Economic Cooperation Organization

ECO Secretariat and the ECO Institute of Environmental Science (ECO-IEST) co-organized the Project Development Consultation Workshop on “Combating Desertification with Special Emphasis on Dust Haze and Sand Storm in the ECO Region” on 5-6 July 2017 in the ECO Secretariat, Tehran.

ECO Secretariat and the ECO Institute of Environmental Science (ECO-IEST) co-organized the Project Development Consultation Workshop on “Combating Desertification with Special Emphasis on Dust Haze and Sand Storm in the ECO Region” on 5-6 July 2017 in the ECO Secretariat, Tehran. The representatives from Afghanistan, Republic of Azerbaijan, Iran, Kyrgyz Republic, Pakistan, Turkey and UNESCAP as well as International Consultant of the Project participated in the Workshop. The representative of the UNCCD Secretariat also joined the Workshop through Skype conference call.

The Workshop was jointly inaugurated by Mr. Seyed Jalaledin Alavi Sabzevari, ECO Deputy Secretary General and Dr. Asghar Mohammadi Fazel, President of ECO-IEST. ECO Deputy Secretary General expressed his gratitude to ECO-IEST for co-hosting the Workshop and to Member States for their participation. He briefed the audience on ECO’s state of play in environment, climate change and disaster risk reduction, recent and planned activities and engagements, as well as ECO’s collaborative partnerships with international organizations. He further cited that ECO has been pursuing the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), UN Development Agenda 2030, Paris Agreement on Climate Change, Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction and other UN mechanisms in line with the needs and requirements of the ECO Member States and the Region as a whole. Mr. Alavi also elaborated on the relevant components of the recently adopted “ECO Vision 2025”, including the sustainability principle. ECO Deputy Secretary General also acknowledged the valuable contributions of UNESCAP to the ECO emerging Regional Framework on Disaster Risk Reduction.

In his opening remarks, Dr. Asghar Mohammadi Fazel, President of ECO-IEST while underscoring the overarching objectives and importance of Project Proposal, stated that desertification is a global issue with serious implications in the ECO Region. He gave synopsis of this challenge and its impacts in the ECO countries and referred to mandates given by the ECO decision-making bodies to ECO-IEST, particularly the 5th ECO Ministerial Meeting on Environment (15-17 December, Istanbul), to develop a draft umbrella project proposal for the ECO Region on combating desertification with a special emphasis on dust haze and sand storms. He further sought Member States’ active cooperation and contribution in finalization and implementation of the regional project in a timely and effective manner.

In the opening session, Mr. Fuad Farzalibayov, ECO Director for Energy, Minerals and Environment (EME) also briefed the audience on ECO’s environmental profile and emphasized on the importance of regional cooperation in desertification. Having highlighted the background of the Project, he called upon the Member States to be engaged in longer-term collaboration in the ECO Region through developing the important project on desertification, dust haze and sand storms, land degradation and land erosion. This project would build capacities and raise awareness of ECO Member States thus increasing their resilience in tackling environmental challenges.

During the 2-day workshop, country presentations and statements were delivered by the participants from ECO Member States focusing on their overall national legislations, policies/strategies and action plans in combating major challenges and state of affairs in desertification and related issues. The delegates underscored the need for enhanced ECO regional synergy and coherent policy frameworks with a view to dealing with desertification challenges at national, regional and global levels.

Ms. Tiziana Bonapace, Director of ICT and DRR Division of UNESCAP delivered a presentation on multi-hazard risk assessment and early warning in drought, desertification and sand and dust storms in ECO region and their impacts on the whole Asia and the Pacific region. Mr. Utchang Kang, Programme Officer of the UNCCD Secretariat also made a presentation through Skype on the “Global Assessment of Sand and Dust Storms” (SDS) produced by UNEP, UNCCD and WMO.

Mr. Peter John Hunnam, International Consultant of the Project made a detailed presentation titled “ECO LandCare Initiative” elaborating on various aspects of the Project outline, inter alia, national, regional and global relevance of the Project; budgetary issues; Project scope and focus on problem and solution mapping with consequences and success indicators in the context of addressing global SDGs; Project design criteria; proposed timetable of 3-year (Establishment phase) Project (2018 – 2020) & 10-year Programme of Actions (“Decade of LandCare” 2021-2030); Project design & structure; Project results and monitoring framework with specified goals and purposes, 3 integrated outcomes (collaboration and synergy in LandCare; effective landcare actions; and knowledge management for landcare); and Landcare strategies.

During 2-day intensive schedule, the participants were actively engaged in three group exercises and questionnaires were distributed for detailed discussions. The participants put forward their views and concrete recommendations for incorporating into the draft Project, among others, specificities of the Project; timeframe; modalities for financial allocation; scope; regional common approach and challenges; implementation process; risks & concerns; etc.

At the end of the Workshop, participants agreed on the need to continue interactions with the ECO-IEST and International Consultant to assist early finalization of the project proposal. It was also recommended that Member States, ECO Secretariat and ECO-IEST may participate in the international workshop on “Middle East Dust Sources and their Impacts” scheduled for 23-25 October 2017 in Istanbul. The ECO Secretariat was also encouraged to utilize the forthcoming UNCCD COP13 in September 2017 in Ordos, China for raising awareness about the ECO Project and for soliciting financial support from potential donors.