The Minister's speech about The Nomination of the Marshlands of Southern Iraq as World Heritage Site Major National Responsibility
Qutaiba E. Al-Jobouri, Ph.D.
The Minister of Environment
Eyes globally are looking to the new Iraqi initiative of nominating one of the most important national sites with its natural and cultural values to the World Heritage list, as it is new to both Iraq and the whole Arab World. The national team has developed the nomination file of the southern Iraqi marshlands and their vicinity to the World Heritage list of the UNESCO with appreciated support from some international and regional institutions. This work is just the beginning of a long journey to come to make success out of this pioneering national experience.
As you all know, the marshlands of southern Iraq has many natural values and environmental standards of a global level which make it qualified and globally competing to be listed as a World Heritage site considering the exceptional universal value they cherish. The area is known for being a resting and feeding station for millions of migrant wintering waterfowl as the area is a vital ring in the chain of the migration of the birds of the world, let alone the occurrence of many endemic and endangered species in considerable numbers allover these vast waterbodies. Moreover, the cultural values, the area is the cradle of the Sumerian civilization that contributed to the establishment of the later civilizations. Interestingly, the local people are still using the same means, tools and cultural details which were used their ancestors thousands of years ago.
The importance of the southern marshlands is more exceeding as the area is a natural mosaic that was created through thousands of years with the harmony between people and nature to make wonderful panorama of a unique living style that is not seen anywhere in the world. The local ancestors had vision and strategy for sustainability inspired by the love and respect for nature. This is manifested in the clay tablets that documented nature and human life in the marshland in their stories. This has reflected on the theme behind the nomination of the area to the World Heritage list as a global example of the reaction between man and environment through the ages.
Another factor not far from the natural and cultural values is the product of the interdependence of both. The area of the southern Iraqi marshlands like any other ecosystem is vitally important for the locals' livelihood. Most of the locals depend in their food basket on hunting, fishing and reed harvesting. Hence, we witness the strong connection of the vital triangle of the daily human needs, ecosystem services and the sustainable use of the natural resources; the latter being the corner stone of making a balance between the former two and all activities of the sustainable management of the natural resources in the marshlands of southern Iraq.
It is necessary and highly inevitable to find a successful way to create the required balance between conserving the values upon which the area has been nominated and providing the locals with their daily needs to ensure the sustainability of gaining livelihood without negatively affecting and conflicting the activities of managing the basic needs of man in the area. The management plan of the area should be smart and flexible enough to ensure the safety of the natural and cultural standards of the area, and to ensure a full livelihood basket for the local people. This is definitely not easy task, and we are aware of the level of the challenge. So, we are betting on achieving the participatory approach in the theme of the management of the southern marshlands.
The achievement of the participatory approach in the management of the area includes the level of understanding and harmony among the relevant sectors (governmental, NGOs, locals, … etc.). This can only be achieved by opening constructive dialogue, roles distribution, developing sound plans by the stakeholders and developing programs to monitor the activities on the ground in the early stages; and other activities related to the main goal of the whole initiative – conserving the natural and cultural values of the area without conflicting with the people's needs. Moreover, it is necessary to have the active role of the locals in the planning process, involve them in the decision making process and expand their role in the process of the ratification and implementation of the plans. In this context the major and basic role of coordination among the relevant governmental bodies and all stakeholder in implementing the required tasks and harmonizing them among all other bodies is manifested.
We strongly encourage the national team to continue their monitoring and supervising the implementation of the details of the management plan of the nominated site on the local and national levels and putting all interested bodies within a long-term participatory approach. We also think that we have to shed light on the significance and importance of the subject as this would contribute to enhance the reputation of the country in the international community. The difficulty of the this step of course exceeds the matter of mobilizing efforts on the local level as the circles must be expanded to include multiple areas of work on the national and international levels to achieve this young but promised project and find ways to keep it alive for many years to come.
Last but not least, the project requires coordination on the highest levels without neglecting the tiny details of a national vision and strategy that consider all constrains and opportunities to create stunning picture to reflect to the world the level of the national potentials and energy to manage such project. As far as we are concerned, we will do our very best to support and achieve this national initiative with all our available resources and potentials.
Thank you all.
The Minister's speech about The Protected Areas Network
The Vision .. and the National Responsibility
Qutaiba E. Al-Jobouri, Ph.D.
The Minister of Environment
The natural resources have provided and are still providing us with many services that have been giving man the basics of needs of life and as such they represent the intimate connection and interdependence with the humans. Man also affected environment and its natural resources in terms of the quality and quantity of the returns and benefits of them. Man has great role in conserving or depleting all kinds of natural resources everywhere. In close glance on this relationship and according to many global stories and experiences, we find that the close connection between man (especially the locals) and surrounding natural resources deeply rooted and far strong beyond being the source of daily living basket. It is inherited in man's culture and traditions through the generations. Hence, the philosophy of preserving nature and natural resources came to create the best ways of ensuring the life, culture and traditions of these communities through the ages.
The experience of creating protected and well-controlled areas with the aim of preserving natural resources is now a widespread way in the world including Iraq. Countries follow systems to regulate the use of such resources quantitatively or temporarily (like breeding seasons of birds and fish). Recently, the nature/environment conservational institutions have adopted similar approach after adding some developments and scientific frameworks to it. We see that all kinds of protected areas are made to achieve one goal which is the insurance of the sustainable use of natural resources and balancing the natural status between such resources and the daily needs of the locals.
The entrance of Iraq to a number of international agreements and its endeavor to establish protected areas prove the national awareness of such principle and the importance of conserving natural resources for the next generations without wasting them. After conducting intensive field surveys that covered vast areas of the country, we have strong base to identify sites for the proposed protected areas and the mechanism of preserving their natural resources. Additionally, Iraq does not only seek to define these rich areas in biodiversity that are spread all over the country, but we have ever further vision to form protected areas network for the sites with biodiversity richness, integrity and having connection to each other in order to form a group of such areas that have mutual influence in each other. This group would support each and every component and give more opportunities to eliminate the impact of the threats than if they were separately dealt with.
Undoubtedly, such initiative will benefit the locals and all users of the natural resources and ensure more sound conservation mechanism. We are confident that a program of protected areas network will not be born in the absence of the participatory awareness of its importance and the serious joint work of all relevant agencies/institutions in the country to make such initiative a long-term success. This requires the relevant agencies first to spread the theme of natural resources conservation, integrate this theme in their daily activities, educate their staff about it, coordinate efforts among them and integrate their efforts to work in harmony to fulfill this great national responsibility.