4 January 2006

Environmental Legislation Comes of Age in Afghanistan -- New Act Signals New Hope to People, Ecology of Country

(Reissued as received.)

KABUL, 3 January (UNEP) -- Laws aimed at protecting the natural resources and environment of Afghanistan have been developed by the Government with assistance from the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

The Framework Legislation is believed to be the first legislation in Afghanistan designed to conserve and protect the country's wildlife, waterways and forests up to the air and soil.

Klaus Toepfer, UNEP's Executive Director, said "Without laws, environmental treaties and agreements are mere paper tigers.  So the Environment Act is the cornerstone for the development of an effective and integrated environmental management regime that secures environmentally sound sustainable development and use of natural resources, while still promoting economic and social well-being and development."

"If we are to help deliver a stable future for this country and for countries across the globe, the environment must be factored into rehabilitation and future planning.  For the environment is not a luxury but the basis for economic development and livelihoods.  Poverty cannot be defeated and prosperity realized without this pillar of sustainable development being strong and viable", he said.

Studies indicate that over 80 per cent of Afghanistan's population relies directly on the natural resource base to meet its daily needs.

However, more than two decades of conflict, military activities, refugee movements, collapse of national, provincial and local forms of governance, lack of management and institutional capacity, and over-exploitation have heavily damaged Afghanistan's natural resource base.  The recent drought has had an additional negative impact.  As a result, the country's vulnerability to natural disasters and food shortages has increased.

Other challenges for natural resource and environmental management include still insufficient institutional capacities and the current absence of legislation in many areas.

In order to bridge these gaps, UNEP has being working to assist in the development of the new Environment Act in partnership with the Government of Afghanistan, the World Conservation Union (IUCN) and international experts.

The Act contains the tailor-made frameworks needed to manage sustainably and use Afghanistan's natural resources and to rehabilitate its damaged environment.  The Act also clarifies institutional responsibilities and contains the compliance and enforcement provisions required to allow the Government of Afghanistan to enforce effectively the legislation.

The development of this important legislation is one component of a three-year programme for capacity-building and institutional development for environmental management, which was initiated at the request of the Government of Afghanistan in October 2003.

It is being implemented by UNEP's Post-Conflict Branch.   The programme is funded by the European Commission, the Government of Finland and the Global Environment Facility.

For more information, please contact:  Nick Nuttall, UNEP Spokesperson, Office of the Executive Director, on tel.:  +254 20 762-3084; mobile: +254 733 632 755, e-mail: ; or if there is no prompt response, please contact Elisabeth Waechter, UNEP Associate Information Officer, on tel.:  254 20 7623088, mobile:  254 720 173968, e-mail: .

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