“Mainstreaming Biodiversity Conservation in the Tourism Sector Development in Jordan” Inception Workshop

23 Apr 2014

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The inception workshop of the “Mainstreaming Biodiversity Conservation in the Tourism Sector Development in Jordan” Project was convened with the participation of representatives from government, non-government, private sector, and local community organizations from across the country on Tuesday the 22nd of April 2014 in the Landmark Hotel, Amman.  The full day workshop aimed to launch the implementation of the four year Project and the adoption of adequate mechanisms for its delivery and coordination amongst its implementing partners.  The 3.5 million dollar Project is jointly funded by the Global Environment Facility, the United Nations Development Program, the Government of Jordan, and contribution from the Finnish government.  The Project adopts a set of objectives leading to the reduction of the impacts of tourism activities on the biodiversity of Jordan.

The aim of the project is to reduce the impact of tourism on biodiversity in Jordan, intervening at three levels. At the national level, it will develop a regulatory and enforcement framework to reduce the impact of tourism on biodiversity, centrally (upstream); components will be piloted at the local level, assessed and refined before being adopted nationally and made available for replication and up-scaling. At the regional/landscape level, the project will target public awareness and sensitivity of the value of biodiversity as a tourism draw card and institutional capacity for planning, monitoring and enforcement so as to manage the impacts of tourism development inside and outside formally protected areas. At the Protected Area site level, the project will work to enhance capacity and management effectiveness of Pas, including revenue generation, tourism planning and management and community relations, so as to reduce impacts on protected biodiversity and benefit from nature-based tourism and ecotourism.

The project represents a unique case of institutional partnership where five national entities come together to execute their respective activities while ensuring synergy and collaboration.  These are the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities, Ministry of Municipal Affairs, Petra Development and Tourism Region Authority, Aqaba Special Economic Zone Authority, and the Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature; all in cooperation with the United Nations Development Program.  Strong coordination is established with the Ministry of Planning and International Cooperation in its capacity as the government representative and national focal point for the Global Environment Facility and the Ministry of Environment in its capacity as the national focal point for the Convention on Biodiversity.

The inception ceremony included a series of keynotes by the Project’s implementing partners, each highlighting its relevance to their strategic programs and increment to their existing efforts.

Mr. Nezar Adabreh, at the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities, noted that the Project comes in line with the Ministry’s tourism sector strategy, aiming to achieve ecological sustainability of the tourism sector in the Kingdom through the adoption of a set of incentives and regulations, both legally and institutionally, leading to the reduction of the impact of tourism activities on the cultural and natural heritage across the country, and particularly, in Petra, Wadi Rum, and Jerash Areas.

Eng. Ghassan Khraisat, Head of the Master Planning Department at the Ministry of Municipal Affairs, stated that the Project represents a good opportunity to build on existing national efforts targeting the development of proper guidelines and mechanisms for the sustainable planning of natural and cultural resources in the various regions of the Kingdom, with specific focus on the tourism sector and its associated heritage towards achieving better recognition and protection of our national heritage.

Mr. Tharwat AlMasalha, at the Petra Region Authority, expressed the Authority’s content that the project, which was conceived in Petra, has come to fruition, confirming the commitment of the Authority to work with the Project partners to achieve the collective objectives which are fully in line with the strategic outlook adopted for the tourism sector development in Petra.  All while considering its global significance as a World Heritage Site, and recognizing its high importance for biodiversity and natural beauty, and in association with the economic development targets set for the local communities of the area.

Dr. Mohannad Harara, the Commissioner for Environment of the Aqaba Authority, confirmed the added value of the Project in regard to the development and sustainability of the tourism sector in the Wadi Rum Protected Area, being a World Heritage Site for culture and nature and its surrounding desert landscape, with the goal being to enhance opportunities for local development which is inspired by the principles of participation of local communities and environmental sustainability.

Mr. Yehya Khaled, the Director General of RSCN, conveyed RSCN’s commitment to this important Project, as it is anticipated to contribute to the conservation and development of the national biodiversity and in particular, the forest ecosystems in the governorate of Jerash including  Dibbin Nature Reserve and its surroundings, while expressing the Society’s readiness to collaborate with all Project partners to achieve the sought-after environmental sustainability of the tourism sector in the Kingdom as a safeguard for achieving its social and economic goals.

Lastly, Ms. Zena Ahmad-Ali, the Country Director of the United Nations Development Program conveyed the Program’s pleasure with the Project launch and the start of its on-the-ground implementation in close cooperation and coordination with the various partners and stakeholders at the national and local levels, highlighting the completion of the establishment of the Project Coordination Unit within the premises in the Environment and Climate Change Portfolio, with the aim to ensure the highest level of coordination among partners and facilitation of the project delivery and monitoring.

Finally, Ms. Ali-Ahmad expressed her gratitude to the government of Jordan for its continuous support for the Program in the Kingdom and to all the partners and participants of the workshop from the government, non-government, private sector and local community organizations for honoring the workshop with their participation and valuable contributions.