Water scarcity becoming a critical issue for the Arab world – UN report

16 March 2010 – Climate change, food insecurity, decreasing water availability and unemployment are among the multiple challenges facing the Arab region, according to a new assessment by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) which calls for rational and sustainable use of resources and inclusion of the environment issues in decision making.

“This assessment has been a truly collaborative one outlining the progress but also the realities facing this diverse but also dynamic region where, if policies and resources are better focused could be a beacon of sustainable, green economic, development for millions of people,” said Achim Steiner, Under-Secretary-General and UNEP Executive Director.

According to the report, Arab countries are now among the most water-scarce in the world with a “worrying decline in per capita water availability,” likely to be aggravated by climate change.

Poverty remains a challenge in most countries in the region and unemployment is widespread at 13.7 per cent – more than twice the global average, according to latest estimates.

The report says the Arab region is predicted to be among the hardest hit by the potential of direct and indirect impacts linked with climate change.

Impacts include loss of coastal zones, more severe droughts and desertification, increased groundwater salinity, and a surge in epidemics and infectious diseases.

“Thus it is in the interests of nations across the region to constructively engage in the climate change negotiations as countries look to Mexico and the UN climate convention meeting later in the year,” said Mr. Steiner, noting that Cancun will host the UN Climate Change Conference (COP16) at the end of November.

The new report, launched at the headquarters of the League of Arab States in Cairo, was prepared in collaboration with the League of Arab States (LAS), the Centre for Environment and Development for the Arab Region and Europe (CEDARE), as well as other agencies and centres operating in the region.

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