A DECADE OF NATIONAL ACCOMPLISHMENTS
A- INSTITUTING NATURE CONSERVATION
FON contributed largely and profoundly to the creation of an environmental movement where for a long time FON was the only mobilizer and defender of environmental causes. The impact of this arduous mission inspired in the late 80’s the rising of other NGOs to care for environmental values, mostly emulating and repeating similar activities in cleaning beaches, lecturing, etc. Confident that others will carry out some of these activities, FON decided to move forward, not resigning all its earlier engagements but devoting more effort and strategic discipline to the new phase.
The mission of the new decade was paving its path through the previous one till the right moment arrived. The decision was taken to seed accomplishments that would defy the passing of time, that would remain forever as national, and possibly international icons, and would become prototypes to expand and replicate.
A.1- NATURE RESERVES
The establishment of nature reserves by concept and practice legally, communally and effectively.
· Ehden Forest Nature Reserve – Local conservation
o 6 years of fieldwork researching the biodiversity at the nature forest of Ehden proved the significance of the natural system at maintaining its assets under the immense threats.
o FON launched an awareness campaign targeting various components of the social structure: teachers, students, elders, youth, university students, farmers, herdsmen, politicians, etc.
o In parallel, activities safeguarding the forest and reducing anthropogenic pressures were executed with local volunteers.
· Palm Island Nature Reserve – Local conservation
o In collaboration with the Environment Protection Committee NGO in Tripoli, FON worked on uncovering the biodiversity riches of the Palm Islands archipelago comprising 3 Islands: Sannani, Nakhel & Ramkeen.
o Field research revealed the importance of the islands as the last resort to many of the coastal floral species and the struggle of these species for survival under intense pressures.
o FON conducted an awareness campaign directed to local community of Mina-Tripoli, similar to Ehden
o A series of activities were implemented to reduce the pressures off the islands
· First Law of Conservation of Nature Sites in the Republic of Lebanon
o FON drafted a conservation law and prepared a portfolio for each of Ehden and Palm Islands including biodiversity assessment, state of threats, significance of ecosystems, and landmarks as national assets.
o The portfolio was presented to the Ministry of Justice for processing.
o FON lobbied for the passing of the law for a year and a half, first with through the government, followed by the parliament
o The law was passed without major change and ratified by the Lebanese parliament to be the first law of conservation of a nature site in the Republic of Lebanon. Law 121, March 1992 achieved the precedence for nature conservation.
A.2- INTERNATIONAL PLATFORM – RIO CONVENTION OF BIODIVERSITY (CBD)
o Lebanon was one of rare developing countries that achieved nature conservation before to the Biodiversity Convention.
o Owing to the efforts of FON, Lebanon went to Rio having accomplished a prototype of local and legal conservation.
o Owing to the efforts of FON, Lebanon and the Ministry of Environment acquired huge funds for the conservation of biodiversity.
A.3- UNESCO WORLD HERITAGE SITE
· Qannoubine Valley – Cultural Natural Landscape the 9th in the World
o Secretary General of FON, Dr. Ricardus Haber was called by UNESCO-Paris to defend the valley for nomination.
o Dr. Haber prepared a portfolio including all aspects of the valley: cultural, historical, religious, natural, and other.
o He presented the project in front of the committee in Paris
o After long discussion, Dr. Haber succeeded at winning the valley the status of Natural Cultural Landscape the 9th in the world
o The committee delegated two dignitaries to verify the status on site
o Dr. Haber prepared a visit for the delegates and toured with them two days showing them the various aspects of the valley.
o Their report confirmed the arguments for the declaration of the valley a World Heritage Site of the category Natural Cultural Landscape.
B- CREATION OF THE MINISTRY OF ENVIRONMENT
· 1993 – Birth of the Ministry of Environment
o Secretary General of FON, Dr. Ricardus Haber had long lobbied for a body to care for the environment, proposing basically a high council for the Environment, which would be pan-ministerial.
o He again lobbied for that proposal prior to the creation of the government of President Elias Sarkis. He had met with Mr Pierre Gemayel as well as others for that purpose.
o Balancing the powers in the ministerial cabinet necessitated a seat for the ‘Kata’eb’ party. Its president Mr. Gemayel took the portfolio of Dr. Haber and requested the creation of the position of Governmental Minister for the Affairs of the Environment which was granted. The position was then occupied by a member of the ‘Kata’eb’ – Minister Cesar Nasr.
C- BIRD MORATORIUM BOUND TO INTERNATIONAL FUNDING
· Effective Halt of Bird Slaughter/hunting for 5 years – 1995
o In the post war era, funding was become more and more available for reconstruction, so was funding for environmental issues.
o FON lobbied with international organizations and EU parliament for subjecting funding to Lebanon to the imperative stopping of hunting of migratory birds, which are mostly Europe’s birds.
o The response was major. In 1995, Lebanon was obliged to stop hunting if to benefit from international funding.
o The Lebanese army was handed the mission of controlling hunting all over the Lebanese territory, which was strongly effective. All weapons were confiscated on sight.
o Birds lived for 5 years in peace. During this period, we observed many types of birds that used to be shy to appear or too afraid to land in Lebanon.
o Unfortunately, the effect of the moratorium was not perpetuated into a national strategy and hunting returned more aggressively than ever recruiting more of the youth and university students.