The Desert Eco-Partnership

GEF-World Bank Desert Eco-Partnership Highlighted at Fourth Islamic Conference of Environment Ministers

Middle East and North African environment ministers recently endorsed a new and innovative partnership between the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and the World Bank Group. High-level officials predicted that the initiative will strengthen biodiversity and harness the value of desert ecosystem services and goods in order to improve daily standards of living for millions in the region.

Meeting in Tunis for the 4th Islamic Conference of Environment Ministers on October 5-6, more than 50 government leaders representing a consortium of Middle East and North Africa countries from the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) encouraged the Islamic Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization known as ISESCO to support the GEF-WB program as a way to enhance desert production systems in the region. GEF will provide catalytic funding for the “DELP” program (Desert Ecosystem and Livelihoods Program) implemented by the World Bank Group's Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region.

Under MENA-DELP, client countries will have a leadership role, giving them new tools to harness the power of the desert in a way that both generates jobs and protects the environment.

At the conference, the GEF and World Bank officials highlighted a number of opportunities that could bolster value for the Sahara and Arabian deserts including but not limited to: ecotourism, oasis agriculture, wind and solar power, genetic diversity, traditional land uses, water management systems, grazing, medicinal and aromatic plant promotion, dust storm prevention and agricultural heritage systems.

In order to encourage sustainable practices the DELP will use a multi-pronged approach that mixes targeted investments with programmatic monitoring, outreach and knowledge sharing to build measureable results. To that end participating countries will work in tandem with other stakeholders such as civil society and the private sector to help build a knowledge base and leverage investments for maximum impact.