Story | 23 Nov, 2017

Iraq commences developing plan for establishing national network of protected areas

“Initial Steps for Establishment of the National Protected Areas Network in Iraq”

Representatives from IUCN ROWA, UN Environment and Ministry of Health and Environment of Iraq came together today in Amman kicking off the implementation of the project “Initial Steps for Establishment of the National Protected Areas Network in Iraq”. The new project, funded by GEF, aims at ensuring improved management effectiveness of existing and new protected areas in Iraq as means to conserve biodiversity and sustainable use in the country.

The Iraqi government efforts to organize protected areas are realized in protected areas system legislation number 2 for the year 2014, and the formation of the national committee for declaration of protected areas through examining the suggested sites and declaring them as national protected areas. “We believe it is the time to build Iraq and improve. The country has a vast and rich landscape that should be maintained for the best interest of the country itself in particular and the whole world in general. Declaring protected areas in Iraq will not only benefit the environment and nature but also the local communities residing around these areas, including economic, social, and recreational benefits. We are hopeful that this project will build the national capacities in protected areas management and promote a wide range of environmental services that are offered by natural ecosystems.”, says Shatha Kathem, Director of Technical Department in the Iraqi Ministry of Health and Environment.

The project primary objective is to develop and start implementing the plan of the establishment of a national protected areas network. “Global Environment Facility funded, UN Environment implemented Iraq Protected Area Network Project is an important step for achieving Aichi targets 11 and 12 and Sustainable Development Goals in Iraq. Amid all the challenges faced by Iraq and consequently Iraqi people, it is encouraging to see the government of Iraq taking practical and major actions to conserve biodiversity and ecosystem services of the country”, says Ersin Esen from the UN Environment.

Working with many partners, members and supporters, IUCN implements a large and diverse portfolio of conservation projects worldwide. Combining the latest science with the traditional knowledge of local communities, these projects work to reverse habitat loss, restore ecosystems and improve people’s well-being. The Iraqi Ministry of Health and Environment is a member to IUCN which the union has been supportive of its activities and endeavors.  “This project is not the first one IUCN ROWA implements in Iraq. Maintaining biodiversity and promoting its importance to environment is an overarching theme that we are committed to. This project will address various barriers and constraints to effective implementation of the national network of protected areas in Iraq, focusing on design, planning and establishment of the national system of Protected Areas; and strengthening the institutional and legislative framework for Protected Areas, through stakeholder consultation, capacity building and provision of technical tools to enable legislation enforcement.” says Dr. Hany El Shaer, Regional Programme Coordinator, a.i. from IUCN ROWA.

“Iraq is generally perceived as a country suffering from conflicts overlooking its natural beauty and the country’s environmental importance.  It is not a secret to tell that Iraq’s biodiversity is facing many challenges and threats. Challenges are arising from the need to address environmental protection and development together. We are hopeful that all these challenges will be addressed and overcome in the near future”, says Abedlmenam Mohamed, Regional Officer, Science-Policy Interface from UN Environment.

The project seeks to ensure involvement of the public in conservation issues and the awareness raising activities about the importance of ecosystem services and biodiversity conservation. Another important outcome of the project is to establish two protected areas as pilot sites with a focus on provision of essential infrastructure and support to the selected Protected Area Management Authorities, including stakeholder consultations and active involvement the local communities.