1. UNEP’s Governing Council adopted decision GCSS.VII/7 on the “Environmental situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories”, at its Seventh Special Session/Global Ministerial Environment Forum, in Cartagena, in February 2002. In response to this decision, a report was prepared for the twenty-second session of the Governing Council entitled “Desk Study on the Environment in the Occupied Palestinian Territories: Note by the Executive Director”, contained in document UNEP/GC.22/INF/31.
2. In order to carry out the desk study, a team of UNEP experts was established, with qualifications in the following areas: water quantity, water and soil quality; waste water; solid waste, hazardous waste; environmental administration; land use and biodiversity. An extensive literature review was carried out, covering over 5000 of the most recent scientific reports. In addition, over the summer and autumn of 2002, UNEP undertook four missions to the area. Over 250 regional and international experts were interviewed, including environmental officials, non-governmental organization representatives, municipal authorities, academic and research institutes, and international organizations active in the area.
3. During these missions, visits to sites of environmental relevance took place in major town and cities throughout the West Bank and Gaza. During these visits, in order to cover as many sites as possible, the team worked in different subgroups visiting solid waste dumps, wastewater treatment plants, rangeland rehabilitation projects, and other sites where there was environmental damage. The team stayed in Jerusalem (Al Quds) and in Gaza, and was also able to visit Bethlehem, the Emek Hefer area, Halhoul, Hebron (Al Khalil) and surroundings, Jenin, Ramallah and Tel Aviv.
4. The desk study was submitted to the Governing Council at its twenty-second session. At that session, the Governing Council adopted decision 22/1/V, in which it welcomed the desk study outlining the state of the environment in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, and requested the Executive Director, within the mandate of UNEP, to implement recommendations of the desk study.
5. By this decision, the Governing Council also requested the Executive Director to make UNEP available to act as a facilitator, and also an impartial moderator when requested by both parties, to assist in solving urgent environmental problems with a view to achieving common goals.
6. It further requested the Executive Director to continue coordinating the activities of UNEP in the area, including: (a) facilitate identifying technical and financial solutions to implement the recommendations; (b) promote capacity-building programmes; (c) encourage technology transfer; and (d) promote the participation of the Palestinian Authority in relevant meetings and processes of multilateral environmental agreements.
7. The Governing Council requested the Executive Director to report on the implementation of that decision to the Governing Council/Global Ministerial Environment Forum at its twenty-third session.
8. Following the twenty-second session of the Governing Council in February 2003, UNEP undertook consultations with Palestinian and Israeli officials on implementation of decision 22/1/V, including on implementation of desk study recommendations, and convened a trilateral technical meeting on environmental issues, in July 2003, in Geneva, Switzerland, chaired by UNEP and attended by both sides. This meeting discussed the next steps to be undertaken by UNEP under eight jointly agreed priority desk study recommendations, in full cooperation with the Israeli and Palestinian authorities.
9. This meeting addressed the request by the Governing Council to UNEP to act as a facilitator, and also an impartial moderator when requested by both parties, to assist in solving urgent environmental problems with a view to achieving common goals. In addition, and in spite of the prevailing difficult circumstances, over the past 2 years, UNEP has repeatedly acted as facilitator to address a range of urgent environmental topics that have been raised by either party.
10. UNEP also launched a series of capacity building training seminars in 2003, to implement several of the desk study recommendations. The first of these seminars was on communications and the environment for officials of the Palestinian Environment Quality Authority, which took place in December 2003, in Amman, Jordan.
11. This seminar provided participants with training and information on: communication; databases, integrated environmental assessment and decision-making; multilateral environmental agreements, including the case study of the Biosafety Protocol; financing global environmental protection; access to environmental information; the role of non-governmental organizations and civil society; cases studies from around the world on regional environmental cooperation; UNEP’s activities in the West Asia region; regional cooperation on environment and health; and national and international efforts on environmental protection in Jordan.
12. A second capacity building training seminar was organized on environmental quality standards on wastewater and air pollution, from 22-26 August 2004, in Cairo, Egypt. The meeting was attended by officials from the Palestinian Environment Quality Authority, the Palestinian Water Authority, other relevant ministries, municipalities and NGOs.
