ABU DHABI, 7th May, 2018 (WAM) — The First Regional Biodiversity Forum kicked off in Abu Dhabi today with the attendance of more than 100 biodiversity experts and specialists from the region and around the world.
Held under the patronage of H.H. Sheikh Hamdan bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Ruler’s Representative in Al Dhafra Region, and Chairman of the Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi (EAD), the three-day Forum is being organised by EAD in cooperation with the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) – Regional Office for West Asia (ROWA).
The event will discuss the progress towards the implementation of the National Strategies of NBSAPs (National Biodiversity Strategy & Action Plans) related to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD); present initiatives on biodiversity conservation in the UAE and the Arab region; exchange expertise and enforce cooperation in the biodiversity field.
The Forum is being attended by representatives from the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, the World Commission on Protected Areas, the Green Areas Initiative, the Organising Committee of the 14th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity and the National Union for the Conservation of Nature – UAE, Ministry of Environment and Climate Change. In addition representatives from governmental and non-governmental environmental bodies and institutions in the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Iraq, Egypt, Lebanon and Palestine.
The event kicked off with four keynote speakers who highlighted the importance of biodiversity conservation. Speaking at the inaugural session, Dr Thani bin Ahmed Al Zeyoudi, UAE Minister of Climate Change and Environment, said: “The UAE’s leading standing in wildlife conservation is further cemented by the government’s endeavors to ensure the sustainability of the rich local biodiversity through an array of integrated legislations and strategies designed to achieve the goals of the National Biodiversity Strategy 2021.”
He added, “Some of the most notable initiatives that reflect the UAE’s strategies in this area are the Integrated Management Program of Protected Areas Network, the regulations of international trade in endangered flora and fauna and the Integrated Management of Natural Capital. The UAE already has several species rehabilitation initiatives in place, most prominently are the breeding and reintroduction program for the Arabian tahr, falcons, houbara, Arabian leopard and Arabian oryx. In addition, the Wildlife Sustainability Programme is an initiative of the Government Innovation Laboratory in response to the directives of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai.”
Al Zeyoudi noted that the UAE’s commitment to expanding the area of local natural reserves has contributed to the UAE’s ranking first globally in the percentage of protected areas compared to a country’s total area. “The UAE pays great attention to wetlands conservation and has ratified the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands. In recognition of its commitment to wetlands conservation, the UAE was chosen to host the 13th Meeting of the Conference of the Contracting Parties (COP) to the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands in October 2018. This is the first time the COP will be held in an Arab country,” he said.
Princess Basma bint Ali – the head of the National Committee on Biodiversity and Founder of the Royal Botanic Garden, Jordon said: “This forum is very important to coordinate among the countries of the region to mobilise support and face challenges which will save a lot of efforts and will enable participants to exchange knowledge. It will also provide the opportunity to agree on the biodiversity priorities in our region in order to close the gaps and set the way forward.”
Razan Khalifa Al Mubarak – EAD’s Secretary General, said in her speech, that was delivered on her behalf by Dr. Sheikha Salem Al Dhaheri, EAD’s Executive Director of Terrestrial and Marine Biodiversity, “Through this forum we aim to increase the level of technical coordination and cooperation to highlight the Arab environmental agenda in international forums and promote joint Arab action in the conservation of biodiversity. It also helps to reaffirm the leadership role of EAD and the UAE in the application of the Green List standards for Protected and Conserved areas in the Arab region. “
Al Mubarak noted, “Following the footsteps of the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, we are committed to protect biodiversity due to its close relationship with our lives and cultural heritage. This commitment helped in accomplishing a number of environmental achievements such as launching the ‘Zayed Protected Areas Network’ which consist of 19 protected areas that are the cornerstone for the conservation of Abu Dhabi Emirate’s ecosystems and for the preservation of our natural and cultural heritage”.
“Our efforts also helped reintroduce species and bring back some of them from the brink of extinction, where twenty-five years after the Scimitar-horned Oryx was driven to extinction, the desert antelope returns to the last-known place it existed: Chad’s Sahelian grasslands. This accomplishment is part of the Scimitar-horned Oryx Reintroduction Programme, which is being led by EAD and is possibly the world’s most ambitious large mammal reintroduction programme and a huge step in the field of conservation,” Al Mubarak said.