UK plays host to Middle East group

ATTORNEYS from EcoPeace, a major new Middle Eastern environmental law organisation, will be the guests of UK environmental lawyers this week to raise awareness of pressing issues in their region.

EcoPeace is a coalition of established environmental law groups in Israel, Palestine, Egypt and Jordan.

All the eight main member bodies, two from each country, are non-governmental organisations which share common problems of environmental damage caused by rapid commercial development and lack of concerted environmental and legal controls.

Tel Aviv attorney Gidon Bromberg, secretary general of EcoPeace, says: “Law has a tremendous contribution to make to promote sustainable development in our region, and lawyers will be playing an instrumental role.”

Bromberg works for the Israel Union for Environmental Defence (IUED) – “basically a law firm dedicated to defending the environment,” he says.

“One of the issues of general concern to us as attorneys is the need for environmental impact assessments (EIAs). We're calling on the countries to standardise procedures in relation to EIAs when undertaking development projects,” he says.

The region is currently undergoing rapid development, particularly for the tourist industry as part of the Arab/Israeli “peace dividend”.

The Gulf of Aqaba is a major example, and EcoPeace urgently seeks EIAs in the area. Problems relating to fresh water are also at issue.

EcoPeace delegates at a London conference on 15 June are guests of leading UK organisations Environmental Law Foundation (ELF), which, like IUED, largely acts for plaintiffs, and research body FIELD (Foundation for International Law and Development).

Roger Wilson, FIELD managing director, says the conference “will alert the UK public to the fact that there are positive initiatives emerging from the Middle Eastern peace process other than at the governmental level”.