Environmental concerns in the Arab world are very rarely taken into consideration when designing public policies or setting priorities, despite the fact that most Arab countries have established a ministry or specialized body responsible for environmental affairs. There are multiple possible explanations as to why this is so. One is political in nature, especially as regards the distribution of power among those who might benefit from enforcing effective environmental regulation and those who might stand to lose. Another explanation is that poverty is still widespread throughout parts of the Arab world and policymakers in these countries have convinced themselves that environmental concerns can wait. A third explanation is that policymakers are not made sufficiently aware of the cost of environmental degradation or those policy instruments which could mitigate environmental degradation.
To develop a better understanding of the environmental challenges facing the Arab region and how these challenges may be met, ERF has collaborated with the International Development Research Center (IDRC) over the past three years (2008-2011) on a major project to fill the research gap in the area of environmental economics. This project was a major step forward, leading to the production of fresh knowledge on various topics related to the environment at both country and regional levels. It also helped develop a network of researchers and policymakers with a keen interest in this field.
Building on progress to date, this approach paper was commissioned with the aim of identifying a research niche for ERF and accordingly propose a research agenda on the environmental issues and the economy and the challenges they present in the Arab World. This report reveals that there is room for exploring emerging environmental problems in the region. It identifies research areas of policy relevance, impacts on social welfare and areas not covered elsewhere. Academic research is often a prerequisite for sound recommendations addressed to policy-makers. Nevertheless, we have tried to identify directions and priorities of research needed in this field with the intention of going beyond academic research on environmental issues in Arab countries, and including data and policy implementation considerations.
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