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The Environment in Lebanese Elections

By: Najib Saab, Issue 133, April 2009

Will the Parliamentary elections in Lebanon be a serious beginning to put environment on the political agenda?

Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora launched the discussion about this issue by his speech at the ceremony for the presentation of the annual report of the Arab Forum for Environment and Development (AFED) in Beirut last month. He considered the facts and figures presented by the report as a "slap on our faces that may awaken us to what we have caused of damage in our environment and the delay in taking corrective measures throughout the years". As he stated that debates and struggles over privileges and positions does not stop people's need for clean air, water and food and the enjoyment of nature's resources, he endorsed the inclusion of environmental accounting as a part of the national budget of Lebanon and other Arab countries.

Having said that, Siniora tackled the issue of Lebanese elections by pointing out that "Some people still find in damaging the environment and wasting resources the cheapest track to fast profits. Some still consider that they can gain the consent of voters and influential stakeholders by protecting violations in construction permits and the violation of the integrity of coasts and forests. This is why I wish that the public opinion will have a strong voice against such violations and support for environmental management measures and demanding such measures from the government, the parliament and the private sector and insisting on not accepting small gains at the expense of the future. In this context I hope that civil society organizations declare their programmes and raise their voices to those elected as people's representatives in the parliament and to the executive authority to make the voice louder and effective."

The speech of the PM rapidly reached its target in Lebanon and abroad. Within hours the speech was posted at the homepage of the website of the National Democratic Party in Egypt and circulated by hundreds of news agencies and newspapers. After few days, Lebanon's Finance Minister Mohammad Shatah stated the need for the inclusion of environmental costs in national budgets based on sound assessment of environmental performance.

On March 14th the Parliaments majority bloc declared its programme for the next election in 14 points that included politics, economy and social issues and for the first time, environment through an item that demanded "to put an end to the environmental deterioration in Lebanon via a strategy of sustainable development that includes issuing regulatory bylaws of the environmental law and implementation of the environmental impact assessment bylaw and providing economic incentives for enterprises that introduce environmental elements in the production process in addition to the encouragement of the use of renewable energy resources, biological agriculture and the protection of water resources and quality and support of environmentally responsible tourism and the conservation of forests and waste management."

The message may have reached also to the recently established "Green Party" in Lebanon which has declared an environmental document requesting all parties and candidates to sign on. The party said that it will support those who endorse the document and will work against those that neglect it. It is a good start but we hope that the Green Party will have its own political programme and candidates in the future. Until this happens, it should discuss its environmental document with all political parties, demanding a serious commitment, so that environment will not turn into a "Trojan horse" for some who may be tempted to join the circumstantial connection with the rising environmental wave.

What happens in Lebanon is a beginning that we hope will be strengthened and moves to other Arab countries. The political will is the main factor for change through the integration of the environment as a mainstream element in national policies and budgets.

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.
Environmental Agenda
Environment in Arab Media
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