Environmental Conservation in the UAE: Local Roots with Global Ambitions
Environmental conservation has been a long-standing concern as the United Arab Emirates has sought to balance rapid socioeconomic development and the protection of its natural heritage.
Environmental conservation has been a long-standing concern as the United Arab Emirates has sought to balance rapid socioeconomic development and the protection of its natural heritage. Standing at the nexus of the UAE’s various environmental conservation efforts is H.E. Razan Khalifa Al Mubarak, secretary-general of the Abu Dhabi Environment Agency, mandated with protecting the country’s environment and enhancing its biodiversity. Al Mubarak is also the managing director of the Emirates Wildlife Society, in association with the World Wildlife Fund (EWS-WWF), as well as the Mohamed Bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund, a philanthropic endowment established to provide targeted grants to individual species conservation initiatives worldwide.
On April 12, AGSIW was pleased to host Al Mubarak, who discussed the challenges the UAE faces in protecting its unique fauna and flora in the face of the urbanization that has accompanied tremendous population growth and higher standards of living. She covered the regional and global environmental conservation efforts that have made the UAE a leader in this field. She was joined by Frederic Launay, acting director general of the Mohamed Bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund.
H.E. Razan Khalifa Al Mubarak, Secretary-General, Abu Dhabi Environment Agency
Frederic Launay, Director General, Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund
Ambassador Marcelle M. Wahba, President, Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington (Moderator)
H.E. Razan Al Mubarak began the discussion with a historical look at the UAE in context of its rapid development. Today, it is home to the largest environmental and conservation organization in the Middle East, the Abu Dhabi Environment Agency (EAD). Al Mubarak explained how the agency was born, starting from creating and enforcing hunting laws to now working on regulation, policy, monitoring, and conservation programs. The main challenge that the environment faces in the UAE is rapid development, which directly affects habitats and wildlife. Al Mubarak provided a myriad of anecdotes and examples of conservation programs that highlight some of the achievements of the agency. “Microphilanthropy,” a term that Al Mubarak uses to describe a specific way to preserve species across borders, utilizes technology to enable individuals with the necessary tools and resources needed for research and conservation. Al Mubarak highlighted not only the achievements, but also the challenges that the UAE faces, including water and the development of aquifer reserves. She hopes that new technologies will help address and combat some of the most pressing challenges facing the UAE.
Frederic Launay discussed several challenges that the EAD has faced in terms of creating an understanding of environmental issues. Building governance and the overall management structure to tackle the environment was at the core of the creation of the agency. No environmental law existed when the EAD was born; as such, laws needed to be drafted, negotiated, and, most importantly, understood. At the time, a critical understanding of key environmental issues, such as air quality and marine biodiversity, was not fully comprehended. Therefore, the EAD wanted to create a body of knowledge and methodologies to use for conservation and regulatory efforts. Launay additionally highlighted the achievements and successes of the Mohamed Bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund throughout the years. The fund has supported 1,300 projects worldwide, providing grants to grassroots environmental and species conservation initiatives. He explained that the fund is not about providing massive financial investments. However, it supports and recognizes individuals who have dedicated their lives to this cause. Launay stressed the importance of “home grown solutions” that he hopes to see the UAE take advantage of for generations to come.
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