Arab environment forum, which includes interested parties from all Arab countries, will indeed constitute a major center for dialogue and the exchange of expertise and information within an institutional frame. Common environmental problems that require Arab regional cooperation are many, among which are water resources, air pollution, desertification and regional seas.


This forum will also seek to encourage businessmen and Arab economic institutions to cooperate in establishing a common market for environment friendly products, unifying environmental standards to facilitate Arab countries objective, which is to acquire a respected status within the new international market, and step into the age of globalization without obstacles. In this sense, the forum encourages the establishment of environmental cooperation venues among Arab chambers of commerce and industry in order to arrive at unified standards and homogeneous plans. The forum also provides the appropriate arena to encourage scientific research and education institutes in the Arab world to develop common environmental programmes.

The members of the Environment and Development Forum are, quite simply, the subscribers of Environment & Development magazine, who are individuals, institutions, companies and non-government institutions. The forum’s aim is to coordinate Arab mass efforts to promote environmental awareness and encourage the public’s participation in choosing sound environmental policies and supporting their implementation. These aims can be realized by communicating through Environment & Development magazine, publishing a periodical newsletter for the members of the forum that contains news of programmes and activities, organizing or co-organizing and participating in national seminars and conferences, encouraging cooperation among environmental non-government organizations in Arab countries, supervising environmental cooperation among the Arab chambers of commerce and industry, and providing a forum for Arab environmentally friendly companies and industries.


Choosing the forum’s name was not done haphazardly nor is it only a reflection of the magazine’s name. Some suggested that it be called “Environment Forum”, but we did not want it to be restricted to “environment” only, but to include “development” as well, and reflect our firm belief in the unbreakable bond between the environment and the economy. A group of well-known Arab activists in the fields of environment and sustainable development are currently developing the forum’s framework, based on the following broad guidelines:


Environment and Development Forum: The forum is a non-governmental assembly consisting of Environment & Development magazine’s subscribers, whether they were individuals, institutions, companies or national associations. Current subscribers are considered founding members of the forum.


The Forum’s Aim: Providing an environmental public forum that includes all Arabs, encourages regional and international cooperation, and coordinates Arab environmental efforts.


The Forum’s Headquarters: The forum’s headquarters is within Environment & Development magazine’s offices in Beirut, where the General Secretariat is located.


The Management: The forum’s management and general secretariat is run by Environment & Development magazine’s editorial and managerial board. A committee of representatives that includes representatives of subscribers from every Arab country is being established, in addition to a board of directors that will include representatives of the major Arab regions: Levant Area (Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Palestine, Iraq), GCC countries (Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Sultanate of Oman, Qatar, Bahrain) and Yemen, Africa (Egypt, Sudan, Somalia, Djibouti), Maroc (Algeria, Morocco, Libya, Tunisia, Mauritania). Arabs residing in foreign countries will also be represented in the board.


Meetings: The board of directors will meet at least once a year, the committee of representatives will meet in a yearly conference attended by all the members, which will constitute a national Arab environment conference.


Budget and Funding: The forum’s budget will be funded through the member’s subscriptions that will be divided into members contributions, which is 25% of the subscription fee to Environment & Development magazine, and company and institution subscriptions. Independent auditors and the board of directors will oversee the forum’s budget. The budget will be spent on activities, studies, and programmes that support sound environmental management and sustainable development.


This magazine is owned by its readers. We will go ahead with practical steps towards transforming this logo into real institutions and an actual fact. In addition to the membership in the “forum”, Environment & Development magazine is going to invite new contributors to share its publisher in the “Environmental Investment” project, and will give subscribers the priority to become shareholders. Thus, Environment & Development magazine will become the first cooperative magazine owned by thousands of readers.


When we started publishing Environment & Development magazine 5 years ago, we promised that we will strive to put the environmental issue on the agenda of every government, institution and citizen in the Arab world. The Environment and Development Forum, which came to be in answer to the request of the magazine’s readers, is the most prominent accomplishment towards what we had promised, since it provides Arab environment with a voice to be heard among the public and decision makers alike, through a public institution for all Arabs, because environment knows no boundaries!

Arab Environment in 10 Years
ARAB ENVIRONMENT IN 10 YEARS crowns a decade of the series of annual reports produced by the Arab Forum for Environment and Development (AFED) on the state of Arab environment. It tracks and analyzes changes focusing on policies and governance, including level of response and engagement in international environmental treaties. It also highlights developments in six selected priority areas, namely water, energy, air, food, green economy and environmental scientific research.
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