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Kick-off Meeting for UNEP-UNESCO Joint Project "Natural Cultural Management of the Iraqi Marshlands as World Heritage" - Summary Report

25-26 June 2009
Kempinski Hotel Amman, Amman, Jordan


UNEP and UNESCO organized a meeting to kick-off the joint project titled "Natural Cultural Management of the Iraqi Marshlands as World Heritage". The objective of this meeting was to present the new joint project financed with contributions from the Italian Government as well as obtain input and advice from Iraqi stakeholders and other partners on the proposed activities considering local needs and priorities as well as to identify potential areas for cooperation and resource mobilization.

His Excellency Mr. Hassan Radhi Kadhim Al-Sari, State Minister of Marshlands, headed the Iraqi delegation and participated in the meeting with senior officials from the Ministry of Environment (MoEn), Ministry of Culture (MoC), State Ministry of Marshlands (MOSM), and Ministry of Planning and Development Cooperation (MoPDC) as well as representatives from the Governorate Councils of Missan, Thi-Qar and Basrah. The meeting was attended by representatives from the Government of Japan, the Government of Italy and Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) as well as FAO and UNDP.

First day sessions provided an overview of roles and activities by UNEP and UNESCO in Iraq to date, focusing on environmental and natural/cultural resource management. The new UNEP-UNESCO Project was presented, with detailed information on main activities. The Marshlands of Mesopotamia has been put on a tentative list as a mixed cultural and natural site for the World Heritage by the Iraqi government in 2003, providing an impetus to develop and implement a management plan for both natural/environmental and cultural assets in the area. As the project utilizes the World Heritage inscription process as a tool, an introduction to the World Heritage convention as well as nomination process was given. The Iraqi participants also learned about national obligations and mixed cultural and natural site management practices. Iraqi Ministries provided an overview of current and historical environmental, cultural and socio-economic management initiatives in Iraq. In addition, local government officials from the southern governorates of Basrah, Missan, and Thi-Qar gave an overview about the needs and current conditions of the Iraqi Marshlands. The second day of the meeting focused on donor initiatives and results related to promoting sustainable management of Iraqi Marshlands as well as formulation of recommendations to promote cooperation/coordination for the project.

Extensive discussions on the objectives and activities of the project, as well as advice from Iraqi stakeholders and other partners provided useful input for project management and prioritization of key activities. The meeting participants also identified potential areas for cooperation as well as resource mobilization.

The meeting ended with the following key recommendations:

  1. Establish a national committee (steering committee) for this project, which can also serve as a committee for the management plan development inside Iraq.
  2. Coordinate project management between UNEP and UNESCO and facilitate better coordination with other relevant UN agencies.
  3. Ensure that marshland management and conservation issues are incorporated into the marshlands strategic plan, and eventually the national strategic plan of 2010-2014.
  4. Identify information sources and collate databases, particularly to inform the delineation of protected and buffer zones for environmental/cultural management in the marshlands.
  5. Encourage donors, such as Italy, Japan, and Canada, as well as international organizations to continue providing support to Iraqi Marshland management.
  6. Carry out local communication and educational initiatives that highlight ecological/cultural importance of the area.
  7. Prepare updates on the Iraqi Marshlands from the Iraqi side and UN/bilateral side to contribute to and disseminate at the upcoming UN Economic and Social Commission (ECOSOC) session on 29 July 2009.