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At a time when biodiversity and the environment are considered “abstract” or “rich people’s problems” by most, the Lebanon Eco Movement thought otherwise in their “Biodiversity National Dialogue” event, organized alongside the Institut Français on Friday, December 15.

Lebanon’s biodiversity has been heavily affected following the tensions that have been taking place in the south between Hezbollah and Israel since October 8, leading to fires in forests and ruining huge green landscapes.

“The elements or the molecules that are being hit upon us keep the damage not only at the time of the bombing but for like 10 years later,” commented Sandra Sleiman, Project Manager at the Lebanon Eco Movement in the Biodiversity Department. “We know that from 2006. People couldn’t utilize agricultural lands because of phosphorus contamination in their soils and the loss of their fertility.”

Under the banner of “Le Liban, Trésor de Biodiversité”, the event brought together experts, activists, Ministers and stakeholders to discuss and strategize on safeguarding Lebanon’s unique ecosystems.

Formed in 2012 by local NGOs, the Lebanon Eco Movement is now a network of over 60 environmental organizations. Together, they tackle Lebanon’s environmental challenges, aiming to preserve its natural and cultural heritage and promote a sustainable environment.

The event commenced with a word from the Caretaker Minister of Environment, Dr. Nasser Yassine. He stressed, “It is essential for the generation to believe that protecting biodiversity can create economic activity.” Yassine mentioned that, according to a study that was conducted in 2015 by the Shouf Biosphere Reserve, it was proven that for every $1 spent in the Shouf, $19 in revenue was generated.

A thought-provoking session led by Dr. Jean Stephan, Professor of Conservation and Management of Natural Resources, was followed. He engaged the audience in an open dialogue on Lebanon’s biodiversity hotspots. The discussion aimed at meeting Kunming agreement target 3 (30×30) set in COP15 and encouraging recommendations in line with Aichi target 11.

Target 11 pertains to designated regions and various effective conservation measures based on specific areas. These areas encompass not just stringent protection zones but also those that permit sustainable utilization agreeing to safeguard species, habitats and ecosystem processes.

A significant highlight of the event was also the National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan (NBSAP) round tables, focusing on key national targets. Divided into thematic areas such as communication and public awareness, access and benefit sharing, policy integration, and research and knowledge transfer, these discussions were led by experts in the respective fields.

In an interview, French diplomat Mathilde Pousse reiterated what Sabine Scortino, Director of Institut Français, said in her short speech at the beginning, “Lebanon is 0.007% of the world’s surface, but it’s 2.7% of mammals, reptiles, and terrestrials. So it’s huge. It’s a hot spot. And from this, you can build, first, a sense of astonishment and a sense of gratitude for this beauty and diversity.”

A distinguished panel, moderated by Mostapha Raad, a Lebanese journalist with experience covering social and environment-related issues, featured a negotiator to COP16 from Lebanon and two key figures in biodiversity conservation. They shared insights into Lebanon’s commitment on the global stage.

The conference concluded with a vibrant closing ceremony, featuring the announcement of a photo contest and the handing of prizes and certificates.