UNEP Facilitates Israeli-Palestinian Environmental Cooperation
Nairobi, 25 February 2005– In February 2002, at its seventh special session, the UNEP Governing Council unanimously adopted a decision requesting the UNEP Executive Director to prepare a desk study outlining the state of environment in the Occupied Palestinian Territories and to identify areas of major environmental damage requiring urgent attention.
The following year the Executive Director’s report "Desk Study on the Environment in the Occupied Palestinian Territories" was submitted to the UNEP Governing Council at its 22nd Session in Nairobi, February 2003. The report focussed on water quantity, water and soil quality, wastewater, solid waste, hazardous waste, environmental administration, biodiversity, and land use. It made 136 recommendations on a range of environmental topics.
At that session, the Governing Council welcomed the report, and requested the Executive Director to implement recommendations of the desk study, and to make UNEP available to act as a facilitator, and also an impartial moderator when requested by both Israelis and Palestinians, to assist in solving urgent environmental problems.
At the 23rd session of the Governing Council, which took place from 21-25 February 2005, UNEP reported on the progress made over the past two years in implementing recommendations of the Desk Study, which included needs assessments through field missions, a series of capacity building seminars, and mediation and facilitation.
Among others, the UNEP Desk Study recommends to reactivate the Environmental Experts Committee (EEC) established by the Oslo Agreements. In February 2005, UNEP organized a bilateral meeting between Israeli and Palestinian delegations, which took place in Helsinki, Finland, under the chairmanship of Pekka Haavisto of UNEP, the former Finnish Minister of Environment and Development Cooperation. The outcome was a decision to hold a meeting of the EEC, which has not been convened since the outbreak of the Second Intifada in September 2000.
The EEC meeting will be held in Jerusalem in May and will be co-chaired by Israelis and Palestinians, with UNEP facilitating the agenda and attending as an observer, facilitator or moderator if requested by both parties. Pekka Haavisto said “at the Helsinki meeting, the high degree of professionalism of the delegations led to this result, as well as additional agreements to cooperate on several environmental issues of mutual concern to the parties, such as the recycling of used tyres, hazardous waste, and disposal and reuse of construction debris”.
Klaus Toepfer, UNEP's Executive Director said: "These developments reflect the new positive mood and improving atmosphere in the region. I am pleased that UNEP has been able to facilitate the reestablishment of the Environmental Experts Committee and assist in restarting Israeli-Palestinian environmental cooperation. I would like to thank the Israeli and Palestinian negotiators for the results achieved. UNEP remains committed to continuing its support to the Palestinian Environment Quality Authority and continuing implementation of Desk Study recommendations.”
“In this period of renewed cooperation between the two sides, environment should be kept high on the agenda”, he added.
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