Egypt Hosts the First Sub-regional Consultation on the World Bank Group's New Environment Strategy

February 10, 2010

February 2010 - MENA’s first sub-regional public consultation on the World Bank Group’s new Environment Strategy was held in Cairo on January 27-28, 2010.

The two-day consultation workshop is part of a global consultation process as the World Bank Group (WBG) is embarking on the preparation of a new Environment Strategy, expected to be completed by December 2010. The new Environment Strategy will articulate a set of principles and propose an approach for achieving the environmental sustainability of the WBG’s portfolio.

The new Strategy will build on the first environmental strategy of 2001 titled “Making Sustainable Commitments: An Environment Strategy for the World Bank”, which outlined how the World Bank would work with client countries to address their environmental challenges and to ensure that projects and programs integrated principles of environmental sustainability.

Jointly coordinated by the World Bank and the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the workshop brought together a broad range of stakeholders, which ensured the inclusiveness of the consultation process and the engagement of key stakeholders groups including: governmental agencies, Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), private sector, and International Organizations. The workshop also included four participants from Libya and five participants from Yemen.

“In this meeting, the World Bank Group is seeking your views and ideas about the challenges and opportunities related to environment and sustainability in the MENA region and in particular in Egypt, Yemen, and Libya; and, how the World Bank Group can be better positioned to embark on this new pathway,”said Mr. A. David Craig, Country Director for Egypt, Yemen and Djibouti, in his welcoming remarks.

“Since environmental sustainability is everyone’s responsibility, we need to engage proactively at the grassroots level with the academia, private sector, civil society, and media to support decision-making processes,” added Mr. Craig.

Dr. Mawaheb Abu El-Azem, Chief Executive Officer of the Egyptian Environmental Affairs Agency (EEAA) delivered the opening remarks on behalf of the Egyptian Minister of State for Environmental Affairs. Dr. Abu El-Azem underlined the significance of the international community’s support for environmentally sustainable development.

In this context, the two objectives of the Bank Group’s strategy preparation process are to identify:

1.Key areas in which the WBG should engage to support its internal and external client base to more effectively address environmental priorities and move toward greater environmental sustainability;

2.Best approaches to pursue the environmental sustainability of the Bank Group’s operations, through an improved results framework; knowledge and capacity building; partnership with governments, private sector, financial sector, development partners and civil society; and, leveraging other stakeholders’ support for environmentally sustainable development.

During the two-day consultation workshop, the stakeholders were invited to give their feedback about the World Bank Group’s Environment Strategy Concept Note, which presents questions to help frame the key issues that the Strategy will address.

“Today’s public consultation is the first step in the strategy preparation process as the Concept Note only frames the elements to be considered in developing the final Strategy. Consulting at such an early stage attests to the Bank Group’s interest in transparency, outreach, and inclusiveness. After compiling the feedback from this multi-stakeholder consultation process, it is expected to have another round of consultation on the Draft Strategy,” said Dr. Maged Hamed, Senior Environmental Specialist, Middle East and North Africa Region, the World Bank.

Representatives of governmental agencies and Civil Society Organization (CSOs) from Egypt, Libya, and Yemen made presentations about the environmental challenges facing the three countries. From Yemen, Dr. Amal Al-Kibsi, the founder and CEO of Save Yemen’s Flora & Fauna NGO shared with the participants the NGO’s experience in addressing the climate change challenges in Yemen.

The consultation process was carried out through dividing the stakeholders in two working groups to collectively discuss and identify the key priorities and elements relevant to the strategy. The first working group identified the three major environmental challenges and opportunities in Egypt, Yemen and Libya and.

According to the participants, the main environmental challenges facing Egypt, Yemen, and Libya were:

Climate Change Impacts on Natural Resources and Livelihood;

Natural Resources Management, Waste Management, Environmental Awareness; and,

Food Security

The second working Group discussed the trade-offs between Development and Environment Sustainability in MNA, and the role of the World Bank Group in:

1.Addressing challenges and opportunities in the MENA region;

2.Balancing between addressing country specific priorities and global public goods agendas;

3.Helping government, private and public sector to pursue higher levels of performance on the environmental sustainability.

During the workshop, civil society representatives from Egypt, Yemen and Libya were engaged in the discussions and made several recommendations to be considered in the new strategy.

“This consultation process was a good opportunity to voice the environmental priorities from the grassroots perspective. As discussed, engaging NGOs in governments’ environmental policies and in World Bank-funded projects would undoubtedly ensure the environmental sustainability of projects,” said Mr. Sameh Seif Ghali, the Executive Director of Together Association for Development and Environment NGO, Menia Governorate, Egypt.

The stakeholders raised several key issues and themes for the World Bank Group (WBG) to consider among which are:

Placing emphasis that “People should come first” in all projects;

Providing a minimum assurance that the financed projects should be environmentally sustainable;

Develop of low cost technology for community-based infrastructure; and, increase cooperation with Civil Society Organizations (CSOs).