Najib Saab, Secretary General
Submitted to the Board of Trustees Meeting on 10 November 2016
Excerpts of the report:
Arab Forum for Environment and Development (AFED) is closing its most challenging year, in a region overwhelmed by security and economic turmoil. Although we continue to believe that, after all sorts of conflicts and wars, people will still need to preserve and develop their natural capital that they need for survival, AFED is being stripped of minimum resources to execute its mission.
As in 2015, some targets set for 2016 could not be fully implemented, while others could be achieved and even surpassed in some areas. Here are few milestones which stood out:
- AFED recommendations pertaining to green economy, pricing natural resources and diversification of income, adopted in many national development plans, including Saudi Vision 2030.
- Reforms in energy and water subsidies championed by AFED, to encourage efficient use of resources, attracted more support as it expanded to 8 countries.
- Cutting Food Waste, recommended in AFED reports on Food Security and Sustainable Consumption, has become government policy in Saudi Arabia, which has the world’s highest per capita food waste.
- Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency tangible programs operating in 12 countries, in line with AFED recommendations.
- A new milestone in environmental social media, whereby followers of AFEDmag facebook page increased from 100,000 in 2013 to 600,000 in 2014, surpassing one million in May 2016. Visitors to AFEDmag portal surpassed 2.5 million per month.
- AFED assuming its role with ECOSOC, the Economic and Social Commission of the United Nations, in which it was granted consultative status.
- AFED Secretary General appointment to UNESCO global expert group to prepare a Universal Declaration on Ethical Aspects of Climate Change.
Here is an overview of AFED’s work in 2016 in categories:
Ninth Annual Report and Conference
- AFED produced its ninth annual report, in the series of State of Arab Environment, on Sustainable Development in a Changing Arab Climate. It follows the adoption by the UN of 17 Sustainable Development Goals in September 2015, and the Paris Climate Agreement in December 2015, which was later ratified by major countries in 2016. Some 80 authors, experts and reviewers contributed to the report. The consultation process involved all AFED community, especially the academic sector, and included external guest experts and policy makers. Preliminary findings of the report were presented at the UN General Assembly in April 2016, upon the invitation of the UN-GA President.
- Sponsors of the 2016 report and conference included: Kuwait Foundation for the Advancement of Sciences–KFAS ($50,000), Islamic Development Bank–IDB ($50,000), OPEC Fund for International Development– OFID ($40,000), General Electric–GE ($25,000), ACWA Power ($25,000), Averda ($25,000), Food and Agriculture Organization–FAO ($15,000). BankMed is sponsoring the Future Environment Leaders Programs (FELF) with $5,000. Aramex granted in-kind barter, against courier services of $25,000. FP7 provided PR assistance. This year we miss several traditional sponsors, who declined “due to financial constraints.”
- Nine major organizations have joined as technical partners: CIHEAM, ESCWA, FAO, Kuwait Fund, OFID, ICARDA, EAD, World Bank, alongside researchers from many academic institutions, including American University of Beirut, Arabian Gulf University, Petra University and University of Jordan.
- The Sustainable Development report is AFED’s latest comprehensive independent study, using science to help inform and advance sound policies. Previous AFED reports were used during 2016 as key references in over 200 studies, reports and re-prints published by regional and international organizations. Parts of the reports were viewed online over 280,000 times.
Sustainable Consumption, 2015
- AFED 2015 report on Sustainable Consumption was presented at 10 major regional and international meetings, including the Gulf Energy Conference in Bahrain, SwitchMed in Barcelona, League of Arab States/CAMRE in Cairo, International Water Summit in Abu Dhabi and United Nations Environment Assembly in Nairobi.
- In a direct implementation of one of the main recommendations of AFED reports on Food Security and Sustainable Consumption, Saudi Arabia launched a national program to cut food waste, estimated at one third of food imported and produced locally, at a value exceeding 13 billion dollars a year. Minister Al-Fadli revealed that Saudi Arabia has the highest food wastage in the world, at an average of 250 kg annually.
Regional and International Partners; Contribution to Meetings & Reports
- AFED officially assumed respective duties after being granted full consultative status with the Economic and Social Commission (ECOSOC) of the United Nations. This is added to its observer member status with UNEP, UNFCC, LAS and other bodies.
- AFED made major contributions to 28 regional and international meetings and reports, in 5 cases as an organizing partner.
- AFED participated in the Climate Summit (COP 21) in Paris, December 2015, with a multidisciplinary delegation including business, civil society, media and academics. Vice Chairman Mohamed El-Ashry and Secretary General Najib Saab took part in negotiations.
- AFED continues to execute its advisory role with the Council of Arab Ministers Responsible for the Environment (CAMRE), as part of its observer status with the Economic and Social Council of the League of Arab States (LAS). AFED participated in the 27th session of the Council of Arab Ministers Responsible for the Environment (CAMRE) in Cairo, November 2015.
- AFED participated in the meetings in January 2016 (Geneva) and May 2016 (Nairobi) of the High-Level Group (HLG) which advises UNEP on its forthcoming flagship report Global Environmental Outlook (GEO-6).
- AFED participated as Observer in the 6th Assembly of the International Renewable Energy (IRENA) that was held in Abu Dhabi in January 2016.
