Roundtable Discussion on Environment

Dec 13, 2012

Environmental challenges (credit: UNDP)

On 13 December 2012 a round table discussion on environment and sustainable development took place with the overall aim of discussing with all concerned stakeholders, including the, Environment General Authority, the National Economic Development Board, the Ministry of Electricity and Renewable Energy, the General Electricity Company of Libya, the Ministry of Agriculture, the National Committee to Combat Desertification, and the Artificial River (formerly known as the Great Man Made River), and local environmental NGOs  the priorities and trigger a dialogue for better coordination and future collaboration.

Challenges & Opportunities
From the roundtable discussions (and preparatory meetings held) and building on previous knowledge, it is clear that Libya is currently facing both difficult challenges and rich opportunities for sustainable development and integrated environmental management.

The environmental challenges are many: increasing desertification and deforestation, inadequate solid waste and waste water treatment, fragmented mechanisms for environmental management and monitoring, limited water resources, and inadequate conservation of animal and plant biodiversity.  Furthermore, Libya is quite vulnerable to climate change because of prevailing arid and semi-arid climate conditions, recurrent droughts, and over-dependence on rain-fed agriculture. In addition to specific environmental challenges, there remains the underlying need for security, political stability, and enforcement. Certain needs have also been also highlighted, namely: holistic water management, coordination and integration amongst governmental agencies, enabling environmental legislation, feasibility studies prior to project implementation, and technical support.

Fortunately, the possibilities for sustainable development are large and achievable. First, Libya has signed and ratified a number of international and regional agreements pertaining to environmental protection: the Montreal Protocol on substances that deplete the ozone layer, (ratified 1990);  the Vienna Convention for Ozone Protection (ratified 1990); the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (ratified 1996); the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (ratified 1999); and the Convention on Biological Diversity (ratified 2001). Libya also joined joined the UNDP Water Governance Program for Arab States (WGP-AS).  Significant support can be generated from these agreements, and the UNDP is quite able to assist in this support.

Second, Libya is a country rich in natural resources, from intense sunlight that can be harnessed into solar power, to ecosystems rich in diversity and sites rich in history, both of which can be protected and from which ecotourism projects can be built.  Significant employment generation can also be developed in the agricultural sector, and significant funds can be saved -- and later gained -- from  shifting to renewable energy.  (Libya currently spends approximately 950,00,000 Dinars subsidizing fuel-based electricity.)

UNDP Potential Role
UNDP, with its results-oriented policies, successful experiences throughout the region and internationally, and its wealth of networks and expertise, stands ready to assist Libya in this transition towards sustainable and integrated environmental management.  The Roundtable Discussion resulted to be a first step towards building an integrated environmental framework grounded in sustainable development. The meeting was very much appreciated by all the participants who considered it very useful and conducive to fruitful developments. Several possible entry points where UNDP can offer support were identified, including:

  • Provision of support for the development of a Higher Council for Sustainable Development, an inter-ministerial agency, with input from academics and civil society, that would develop an integrated strategy for sustainable development encompassing environmental, social, and economic aspects of development and management; provide for facilitated discussion with decision-makers.  
  • Provision of support for the General Electricity Company of Libya by integrating the specific issues of concern raised into a holistic plan from supply to demand.  Assist the Environmental General Authority on: developing a strategy for biodiversity conservation; developing a National Communication on Climate Change; and on empowering protected areas management.
  • Provision of support for environmental non-governmental organizations by assisting them in developing a coordination mechanism amongst themselves; capacity-building; and by sharing successful regional experiences; and
  • Assistance in development and enforcement of environmental legislation.