This summer, I have been lucky enough to observe some significant new steps in the development of Iraq’s national environmental policy. Over the last 10 years, since the US invasion of Iraq, the country has devoted increasing attention to environmental concerns, starting with the establishment of the Iraqi Ministry of Environment (MoE) in 2003. Much of the impetus for this has stemmed from the issue of Iraq’s famous wetlands (Al-Ahwar), which I discussed in an earlier post. During my second week in Jordan, I was lucky enough to participate in a workshop contributing to the Al-Ahwar nomination to UNESCO World Heritage site.
During the first week of July, my colleague Haifaa invited me to attend the UNEP/CBD Secretariat-hosted workshop on developing Iraq’s first National Biodiversity Strategy Action Plan, here in Amman. At the workshop, I met representatives of the MoE, including Dr. Ali Lami, Deputy Minister and CBD Focal Point for Iraq, David Duthie from the CBD Secretariat, and Dr. Damon Stanwell-Smith, from UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre. I observed the initial stages of NBSAP development, including learning the overall process, identifying key questions in breakout groups, then coming up with goals and potential indicators for assessment.
I found this workshop particularly interesting in light of the course on International Environmental Law I took this past spring. Often we discussed the relevance of broad, international policies and legal regimes, and I struggled with the tangibility of these and their actual implementation. The Iraq NBSAP workshop provided me a brief look at how the process plays out on the ground. It is a long, drawn-out, and sometimes amorphous process, just as the legal texts make it seem. However, it is reassuring to know that the work does get started, and that the many intelligent and dedicated individuals I met are carrying out this work. Hopefully, a year from now, we’ll be able to read Iraq’s NBSAP and see the impact of this work on Iraq’s wetlands and other critical ecosystems and species.