- AFED co-organized a session at International Water Summit (IWS) in Abu Dhabi, with presentation of AFED 2015 report on Sustainable Consumption, January 2016.
- AFED participated in the West Asia regional expert meeting of UNEP’s Global Environment Outlook report (GEO-6), and contributed to the drafting of the West Asia report, where AFED Annual Reports were the most cited references, March 2016.
- Upon the invitation of the President of the UN General Assembly, AFED Secretary General Najib Saab delivered on 21 April a statement at the High-Level Thematic Debate on achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) at the UN headquarters in NY.
- AFED participated in the Middle East and North African Renewable Energy Conference (MENAREC) in Kuwait in April 2016.
- AFED participated in the second United Nations Environment Assembly at UNEP’s headquarters in Nairobi in May 2016.
- AFED participated in The Global Green Growth (3GF) 2016 summit in Copenhagen in June 2016
- AFED Secretary General was appointed by UNESCO as member of an international expert group to prepare a global declaration on ethical principles related to climate change, and participated in the first meeting which took place in Morocco in September 2016. AFED contributed substantially to the draft Universal Declaration produced by the Group, which UNESCO will be presenting to Member States for adoption.
- AFED joined as partner and co-organizer of a session at the EU/UNEP-MAP Switch-med Mediterranean initiative in Barcelona, 19-20 October 2016
- AFED joined UNEP Finance Initiative as partner of the Global Roundtable on green finance, Dubai, 25-26 October 2016.
- AFED joined, as guest-partner, the Belmont Forum for financing development, Doha, 31 Oct.-2 Nov., 2016.
Environmental Education Program
- AFED’s environmental education program for schools, supported by a comprehensive handbook and website, expanded its reach to more schools in UAE, Lebanon, Jordan and Algeria.
- The community of AFED-ecoschools on Facebook continues to be active, and provided lifeline for schools in countries suffering conflicts like Yemen, where one of the most active online AFED-ecoschools is located in Aden. –
- The adapted environment education manual produced by the AFED-winning school from Algeria earned Award of Best Creative Educational Initiative in Algeria.
- AFED donated copies of its reports to libraries of over 200 universities in the Arab region and abroad.
- AFED donated used laptops to a number of schools in Lebanon, in cooperation with Trustee Beydoun.
Al-Bia Wal-Tanmia (Environment & Development-EDM) magazine, which celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2016, represented the main awareness vehicle of AFED. However, sales of the paper magazine continued to drop sharply, reflecting general trend in the paper publishing industry and the increasingly deteriorating security situation in Arab markets which comprise the largest volume of readership. The drop in advertising income amounted to 95% compared to 2012. As the print version of the magazine is no more viable commercially, and AFED budget does not allow supporting its publication, the magazine will be published only online as of 2017.
- Periodic environment pages provided by AFED/EDM continued to be published monthly in cooperation with 8 leading newspapers in the Arab region. This will be affected by seizing to publish the magazine.
- Niche publications continued to use material from EDM, such as a section on environment published monthly in the youth supplement (Fata Al-Amn) of the Lebanese Security Forces magazine.
2. A Documentary on SDGs has been produced to be launched at the 9th Annual Conference. AFED documentaries were aired more than 350 times on national and regional networks in 2016, mainly those covering Water, Desertification, Waste, Air Pollution and Climate Change.
- AFED hosts the largest Arab social environment community. Al-Bia Wal-Tanmia magazine’s portal (www.AFEDmag.com) and the Facebook page (www.facebook.com/afedmag) witnessed large popularity: more than ONE million followers on Facebook (up from 850,000 in November 2015).
- Visitors to the portal www.AFEDmag.com reached about 2.5 million per month.
AFED Secretary General and report authors were interviewed by media or were guests in talk-shows more than 60 times, including 12 times during Climate Summit in Paris in December 2015.
Five new members joined AFED’s Board of Trustees in January 2016:
- Ms. Rindala Beydoun, founder and managing partner, Tribonian Law Advisors.
- Mr. Mazen Masri: Director, Edgo Management Ltd., upstream oil and gas company.
- Dr Abdul Karim Sadik: senior adviser, Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic Development.
- Mr. Malek Sukkar: Chief Executive Officer, Averda, environmental services provider.
- Dr. Ali Tokhais: Chairman of water, agriculture and environment committee, Shura Council, Saudi Arabia.
BoT news: Mr. Mohamad Bawardi, Founding Board Member, was appointed Minister of State for Defense in UAE in February 2016; Dr. Riyad Hamzah, Founding Board Member, was appointed President of the University of Bahrain in March 2016.
Dr. Mostafa Kamal Tolba, Founding Member of AFED, and Founding Chairman of its Board of Trustees, passed away at the age of 93 in March 2016.
- Future Environment Leaders Forum (FELF), AFED’s short internship program in cooperation with member universities, hosted 40 senior students and fresh graduates in AFED 2015 annual conference in Beirut, and is expected to attract 50 students as interns in 2016, from Lebanon, Jordan, Palestine, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Egypt and UAE.
- Al-Bia Wal-Tanmia provided internship post at its offices to one media student in 2016.
- 18 journalists were supported by AFED for its media fellowship program during 9th AFED conference.