Euro Mediterranean Ministerial Conference on the Environment, July 2002

12/07/2002

The Euro Mediterranean Ministerial Conference on the Environment took place in Athens 8 to 10 July 2002, invited by the Greek Ministry of Environment, Physical Planning and Public Works, organized jointly by the Ministry and the EU Commission, and chaired jointly by the Greek Minister for the Environment and the Danish Minister for the Environment (who is currently the President of the European Council of Ministers).

The meeting, held in a very beautiful location by the sea, consisted of two main parts: the High-Level Forum on sustainable development on 9 July and the Ministerial Conference on Wednesday the 10th. Prior to that (Monday, 8 July) the PrepCom for the Ministerial conference was held at the same location.

MedWet was invited as an observer in the PrepCom and the Ministerial Conference, and as speaker to the High Level Forum.

1. High-level Forum

The Forum was divided in two parts: Synergies for sustainable development, and Integrating sectoral policies in environmental protection for sustainable development. It brought together a set of high profile speakers, such as Lucien Chabasson, UNEP/MAP coordinator, and Kenneth Ruffing, Acting Director for the Environment, OECD.

The presentation delivered by the MedWet Coordinator in the second part (Integration), under the title "Integrating nature protection, water management, rural activities and culture", raised the issue of wetlands conservation and nature protection as an opportunity to integrate the human uses of resources in sustainable development. The text of this address is attached.

2. Ministerial Conference

The Conference was attended by 11 Ministers and Deputy Ministers / State Secretaries (marked with an asterisk in the list below), and many Secretaries General and Directors of the Ministries of Environment, and Ambassadors of all 27 countries participating in the Euro Med Partnership (Greece**, Denmark*, Algeria, Austria, Belgium, Cyprus*, Egypt*, Finland*, France*, Germany, Ireland, Israel, Italy*, Jordan, Lebanon, Luxemburg*, Malta*, Morocco, Netherlands, Palestine Authority*, Portugal, Spain, Syria, Sweden, Tunisia, Turkey, UK). MedWet was invited to attend the meeting as an observer along with the World Bank, European Investment Bank, UNEP/MAP, and the Secretariat of NGOs participating in the process (Comite de Suivi).

The Conference had as an objective to review the progress of the SMAP programme (Short and Medium Term Priority Environmental Programme) of the Euro-Med partnership, and adopt a Ministerial Declaration establishing the priorities for future action in the Region. The Declaration unanimously adopted by the Conference ("Athens Declaration by the Euro-Mediterranean Ministers for the Environment") makes specific reference to MedWet and the Ramsar Convention in its part proposing synergies and collaborations:

Under the Heading "Synergies with Other Organisations, Programmes and Donors" in Paragraph 16 the Ministerial Declaration states

"The Conference notes with interest that some global Conventions have specific Programmes for the Meditarranean, such as MEDWET - the Programme on Mediterranean Wetlands of the Ramsar Convention - while others such as the UN Convention to Combat Desertification have several regional Annexes involving Mediterranean states. The Conference calls for closer co-operation at the regional level between Secretariats of such Conventions and Programmes and the European Commission. Convention Secretariats could also be invited to make presentations to the SMAP Correspondents Meetings on an ad hoc basis. Close operational co-operation is also needed at national level."

It is gratifying that the MedWet Initiative is entering an era of enhanced collaboration with SMAP and the EuroMed process, which could be very important in terms of political and funding opportunities. This development will also play a role in the discussion at Ramsar COP8 for the elaboration of new Regional initiatives from the Convention.

-- reported by Spyros Kouvelis, MedWet Coordinator

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