13. The seminar provided training on: environmental quality standards and criteria; environmental risk assessment procedures; air pollution; the impact of different pollutant categories on human health and the environment; different standards in selected countries; wastewater quality standards, including for reuse; enforcement, monitoring and reporting; inspections; public awareness; and economic instruments.
14. A third capacity building training seminar was held in Geneva and Spiez, Switzerland, on environmental policy making and environmental laboratory analysis, from 6-16 October 2004. This third seminar was divided into two parts. The first part addressed topics of global and regional environmental importance, such as chemicals, hazardous waste, biodiversity, biosafety and climate change. The second part provided specialized technical training on laboratory techniques for the analysis of different substances occurring in the air, soil and water, related to environmental protection. This part of the seminar was divided into three modules, on organic chemistry, inorganic chemistry and microbiology. The seminar was attended by officials from the Palestinian Environment Quality Authority, the Palestinian Water Authority, other relevant ministries, municipalities and universities.
15. In addition, UNEP provided training to officials from Palestinian Environment Quality Authority through a workshop on environmental impact assessment held in Tunis, from 20-24 September 2004.
16. These capacity building seminars have been organized in close cooperation with the countries that have hosted them. In this regard, UNEP would like to acknowledge the excellent contribution from Egypt, Jordan and Tunisia, which has led to additional bilateral cooperation on environmental issues between these countries and the Palestinian Authority.
17. UNEP also organized three one-day workshops from 29-31 January 2005, in Ramallah, on: public awareness for senior Palestinian decision makers; solid waste for municipalities; and environmental education and awareness raising for schoolteachers. These workshops were organized jointly with the Palestinian Environment Quality Authority (EQA) and the United Nations Development Programme / Programme of Assistance to the Palestinian People (UNDP/PAPP).
18. UNEP has also organized several missions to the area in 2003 and 2004, during which environmental experts have reviewed the specific environmental conditions on the ground and carried out needs assessments in order to tailor the seminars to the specific Palestinian circumstances and ensure that the seminars are as relevant as possible.
19. In March 2004, a mission was carried out to assess solid waste and wastewater conditions in Gaza and the West Bank. The findings from these missions fed directly into several events subsequently organized by UNEP.
20. In addition, in August 2004, a UNEP field mission, which was staffed by environmental experts on microbiology, inorganic chemistry and organic chemistry, visited Palestinian laboratories to assess their capacity to carry out environmental analysis. This assessment included a review of the existing equipment, the interview of technicians and completion of a questionnaire by the laboratories. Both public and private institutions were included in the survey, including university laboratories, the laboratories of the Environment Quality Authority (EQA), Palestinian Water Authority (PWA), municipalities, and more.
21. Palestinian officials have also participated in the regular regional activities organized by the UNEP’s Regional Office for West Asia. These include a total of ten events in 2003, and fourteen events in 2004, on the following topics:
(a) International environment assessment and reporting, environmental statistics, the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, and GEO-4;
(b) Environmental Management System and ISO 14000;
(c) Industry and the environment, cleaner production, environment management of industrial estates, environmental protection in the telecommunication industry, IAIA impact assessment, and solar energy;
(d) Water demand management conservation and pollution control;
(e) Hazardous waste landfills in hyper-dry areas;
(f) The role of parliamentarians in protecting the environment;
(g) Ozone depleting substances (ODS), including combating illegal trade; and
(h) Coordinated implementation of the Basel, Rotterdam, Stockholm Conventions, the management of hazardous chemical and wastes, PCBs, dioxins and furans; and mercury pollution.
22. The Palestinian Authority has also participated in relevant meetings and processes of multilateral environmental agreements.
23. At the time of preparation of this progress report, a capacity building seminar on hazardous waste in the Middle East was planned for 7-9 February 2005, Helsinki, Finland. This event, organized in cooperation with the Government of Finland, was to be attended by Egyptian, Israeli, Jordanian and Palestinian participants.
III. Financial and other contributions
24. UNEP would like to acknowledge the generous financial and in-kind contributions of the Government of Finland, the Government of Germany (for the capacity building seminars on environmental standards and on EIA), and the Government of Switzerland.