About IUCN Regional Office for West Asia (ROWA)

West Asia Region covered by IUCN

About IUCN Regional Office for West Asia (ROWA)

The IUCN West Asian region comprises of 13 countries including Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, the Occupied Palestinian Territory, the Syrian Arab Republic, Yemen and Iran in addition to the Gulf countries including Bahrain, Oman, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates. West Asia is part of three eco-regions that incorporate a variety of ecosystems, including Mediterranean forests, deserts, plains, rangelands, savannas, oases, mountains, rivers, lakes, springs, mudflats, swamps, marshes, mangroves, seagrass beds and coral reefs, all of which provide a wide array of ecosystem services and ecological corridors for migratory species through the region.

The West Asia and North Africa region is the most arid in the world and water resources are consequently very scarce. The drylands of West Asia and North Africa will be the most affected by droughts and high temperatures in the years to come. Climate change will be manifested in limited rainfall, increasing temperatures with extreme very low temperatures cases, coupled with frequent long dry periods, together with natural hazards such as wildfires and floods. On the other hand, West Asia is plagued by political instability and conflict, which are having drastic impacts on people’s security, livelihoods and conservation, while it will be affected by climate change that will threaten livelihoods further through disasters.

West Asia has recently undergone profound ecological changes. According to fragmented assessments, the region has suffered a substantial loss of biodiversity and a degradation of habitats as a result of human activities. The environment is dominated by limited water resources, a scarcity of arable land, fragile ecosystems and episodic droughts. (Source: State of Biodiversity in West Asia, UNEP)

IUCN Regional Office for West Asia (ROWA) was established in October 2004 covering the region of West Asia, Central Asia and North Africa (WESCANA). In June 2007, the regionalization and decentralization of IUCN resulted in a more manageable and coherent geography for the (WESCANA) region. The new region now referred to as West Asia covers 13 countries which include: Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Oman, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait, Iraq and Iran.

IUCN ROWA is working in cooperation with its members, partners, commissions and donors to shape and define future sustainable development agenda in the region. This is done through coordinating environmental activities at regional and local levels; particularly in relation to regional environmental agreements and global environmental conventions. At the same time, IUCN enhances knowledge, empowerment and governance around biodiversity and water resources management through projects in the field. IUCN ROWA also focuses on a multi-stakeholder decision process involving governments, civil society and research institutions. Environmental awareness is a key issue for making a difference, thus the office facilitates communication, coordination, and information exchange among different actors in the region.

In 2005, the IUCN ROWA was granted an observer status in the Arab League after a decision made by the Council of the Arab Ministers Responsible for the Environment (CAMRE). During 2006 and 2007, IUCN ROWA has been an active participant in the technical committee for environmental conventions in the Arab League by taking the lead on activating the RAMSAR convention in the Region. This is a unique opportunity for IUCN to foster, promote and evolve a regional approach for environmental conservation and to provide the IUCN global experience to the Arab World.