The IUCN Regional Office for West Asia (ROWA) was established in October 2004 covering the region of West Asia, which comprises of 13 countries including Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine, the Syrian Arab Republic, Yemen and Iran in addition to the Gulf countries including Bahrain, Oman, Kuwait, Qatar, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates.
West Asia is part of three eco-regions that incorporate a variety of ecosystems, including Mediterranean forests, deserts, plains, rangelands, savannas, oases, mountains, rivers, lakes, springs, mudflats, swamps, marshes, mangroves and coral reefs. All of which provide a wide array of ecosystem services and ecological corridors for migratory species through the region.
IUCN Regional Office for West Asia aims to be active in all 13 countries in various conservation and sustainable development activities. The critical issues facing the region are:
- Land degradation, aridity and desertification
- Unsustainable water extraction and use
- Biodiversity and habitat loss, and species extinction.
- Threats to sensitive marine ecosystems through pollution, habitat destruction, Invasive Alien Species, and unplanned coastal development.
Moreover, some of these countries face severe consequences of conflict and warfare along with its associated large-scale human suffering, destruction of infrastructure, and environmental degradation leading to a critical need of post-conflict environmental reconstruction.
IUCN ROWA's role is to coordinate activities within four major themes in the overall region; Water & Climate Change, Protected Areas & Biodiversity, Drylands & Livelihoods, and finally Marine & Coastal Zone Management. Other cross cutting issues that also include gender mainstreaming and natural resource management are also major issues IUCN ROWA work on.
This comes as a challenge since environmental priorities are intimately associated with poverty, equity, security and conflict. Therefore, mainstreaming conservation efforts with the development agenda becomes very crucial. IUCN ROWA’s mandate is to work supportively and in collaboration with our members and partners in the region that include NGOs and governments, to achieve a new paradigm for sustainable development based on the concept of people centered development.
Its role is to share critical conservation knowledge with all members and partners and currently focus on providing services which brings added value to the ongoing activities, while also building awareness of the West Asia region and its special strengths. One of many IUCN ROWA strengths is its ability to catalyze policy.
On a national and regional scale, IUCN ROWA experts are involved in a wide range of UN environmental policy events and are continually requested by governments to help update national policies, strategies and action plans regarding UN conventions. IUCN ROWA also takes pride in providing this technical assistance to state members in West Asia. Moreover, recognizing the important role that women can play in this regard, governments also request IUCN ROWA assistance in drafting gender sensitive Programs for mainstreaming gender in other topics like climate change in the region.