Beirut, 25 February
2003 (United Nations Information Service)--The
workshop on "Strengthening the Role of Arab Media for Achieving
Sustainable Development", organized by the Economic and Social
Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA), opened today at the United
Nations House in Beirut under the auspices of Lebanese Minister of
Environment Michel Moussa.
Speakers at the opening session were: Mr. Habib Al-Habr, Western
Asia Deputy Regional Director of the United Nations Environment
Program (UNEP); Mr. Salamah Ahmad Salamah, Chairperson of the Arab
Media Forum for Environment and Development (AMFED); the Executive
Secretary of ESCWA, Ms. Mervat Tallawy; and Minister Moussa.
In his statement, Al-Habr said that the Arab states preparations
for the "Johannesburg Summit" were highly responsible. He added
that the the political will of the industrialized countries in the
Summit was the means by which change was introduced towards
sustainable development and an agreement on specific procedures
aiming at achieving the UN Millennium Goals.
Salamah Ahmad Salamah said that environment issues faced changes
since the first UN conference on environment held in Stockholm in
1972. He pointed that the "Johannesburg Summit" focused on three
basic issues: economic competency; social justice; and environment
maintenance. Salamah also took the opportunity of the meeting to
stress that war against Iraq would not only affect the Iraqi state
and people, but also the whole Arab world. He warned that war
would lead to an environmental disaster.
In her statement, Tallawy said the most important challenges faced
by the Arab media in fulfilling its role were: difficulty in
getting information on environment dissemination; lack of
appropriate environmental information in the Arab world; lack of
simplifying environmental information and making it available for
the lay person. Underlining the objectives of the Workshop,
Tallawy also said that following the meeting, participants should
be able to design and implement communication strategies for both
the national and regional sustainable development initiatives.
Minister Moussa said that due to the communication revolution, the
Arab media should concentrate on such areas as liberating the
media from political and economic affiliations; working with
precision and honesty; concentrating on fighting poverty,
pollution and desertification; exchanging information and
experiences at the national level; organizing campaigns on natural
resources management; enhancing media partnership with specialized
regional and international organizations; and organizing capacity
building workshops on environment and development.
Following the opening ceremony, the morning session discussed
"Arab Sustainable Development in Light of the Johannesburg Summit
Outcomes". Speakers were: Mohammad Abdel Makssoud, Member of the
Arab Media Forum for Environment and Development (AMFED) and
Reporter at the Egyptian Daily Al-Akhbar; Amal Abou Rafeh,
Associate Environment Affairs Officer at ESCWA; Hosny Khordagui,
Environment Sustainable Management Team Leader at ESCWA; and Al-Mahjoub
Binsi’id, Information and Communication Specialist at the Islamic
Organization for Education, Sciences and Culture.
In his statement, Mohammad Abdel Makssoud discussed the negative
outcomes of the "Johannesburg Summit" from a media perspective. He
praised initiative taken by the Emirate of Abu-Dhabi to render
environment information more precise, and the Palestinian moves,
aiming at detecting the Israeli acts against environment in the
occupied Palestinian territory.
Amal Abou Rafeh, discussed the challenges facing the achievement
of sustainable development and protection of the environment in
the Arab Region. She said that absence of peace in the region, the
debt burden, population growth and bad management of natural
resources were issues to be tackled. "Facing these challenges
require a change in the concept and means of the development
process in the region in order to reach the integration of social,
environmental and economic values," she added.
On his part, Hosny Khordagui considered that Arab countries needed
an institutional order to achieve the integration of economic,
social and environmental sectors. He also briefed participants on
the evolution of the concept of environmental management from the
1972 UN conference on environment to the "Johannesburg Summit"
held in 2002.
Concluding the morning session, Mahboub Binsi’id talked about the
efforts of the Islamic Organization for Education Sciences and
Culture in promoting awareness to achieve sustainable development
in the Islamic world. He stressed the importance of environmental
education at the theoretical and practical levels.
Speakers at the afternoon session, which focused on the "Arab
Media in Johannesburg Summit," were: Mr. Mohammad Mashnouk,
Chairperson of The Lebanese Association for Environment and
Development; Ms. Caroline Faraj, Editor, CNN Arabic Channel; Ms.
Mariam Safi, Member of the Arab Media Forum for Environment and
Development; Mr. Habib Maalouf, Reporter at the Lebanese Daily As-Safir;
Mr. Mohammad Bilghout, representative of the Mohammad the Sixth
Foundation for the Safeguard of the Environment; and Mr. Wajdi
Riad, Reporter at the Egyptian Daily Al-Ahram. The session was
chaired by Mr. Salama Ahmad Salama, Chairperson of AMFED.
In his intervention, Mohammad Mashnouk, stressed the importance of
the media within the framework of the development process in order
to render it a subject of interest to the public. He added that
environmental awareness was not only the responsibility of the
media, but also the duty of the official sector. "Environmental
awareness cannot be independent from the development education of
every person," he noted.
Caroline Faraj evaluated the Arab media performance in the
"Johannesburg Summit". She considered that Arabic coverage was
news-oriented instead of being based on analysis, which led to a
dominance of the translated editorials from western media. "In
spite of the importance of the subjects discussed at the Summit,
the Arab media was focusing on the news of senior officials
attending the event," she said.
In her statement, Mariam Safi criticized the weakness of Arab
participation at the Summit; however, she praised the Arab media’s
role in covering and describing the main events, moves behind the
scenes and the negotiations.
Habib Maalouf voiced his worries over the affiliations and their
financing means. He also noted that the flood of information
confused the media during the Summit.
Mohammad Bilghout, discussed the experience of young journalists
in approaching environment-related subjects in the Arabic World.
Finally, Wajdi Riad said that today's abundance of information
became difficult to handle, understand, analyze and transmit.
The Workshop, which will conclude on Thursday 27 February, is the
first activity undertaken by ESCWA, in cooperation with the League
of Arab States (LAS), the Arab Media Forum for Environment and
Development (AMFED) and the United Nations Environment Programme
Regional Office for Western Asia (UNEP/ROWA), to follow up on the
outcomes of the "Johannesburg Summit".
The Workshop is intended to enhance the capacity of Arab
journalists and strengthen their role in evaluating the outcomes
of the World Summit for Social Development (WSSD) and monitoring
their implementation through providing them with the knowledge
base and necessary tools. The ultimate objective of the Workshop
is to raise the awareness of the Arab public on sustainable
development issues; encourage their participation in the
decision-making process through qualified journalism; and develop
a regional action plan for enhancing the role of the media as an
advocate for sustainable development.
Participants in the Workshop are media experts from Bahrain,
Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Palestine, Qatar,
the Syrian Arab Republic, Tunisia, the United Arab Emirates and
Yemen, in addition to participants from UNEP, LAS, AMFED and the
United Nations HABITAT.