17th June 2013 – Members of the Commission for Sustainable Development (SUDEV) of the Euro-Mediterranean Regional and Local Assembly (ARLEM) met for the first time in Bethlehem on 15 June to debate sustainable urban mobility and the local and regional dimension of water management in the Mediterranean. The event gave the opportunity to mayors and regional representatives from the EU and the Mediterranean partner countries, including about 40 Palestinian representatives from the local and regional level, to meet together to share concerns and best practices on those issues of common interest.
Opening the meeting, Hani Abdalmasih Al-Hayek, SUDEV co-president and Mayor of Beit Sahour (PA), was keen to emphasise: “Today, representatives of local and regional authorities from partner countries of the Union for the Mediterranean (UfM) have come together to discuss issues that concern all citizens. Building cooperation from the local level upwards is the very essence of ARLEM and enables us to bring a territorial dimension to the Union for the Mediterranean.”
Dr Saed Al-Kawni, Minister for local government in Palestine, welcomed the meeting by stressing that “Local government is a key organisational level and I am welcoming the process of actively involving local authorities in the Palestinian plan for development (…). The process towards a sustainable development is a process that can only be achieved through a partnership between the local authorities and the international community.”
More specifically, Ramón Luis Valcárcel Siso, President of the Committee of the Regions and ARLEM co-president, addressed the critical issue of local water management in the Mediterranean, which has been at the heart of the work of ARLEM since its setting up. The President referred to the report on local water management in the Mediterranean adopted by ARLEM in 2011 – and for which he was rapporteur – that settles a common position of local and regional authorities on the issue: “One of the main objectives of our report is to stress the need for a decentralised approach in the Strategy for Water in the Mediterranean; furthermore, any strategy must be undertaken in an integrated manner. We believe that related actions should involve all sectorial policies, all affected stakeholders and all different levels of decision, and we are pleased to see that the UfM is following our recommendations“.
Following the presentation of the UfM labelled project on “Governance and Financing for the Mediterranean Water Sector” by Dr Rafiq Husseini, Deputy Secretary-General responsible for water and environment at the UfM Secretariat, President Valcárcel and SUDEV co-chair Hani Abdalmasih Al-Hayek expressed ARLEM’s support to this initiative. They congratulated the UfM for having labelled this project which aims to improve public governance and financing in the water sector. “In the Water Report, ARLEM had indeed called for an active contribution of the private sector. This project addresses the obstacles to the mobilization of financing in the form of public-private partnerships in the Mediterranean water sector.”
The economic, social and environmental challenges associated with urban transport mobility were also at the heart of the discussions. Hani Abdalmasih Al-Hayek presented a strategy paper drafted by SUDEV rapporteur Karim Bennour (Algiers) in view of a draft report on this topic to be submitted at the next ARLEM plenary session. The aim is to identify the fundamental characteristics and challenges of mobility in the Mediterranean countries and highlights key aspects of the possible initiatives by issuing recommendations to local and regional assemblies, the UfM and the EU. In this regard, ARLEM is once again promoting the territorial dimension of the UfM which plans to hold a ministerial meeting on transport later this year.
Source: EU Committee of the Regions press release, 17/06/2013