As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to have a devastating impact on the economy and social well-being of the people in the Arab region, the UN Environment Programme in West Asia (UNEP) is preparing for the first Ministerial meeting on COVID-19 and the environment which is scheduled to take place remotely on 18 August 2020, chaired by the Vice President of the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA), the Chief Executive of the Supreme Council for Environment in the Kingdom of Bahrain, Dr. Mohamed Mubarak Bin Daina.
Estimates indicate that at least $42 billion and 1.7 million jobs will be lost in the region as a result of the global pandemic. Furthermore, the recent Arab Sustainable Development Report warns that the region, even before the pandemic, is not on track to achieve the 2030 Agenda and the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The report has also emphasized the necessity of a shift in orientation and approach towards policy integration which is inclusive of environmental sustainability.
The pandemic has affected the environment and natural resources which the people of the region rely on. The most obvious negative impact has been the increased generation of medical and plastic waste, loss of jobs and livelihoods and reduced investment on environmental actions. Nevertheless, lockdowns in the region led to reduced pollution and emissions and gave nature a short break to restore. Yet, there are no comprehensive studies in the West Asia region to quantify these impacts.
UNEP has alerted the international community to the strong linkages between the health of the people and the health of planet. A healthy planet is critical to our ability to rebound from the COVID-19 pandemic and to prevent future zoonotic diseases, which are passed between humans and animals. Over 30 new human pathogens have been detected in the last three decades alone, 75 per cent of which originated in animals.
In an effort to shed light on the impact of COVID-19 on the environment in the region, and to recommend policy actions for advancing a more sustainable and greener recovery, the UNEP Regional Office for West Asia will convene the first virtual ministerial meeting which will be hosted by the Kingdom of Bahrain as it currently holds the Vice Presidency of UNEA. The Executive Director of the UNEP, Inger Andersen, will be participating in the meeting, which will be attended by the Environment Ministers and Heads of Environmental Authorities in the region.
It is expected that the outcome of the meeting will be in the form of a ministerial statement highlighting recommendations for enhancing environment priorities and actions to address the implication of COVID-19. The outcome will guide UNEP in delivering focused support to countries in the region in dealing with the environmental dimension during and after the pandemic.
In preparation for the ministerial meeting, the UNEP Regional office for West Asia today held a technical preparatory meeting which was attended by the technical focal points of the environmental ministries and authorities of the twelve countries of the West Asia region namely: the Kingdom of Bahrain, Republic of Iraq, the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, the State of Kuwait, the Republic of Lebanon, the Sultanate of Oman, the State of Palestine, the State of Qatar, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the Syria Arab Republic, the United Arab Emirates, and the Republic of Yemen. The meeting discussed the technical documents that will be presented to the Ministers and made the necessary recommendations.
The Chief Executive of the Supreme Council for Environment, Dr. Mohamed Mubarak Bin Daina, affirmed that the Kingdom of Bahrain, in its capacity as the Vice President of UNEA, is honored to host the preparatory meeting for the first ministerial meeting in the region, indicating the Kingdom’s keenness on unifying international environmental efforts, strengthening cooperation between the countries of the region, in order to improve the environmental situation and address the challenges that threaten humans and the environment, especially in light of the current circumstance which the world is facing due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
From his side, the Regional Director and Representative of UNEP in West Asia, Mr. Sami Dimassi, highlight that “the ministerial meeting is particularly timely. It is expected that the outcome of the meeting will send clear and strong message from West Asia to the fifth session of the United Nations Environment Assembly , other Ministerial Fora and the international community on regional priorities, the efforts of the region in tackling environmental issues and future plans after COVID-19 pandemic”.
Source: National News Agency