Beirut, 27 April 2012

The Lebanese-American University (LAU) was the host of a consultation meeting held by the Arab Forum for Environment and Development (AFED), to discuss the first draft of a report on ecological footprint and the options for sustainability in the Arab world. The meeting afforded report authors and editors the opportunity to discuss the findings of their research with a group of experts, with participation by AFED members from different countries of the region.

Following an opening statement by LAU President Dr. Joseph Jabbra, AFED Secretary General Najib Saab presented the main findings of the first ecological footprint atlas of Arab countries, prepared in cooperation with the Global Footprint Network (GFN). The comprehensive study indicated that Arab countries suffer a deficit in their ecological footprint accounts, consuming at a rate that is much higher than the available capacity of nature to regenerate its resources. Some Arab countries have the highest per capita ecological footprint in the world, while other Arab countries have some of the lowest ecological footprint globally. The study provides detailed tabulations of ecological footprint and biocapacity data by country and the changes in biocapacity deficits over five decades since 1961. Alessandro Galli, Director of GFN’s Mediterranean Program, worked on the study with Research Scientist David Moore. The study was supervised by GFN President, Mathis Wackernagel.

Using the footprint atlas and data collected from AFED reports, a group of experts have prepared analytical studies for discussion at the consultation meeting. In his study of the options for sustainability, Dr. Mostafa Kamal Tolba, former Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) underscored the role of Arab regional cooperation in resource management, scientific research, and human capital. Dr. Ibrahim Abdel Gelil, Director of the Environmental Management Program at Arabian Gulf University, addressed the contribution of energy efficiency and renewable energy sources to sustainability. Dr. Abdul-Karim Sadik, an Economic Advisor at the Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic Development, analyzed the challenges of food and water security confronting Arab countries. Bashar Zeitoon, Program Director at AFED, provided an analysis of the contribution of population and consumption to ecological footprints in Arab countries and the possibilities of meeting basic needs, given the region’s low productive capacity.

Saab analyzed the options of survival in some countries, where the proportion of expatriates reaches 90 per cent, adding pressure to available water resources and to the management of waste. He questioned whether the desire to grow is for the sake of growth or to meet human needs and enhance quality of life, or just increase the figures of GDP.

The report on Ecological Footprint and Sustainability Options in Arab Countries will be released at AFED’s annual conference, which will be held in Beirut on November 29-30, 2012. Speaking at the conference will be a number of world experts in the field of environment and development, including President of the Club of Rome, Ashok Khosla, Director General of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), Julia Marton-Lefevre, and the Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), Achim Steiner.

AFED is holding other consultation meetings to discuss its report with experts in Cairo and Amman.