Environment and security was key issue for international forum on fresh water in Dushanbe

A special session of this weekend's International Forum on Fresh Water, held in Tajikistan, has heard that a lack of institutional support and political repression could affect stability and ultimately trigger environmental conflicts.

DUSHANBE, Sept. 2, 2003 - A special session of this weekend's International Forum on Fresh Water, held in Tajikistan, has heard that a lack of institutional support and political repression could affect stability and ultimately trigger environmental conflicts.

To prevent tensions from arising, there was a need to build up human and state capacity to deal with such threats, said Marc Baltes, Deputy Co-ordinator of OSCE Economic and Environmental Activities.

Such tensions could be caused by "different types of environmental change or degradation, in combination with rapid population growth, economic decline, and inequitable distribution of resources", he added.

The purpose of the special session was to present a joint programme by the OSCE, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP), entitled the Environment and Security Initiative (ENVSEC).

It results from a series of national consultations and aims at identifying and abating those environmental issues local stakeholders and experts fear could threaten security and stability in the region.

"From phase one of the Initiative we have learned which issues have become key problems affecting the environment and human health and posing an immediate security risk" said Frits Schlingemann, Director and Regional Representative, UNEP. "The next step will be to map out and implement common environmental priorities and opportunities for strengthening co-operation."

Issues identified as potential destabilising factors during phase one include water supply and contamination, hazardous waste, soil degradation, desertification and erosion in combination with the existing socio-economic framework in the region.

Hatam Murtazaev, Director of the Tajik NGO, Ecology and Scientific Technical Progress, reported on the national consultations held in early August in Central Asia. He said that further issues had been identified in the second round of regional consultations. Experts had positively evaluated the programme and hoped to continue and widen activities under the umbrella of the EnvSec initiative".

Kodir Boturov, National Co-ordinator for Aarhus Convention and Head of the International Department of the Ministry for Nature Protection in Tajikistan, welcomed the initiative, saying, "Tajikistan supports the programme as a basis for future activities."

The representative of the UN Economic Commission for Europe also welcomed the initiative and its potential to attract political attention, thus fostering the implementation of multilateral environmental agreements and conventions.

The initial phase of the programme, which was presented simultaneously in May this year to a Pan-European Ministerial Conference in Kyiv and the OSCE's 11th Economic Forum in Prague, focused on Central Asia and South-eastern Europe. The three organizations confirmed that they intend to extend the initiative to the Caucasus and the Western Newly Independent States.

The International Forum on Fresh Water, which took place in Dushanbe from 29 August to 1 September, was hosted by the Government of Tajikistan and supported by the UN and several other international organizations.

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