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Let's not plunder the future

Let's not plunder the future

Najib Saab

December 2012, Al-BiaWal-Tanmia (Environment and Development)

Demand for life-supporting goods and services in the Arab countries is twice the potential renewable resources that their ecosystem scan provide. This imbalance between domestic supply and demand for resources is a threat to future growth opportunities and quality of life. The deficit is being bridged by imports and over- exploitation of available local resources, thus compromising nature's regenerative capacity, according to the 2012 Annual Report of the Arab Forum for Environment and Development (AFED), Survival Options and Ecological Footprint . The report explores sustainability choices in Arab countries, based on the volume of demand for natural resources compared to available renewable supplies.

Taking into account the ecological limitations, the report examines new trends for achieving sustainability. AFED has commissioned the Global Footprint Network to prepare the Arab Footprint and Capacity Atlas, based on the latest available data, to inform its analysis. The Atlas covers the 22 Arab League countries, profiled as a whole region, sub-regions and individual countries, in order to have a clear picture of the gap between demand for resources and available supply to help identify alternative courses, notablyon the track of regional cooperation.

The report,further, recommends regional cooperation and sound governance of resources as key options for survival, given the region's grave discrepancies in ecological footprint, natural resources and incomes. This calls for work towards providing sustainable wellbeing for all inhabitants, and enhancing economic integration and free cross-border Arab trade, where the open flow of goods, capital and human resources would work to the benefit of all countries in the region.

AFED dedicates this report to Mohamed Al-Kassas, a pioneer ecologist and visionary who passed away in March 2012, at the age of 91. He was a staunch believer in regional cooperation among Arab countries based on the benefits of integrating various natural and human resources and the role of scientific research in achieving real progress. Kassas was behind the idea of producing a report examining sustainability options in the Arab region. We worked out the plan together, and held various meetings at his office in Cairo University to evaluate the preliminary findings. Seeing the figures collected for the Atlas, he commented sadly that what the Arab region was facing amounted to a real struggle for survival. Thus, it was decided to change the title of the AFED report from Sustainability Options to Survival Options.

When we proposed regional cooperation as an ‘option', Kassas affirmed that it was rather an obligation. To demonstrate his point, he went, leaning on his walking stick, to the college library and brought a copy of the 1974 Club of Rome's second report, Mankind at the Turning Point, which proposedto divide the world into ten growth regions, calling for intra-regional integration and inter-regional cooperation as a means for rationalizing resource management. Kassas pointed to a map, in the report, that specified the group of Arab countries in the Middle East and North Africa as one of the ten suggested growth regions.

Arabs have been, for decades, eulogizing slogans about the ‘eternal Arab nation' without actually demonstrating any significant regional cooperation, be it in research, economy or food production. No Arab country can survive as an isolated entity; while diversity of natural and human resources is a valuable asset.

Therefore, the only survival option for the Arab countries is regional cooperation and balanced management of resources. Any development programs with different objectives will amount to a theft of the rights of future generations.



Arab Environment in 10 Years
ARAB ENVIRONMENT IN 10 YEARS crowns a decade of the series of annual reports produced by the Arab Forum for Environment and Development (AFED) on the state of Arab environment. It tracks and analyzes changes focusing on policies and governance, including level of response and engagement in international environmental treaties. It also highlights developments in six selected priority areas, namely water, energy, air, food, green economy and environmental scientific research.
Environmental Agenda
Environment in Arab Media
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