Statement by Ms. Jacinta Barrins UNDP Jordan Country Director workshop on “The role of members of parliament in the protection of the environment

13 Feb 2011

Your Excellencies,
Dear Members of Parliament,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Distinguished guests,

Al Salam Alaykom

I am pleased to be here on this day to take part in a collaborative effort that brings together the legislature, the government, judiciary, civil society, media, prosecutors, and research centers, to discuss the importance of the MPs role in protecting our environment nationally and at the local level. I would like to thank the committees of water and agriculture, health and environment, and the legal committee for their dedication and support to this initiative.

I would also like to thank all those who are here to enrich this participatory discussion, which aims at providing a platform to share knowledge and experience on environmental challenges. This will include discussion on the enforcement of environmental legislation and identifying areas of intervention.

This participatory discussion comes as a result of past and current efforts. In December 2010, UNDP organized a 5 days workshop on environmental crimes, in coordination with the Ministry of Environment and in collaboration with the judicial council, ministry of justice and royal rangers and NGOs. The participants of that workshop recommended that there needs to be consistency between the many environment related laws that are being implemented by different sectors. This requires that all actors work closely with the relevant parliamentary committees to ensure harmony and clarity of legislation.

Currently, UNDP has been supporting the House of Representatives since 2003. Recently, UNDP initiated a three year programme of support to the House of Representatives which will support a number of committees in their legislative, oversight and representation functions. These committee are ( the legislative committee, public freedoms and citizens rights committee and health and environment committee.) UNDP’s support to all its partners is based on three principles of democratic governance:
(1) fostering inclusive participation;

(2) strengthening accountable and responsive governing institutions;

(3) grounding DG in international principles. UNDP is pleased to support the MPs to promote these three principles in whatever way we can.

We all know the power of participation and representation. This can bring about great things. I would like to quote from His Majesty’s Speech to the Throne in the opening of the first ordinary session of the 16th parliament:

“Many are the challenges we face. But the opportunities are greater. We have always overcome the challenges, and our history is a  record of victories… a record that was achieved through the will, unity and knowledge of Jordanians”

As an illustration, I am told that members of the parliament have demonstrated on many occasions their knowledge and deep understanding of the environmental challenges within their constituencies. I believe MPs were able to address these challenges either through adopting legislative initiatives or ensuring the laws were implemented and enforced. A direct example of representation power is the success of parliamentarians to stop deforestation of “Barghes” forests in the governorate of Ajloun. As I am sure you are reminded each day, you as Members of the Parliament are the voices of your constituencies and this is for you both a privilege and a challenge. It is a privilege because you have gained the trust of the voters to take their voices from the local level to the national platform (the parliament) and to take the necessary actions to make good environmental decisions. It is challenging for you as the expectations from your voters are high and - you are accountable to your voters.

As you know, Jordan was a country relatively free of environmental problems until about the 1970s. As a result of modernization, increase in population, industrial pollution and over exploitation of many of Jordan’s natural resources, the environment problems began to increase. The rapid increase in population began to use more water than the country could provide. Unfortunately, the country’s severe shortage of water has led to the draining of underwater aquifers which has resulted in many negative impacts on the environment.

Additionally, urbanization while necessary for every state, also bring its challenges including air pollution. This needs to be carefully monitored and managed. The development of land, as part of industrialization, began to affect the country′s wildlife habitats. Soil erosion became prevalent due to some of the agriculture practices adopted and the felling of trees. All of these potential environmental challenges began to be highlighted in the 1980s and the 1990s. As a result a number of environmental global conventions were signed or ratified by the country (some 37 global environmental conventions, over the past twenty years ). The Ministry of Environment and Ministry of Water and Irrigation have done very good work but challenges remain. One big challenge is how to translate these conventions into laws, policies and concrete actions on the ground so they can assist in protecting the environment.

Dear Members of Parliament, allow me to set out some of the challenges we face in protecting the environment in Jordan. There is still a lot of work that has to be done to , minimize groundwater exploitation. We need to address the whole area of environmental sound management of waste. We need to address how to monitor air quality, how to minimize desertification, how to conserve our natural ecosystem.

