United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)
Environment Outlook-1 - The Web version

Chapter 3: Policy Responses and Directions

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West Asia

Regional Initiatives

[ Regional Institutions | Regional Information Sharing ]

Numerous regional institutions and initiatives deal directly and indirectly with the environment in the West Asia region. These are generally either associated with one of the four seas in the region (the Mediterranean, Arabian, and Red seas and the Persian Gulf) or with subregional groupings-the Mediterranean subregion (Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, and West Bank and Gaza) and the Arabian Peninsula region (Bahrain, Iraq, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Yemen).

Regional Institutions

West Asian countries have made substantial joint efforts at the regional level to help protect natural resources and the environment. At the highest political level is the Council of Arab Ministers Responsible for Environment and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Secretariat.

CAMRE adopted the Arab Declaration on Environment and Development and Future Prospects in 1991 and agreed on principles and directives for the protection and improvement of the environment in the region. It established the Joint Committee on Environment and Development in the Arab Region (JCEDAR) to enhance co-operation and co-ordination among Arab regional and national organizations.

Heads of States of the GCC member countries (Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates) approved environmental principles in 1985. The GCC Secretariat now encompasses a regional Directorate of Man and Environment that organizes regional surveys, assessments, education, and training and information exchange at the GCC subregional level, as well as with other regional and national institutions.

Regionally binding agreements have also led to the establishment of regional organizations to co-ordinate implementation efforts, such as the Regional Organisation for the Protection of the Marine Environment (ROPME). (See Box 3.19.) Despite these achievements, efforts towards co-operation among regional organizations need to be strengthened and co-ordinated. Although there has been a growth in declarations on environmental protection, such as the Regional Organization for the Conservation of the Environment of the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden (PERSGA), with many involving the formulation of umbrella agreements stating the general goals of the Parties, not all have imposed a mechanism that obliges them to achieve the goals.

There are also many technical organizations dealing with the regional environment, including the Arab Centre for Studies of Arid Zone and Dry Lands (ACSAD), the Centre for Environment and Development for the Arab Region and Europe (CEDARE), the Programme for the Environment of the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden, the Gulf Area Oil Companies Mutual Aid Organisation, the Marine Emergency Mutual Aid Centre, and other Arab specialized organizations. Almost all provide technical assistance and respond to capacity building needs. Universities and other research institutions and NGOs play a supportive role in the region.

Among United Nations bodies and programmes in the region are the United Nations Environment Programme Regional Office for West Asia (UNEP/ROWA), the Economic and Social Commission for West Asia (ESCWA), WHO's Regional Centre for Environmental Health Activities, UNDP's Capacity 21, and the UNEP-initiated Mediterranean Action Plan. There is also the Mediterranean European Technical Assistance Programme, a regional partnership of the European Commission, the European Investment Bank, the World Bank, UNDP, and countries of the region that mobilize grant funds for technical assistance, to strengthen environmental management and establish environmentally sound policies.

Box 3.19.

Policy in Action: the Regional Organisation for the Protection of the Marine Environment

The Regional Organisation for the Protection of the Marine Environment (ROPME) provides a good example of a regional body working on multiple levels to help policy setting and planning for the region's marine environment. ROPME was established in 1982 as the secretariat providing technical coordination to the Kuwait Action Plan by eight member states surrounding the Persian Gulf and Gulf of Oman (Bahrain, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates). Its programmes cover environmental monitoring, management, legislation, preparation of protocols, awareness building (especially in schools), and training.

Among its monitoring and training work, ROPME has supported regional laboratories to purchase equipment and has provided training for organizations to carry out monitoring of coastal waters. In terms of management, it has supported member states' assessments of land-based sources of pollution. In terms of regional legal environmental instruments and arrangements, ROPME has prepared and adopted numerous protocols, including the Mutual Assistance in Marine Environmental Pollution Resulting from the Exploration and Exploitation of the Continental Shelf (1989) and the Protocol for the Protection of the Marine Environment from Pollution Resulting from Land Based Sources (1990). The latter was a recognition by the member states of the urgent need to protect the region's marine environment against pollution from land-based sources. In 1995, the ROPME Council followed up by approving a Regional Programme of Action for the Protection of the Marine Environment from Land-Based Activities. The programme of action is to be implemented in parallel with the Global Plan of Action on Land-Based Activities.

The programme of action seeks first to update surveys of source categories, impacts, and capabilities, and second to develop guidelines, standards, and criteria for the management of land-based sources of pollution. The surveys are to define the problematic contaminants and sources of pollution and to identify vulnerable resources and areas of concern in the region. The guidelines are designed to prevent, reduce, and control pollution of the marine environment through regulations on pollution abatement through source control. The Programme is also developing a river basin management programme for the major rivers of the region, which contribute significant amounts of contaminants and sediments into the ROPME sea area. This involves Syria and Turkey in addition to ROPME member states. Finally, the programme is completing a pilot study on persistent organic pollutants-their manufacture, use, and effect on the ROPME region.

ROPME's mandate at a high political level, the cross-cutting nature of its work, and its ability to tailor global agreements and action plans into programmes relevant to the region have made it a success in the field of environmental policy setting and action planning for the marine environment in the region.


ROPME Secretariat, personal communication, 1996.

Regional Information Sharing

The lack of general data and information at a national level is echoed at the regional level. Although some regional organizations have initiated actions for information management and networking, the dissemination and accessibility to data banks remains insufficient and there needs to be improved co-ordination among relevant organizations.

Among the limited existing initiatives are the Arab Environmental Information Network, initiated by CAMRE and JCEDAR, with technical support from CEDARE and UNEP/ROWA. Other initiatives include the ACSAD's arid zones and drylands information network, ROPME's database development, and UNDP's Sustainable Development Networking Programmes. The Mediterranean Action Plan also has a mechanism for information dissemination that plays an important role in the promotion of the implementation of the Plan by its contracting parties (including Lebanon and Syria).

Regional technical organizations also have some limited information management and networking. For example, ACSAD has published, jointly with UNESCO, the hydrogeological map of the Arab region and the adjacent areas. It is also preparing a water resources database, including an integrated data base management system that stores and retrieves data related to the assessment of water resources in the region.

At present, various plans exist for the creation of a World-wide Web site under the auspices of one of the regional organizations to help increase information dissemination in the region. Each country would then provide information for the site, which could be a basis for sharing information and experience. The centre for monitoring and administering the Web site could also be the information centre for standardized data collection and analysis of all environmental data for the West Asia region. Reports could be produced and distributed in hard copy as well as through the Web site (UNEP, 1996).

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