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Patricia Zurita Letter to Claudine Aoun Roukoz Special Advisor to His Excellency General Michel Aoun

Mrs. Claudine Aoun Roukoz Special Advisor to His Excellency General Michel Aoun

President of Lebanon

Dear Mrs. Claudine,

BirdLife International, a network of conservation organisations in 119 countries around the world – together with our Lebanese partner The Society for the Protection of Nature in Lebanon (SPNL) – is delighted with the recent major developments regarding the protection of birds in Lebanon, especially the recent announcement by His Excellency President General Michel Aoun declaring a bird-friendly era in Lebanon.

I would like to thank His Excellency sincerely for this commitment by stating the Lebanese government’s concrete commitment to collaborate in implementing “The peace treaty between Man and the tree as well as Man and birds”. We recognise the immense importance that has been placed on this commitment as words do not get stronger than “peace treaty” in a country like Lebanon.

Over the last three decades, BirdLife International and SPNL have been working together very closely to mitigate and prevent the decimation of bird populations and habitats in Lebanon and the Middle East through a series of national and regional initiatives. These initiatives have been implemented with strong support and collaboration from the government of Lebanon and also with local communities (Himas). I have listed a few of the major initiatives below:

  1. “Building Capacity for Sustainable hunting of Migratory Birds in Mediterranean Countries of North Africa & the Middle East” funded by the European Union (EU) through BirdLife International , where Lebanon was the hub for West Asia countries in a multi-country effort. The main achievements in Lebanon are data collection through a national opinion poll, and elaboration of the draft legal decrees and decisions for the new hunting law in Lebanon (Law No. 580/2004). Additionally, training workshops were organised for law enforcement officers on bird identification, conservation and legal issues, as well as capacity building on conflict resolution skills involving stakeholders of the hunting sector in Lebanon. Moreover, we produced awareness material targeting mainly hunters on globally threatened and game bird species, a bird field guide in Arabic, and an educational manual for school children.
  2. Mainstreaming Conservation of Migratory Soaring Birds into Key Productive Sectors along the Rift Valley/Red Sea Flyway” funded by the Global Environment Fund (GEF) (2010-2015). Main achievements of this initiative included reports on linkages between hunting and livelihoods in Lebanon, GIS maps for distribution of soaring birds; and maps identifying location of bottlenecks, hunting clubs; and “threat hotspots” for hunting; development of several awareness materials including a Field Guide to the Soaring Birds of Lebanon, and a Manual for Bird Identification. We organised training for Educational Coordinators from the Ministry of Education and training for law enforcement officers and hunting clubs, mainly on bird identification and hunting law and production of a business plan for responsible hunting management in Lebanon; plus technical support for the development of draft application decisions and decrees of the hunting law.
  3. The BirdLife’s GEF/UNDP Migratory Soaring Birds project. This has been implemented nationally by the Ministry of Environment and SPNL over the past five years, and has provided key guidance and the procedures that are now the backbone of the hunting management in Lebanon.
  4. Building capacity for flyway conservation funded by the MAVA Foundation through BirdLife International from 2014 to date. This initiative which aims to reduce the illegal killing of birds in Lebanon, provided resources for training in flyway conservation and supported the continuation of the Hima concept in Lebanon to engage local communities in conservation.

Currently, SPNL (BirdLife Lebanon) is promoting the responsible hunting areas (RHAs) concept that would support conservation efforts and proper law enforcement in Lebanon. The vision here is that hunting can be practised responsibly under the supervision of security forces, Forest Guards and municipality enforcement, within the law regulations in restricted areas. SPNL has worked to set the criteria for these RHAs in Lebanon. Eight RHAs have been identified on municipal land, and declared as Himas for responsible hunting by the relevant municipal councils. Within the current situation in Lebanon, SPNL believes that RHAs are the best solution for supporting proper implementation and enforcement of the hunting law in collaboration with municipalities.

We hope our expertise at the national level with SPNL and globally through the network of the BirdLife Partners could be of use moving forward the ‘peace treaty’. We look forward to collaborating closely with you, H.E. and his team at the Presidency and other government officers, especially the Ministry of Environment, in order to continue preserving the rich biodiversity and habitats of Lebanon, and to ensure responsible hunting seasons in Lebanon.

Let me reiterate my gratitude once more to the Lebanese government for your support over the years and for this new exciting initiative and our interest in supporting your efforts for birds, nature and people.

Sincerely,

Patricia Zurita
Chief Executive Officer

Cc. Assad Serhal, CEO SPNL, BirdLife in Lebanon

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