BETHLEHEM – Amid participation from official institutions and community members, the Environmental Education Center (EEC) / Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy land (ELCJHL) held its fifth annual Palestinian Environmental Awareness and Education Conference, “Eco-Justice between Violations by the Occupation and Infringements by the Community.” The conference took place in Bethlehem on the 9th and 10th of December 2014, under the patronage of The Rt. Rev. Bishop Dr. Munib A. Younan, Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy land, President of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF), and Chairman of the EEC Board.
The opening ceremony was attended by several persons, including: Representatives of the Prime Minister Dr. Rami Hamdallah; Engineer A’dala Al-Ateera, Head of the Environmental Quality Authority; His Excellency Major General Majid Fityani, the Governor of Jericho and the Jordan Valley; Her Excellency Anne Sophie Nelson, Consul General of Sweden; Mr. Mohamed Taha, representative of His Excellency the Governor of Bethlehem; Dr. Qasim Abdo, representative of the Minister of Agriculture, and Assistant Undersecretary for Natural Resources; Mr. Nafiz Rifai, representative of the Minister of Foreign Affairs; Dr. Charlie Haddad, the ELCJHL Director of Education; Fayez al-Saqa and Mohammad al-Lahham, members of the PLC; Directors of the Ministries of Education, Agriculture, Health, and Local Government; Mr. Simon Awad, the Executive Director of the EEC.
The conference was also attended by official delegations of the Ministries of Education, Agriculture, Health, and Local Government, active environmental organizations in Palestine, the Palestinian Environmental NGOs Network, Friends of the Earth (Palestine), the international diplomatic corps, representatives of civil society organizations, centers, and youth institutions, directors and professors of universities and school principals in various governorates of the West Bank, representatives of environmental and health organizations, and many environmental activists.
Twenty-two research papers and visions of specialists, academics, experts, and officials were presented in the conference, in the presence of more than 500 local and international participants. At the closing of the conference, a sub-committee, including representatives of the Ministries of Agriculture, Local Government, Education and Higher Education, the Environmental Quality Authority, universities, the Palestinian Environmental NGOs Network, and the EEC, in addition to representatives from the Ministries of Health and Transportation, was formed to follow up on the decisions that emanated from deliberations.
The decisions made in the conference constitute the nucleus of a joint action plan that will be executed by the EEC over the next five years (2016-2021) in partnership with government institutions and civil society organizations. In addition, the plan’s final form and its explanatory memoranda will be ratified and published following the committee’s first meeting, which will be held before the end of this year at the EEC headquarters in Bethlehem.
The most prominent decisions include:
- Setting a five-year inclusive plan (2016-2021), congruent with a sectoral environmental strategy, that urges society to advocate for environmental issues, taking into account the challenges, while refraining from damaging practices that harm the environment.
- Calling on the Council of Ministers to dedicate the years 2016-2017 for “A Clean Palestine”, which is implemented through a committee that includes members from the Environmental Quality Authority, EEC, the ministries of Local Government, Education, Higher Education, Agriculture, Health, and Transportation, as well as universities and the Palestinian Environmental NGOs Network. An explanatory memorandum will be attached to the plan later.
- The launch of Rt. Rev. Bishop Dr. Munib Younan’s award for the best environmental practices in Palestine. Its procedures and standards will be published at a later date, and the award will be announced on the Palestinian Environment Day, the 5th of March, each year.
- Encouraging academic studies on environmental legislation, particularly with regard to promoting the concept of civic responsibility, in order to contribute to the establishment of the Environment Fund, environmental insurance, and to document the safety of environmental facilities.
- Developing the notion of “Environmental Accountability” in order to be able to claim compensation for any damage inflicted on the environment by the occupation or the community.
- Highlighting the significance of scientific research in addressing the environmental issues.
- Designating the Palestine sunbird and the Anemone flower as Palestine’s national bird and Palestine’s national flower respectively, due to their environmental significance. This will be followed up with the Council of Ministers via the Environmental Quality Authority.
- Focusing on the initiative launched by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in terms of the documents collected on the occupation’s violations against the Palestinian environment, to 93 diplomatic missions around the world, including the United Nations, the Arab League, and other regional and international organizations, as a basis for taking legal action against the occupation. This should be carried out in complete coordination with the Environmental Quality Authority.
- Highlighting the role of NGOs in the litigation of Israeli companies in countries all over the world in coordination and cooperation with the competent authorities, based on the experience of environmental NGOs. The efforts of 17 specialized civil institutions culminated in the termination of Mekorot’s work contracts in Brazil. Similarly, efforts are being made to end the company’s activities in Greece, due to the plundering of Palestinian water resources in favor of settlers.
- Encouraging non-governmental, national, official, and academic bodies to coordinate their efforts to develop fact-finding missions, in order to disclose the occupation’s environmental violations. Inspired by the experience of Al-Haq Organization, they should take legal action against the occupation for their environmental crimes, utilizing international advocacy and environmental experts in order to deliver a message to the world regarding the environmental situation in Palestine, and to mobilize public opinion in favor of protecting the environment in Palestine.
- Conducting legal studies to explore the possibility of utilizing international justice bodies and institutions, and to join international environmental agreements while exploring the consequential risks and benefits.
- Dealing with the environment as a human rights issue, to represent the essence of Palestinian national rights and present this issue in international, public, and official forums.
- Preparing a legal study to demonstrate the advantages of seeking out international justice organizations and joining international environmental agreements, including the risks and benefits.
- Drafting a societal, national, and moral charter on environment preservation, to be signed by institutions of civil society and the private sector, under the patronage of official authorities.
- Focusing on the roles assigned to institutions consistent with the overall environmental strategies.
- Promoting organic farming and raising awareness of the dangers of chemical pesticides.
- Enhancing trends toward renewable energy.
- Launching awareness campaigns on the risks of random waste landfills, demanding local authorities to use sanitary landfills, and supporting recycling industries and compost (i.e. organic fertilizers) production.
- Defining air pollution control standards and laws, as well as specifications on the components of air pollution, particularly in the industry and transportation sectors in Palestine.
- Developing executive and applied environmental protection legislations, especially with regard to the Penal Code and dealing with various kinds of waste. This also includes measures to prevent urban sprawl. Further environmental legislation, such as a specialized public prosecution and judiciary system, should be created to deal with scrap waste and air pollution.
- Setting up a specialized technical committee to review the scientific papers for the sixth Palestinian Environmental Education and Awareness Conference.