There are many ways that this could be done. I hope today’s workshop will start the discussion and that this discussion will continue throughout this year. We as UNDP stand ready to support this discussion to continue on how best to protect this environment - our environment

1. Dear Members of Parliament, Jordan must stop unsustainable extraction of groundwater in order to prevent permanent economic and environmental harm. Jordan′s groundwater by-law 85 was created by Ministry of Water and Irrigation to protect and monitor the country′s precious groundwater resources. However this bylaw is not effective in stopping such exploitations. (e.g., Al-Azraq Oasis ), as a result currently 10 out of Jordan′s 12 groundwater basins are showing a deficit, the other two are close to their limit, and the situation will only get worse.

2. Jordan is one of the water-poor countries of the world. Here, water resources are scarce, rainfall amount is limited and the land is mostly arid. On the other hand, Jordan has a high level of non-revenue water, as high as 46% in 2004. The water sector is witnessing repeated attacks on the network, which affect the operation of supply .The Non Revenue Water level is decreasing over the years but not at the desirable rate. Many efforts were taken by the Water Authority of Jordan (WAJ). Despite such efforts, WAJ is still not able to address the NRW problems appropriately due to lack financial resources, organizational setup, as well as personnel capacities.

3. As for solid waste management, Jordan does not yet have a legislation on waste management, but currently the Ministry of Environment is drafting a legislation to address and regulate the management of waste issues.

4. Deforestation is addressed in more than one legislation, nevertheless, the logging remains unpunished and remedies ineffective. Bearing in mind that the area of forests in Jordan does not exceed 1%.

5. Air pollutions legislations are many in Jordan For example, the Air Protection bylaw number 28 for 2005, was issued to provide the legal powers to the Ministry of Environment, to conduct and enforce air monitoring programmes. The bylaw is based on the "Polluter Pays Principle" that commits the polluting facility to pay for any remediation and mitigation measures, whether technical or financial to curb pollution sources. May I challenge you all and ask is this being applied?

6. Article 44 from the Temporary Traffic Law No. 47 for the year 2001 deals with the vehicles that emit pollutant gases and designate the ultimate authority to the Public Security Directorate to hold that vehicle.

7. Article 48 punishes the driver who drives a vehicle that emits pollutants by paying from 30-60 JD.

8. Article 49 of the Temporary Public Health Law No 54 for the year 2002 considered that any stack that emits pollutant that might affect the public health, can be closed and the owner will be penalized. So I hope we can ask each other today at this workshop, if the laws are there then what is holding us back from enforcing it?

It is clear that protecting the environment is important to us all, we want to wake up each morning and drink clean water, breath in clean fresh air. It is our basic right. Therefore, we all have a responsibility to protect our environment. We can no longer leave protecting the environment to our neighbour to the government we all have a role to play and Dear Parliamentary Members you have a special role to play on behalf of your voters , your families and your children.

This is why we are here today to discuss how we all can protect our environment. This discussion today will assist you to discuss these issues with your voters and then take their concerns back to the parliament and collectively address them with the cabinet.

We are all working towards a common goal, be it UNDP, civil society, media, the government, the judiciary, the prosecutors, the parliamentarians, and research centers to serve the national priorities of the country and serve the needs of the people.

Hence, this participatory discussion is timely in light of a new parliament, a new government and the many stakeholders who are here today to shed light on how best to protect our environment.

Engaging members of the Parliament in protecting the environment is at the heart of this discussion, to which the United Nations Development Programme attaches great importance. We thank you for your commitment by coming here today to discuss this topic. We hope it will encourage you to return to your people, your constitutions, and tell them about this discussion and get them involved in how to protect the environment going forward. I look forward to visiting your area one day and seeing how you have encouraged your people to protect their environment.

Finally, in conclusion, I wish to recognize the hospitality of Al Rai Studies Centre and each and every participant and speaker, chairman and commentator and express my pleasure to be here with you today. I wish you all fruitful and successful discussion. May today be the start of many more!

Thank you