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Former Finnish Development Minister visits Afghanistan, praises environmental progress

From 3-9 January 2015, Mr. Pekka Haavisto, Finland's former Minister for International Development and current parliamentarian, visited Afghanistan to review progress in the country's environmental sector over the last ten years. Mr. Haavisto headed UNEP’s Afghanistan task force from 2002-2005, which conducted the country’s first post-conflict environment assessment. This trip marks his first return to Afghanistan since the completion of the assessment and inception of UNEP's programme in 2003.


In 2003, UNEP helped to establish Afghanistan's National Environmental Protection Agency (NEPA), now the country's leading environmental policymaking and regulatory institution. Formally recognized under national legislation in 2007, today NEPA employs over 850 staff and is active in all 34 provinces across Afghanistan. With NEPA as a close partner, UNEP's $12.5M programme tackles a diverse range of environmental challenges from climate change to strengthening environmental laws and policy in the country.


As part of his visit, Mr. Haavisto also met with the President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, Dr. Ashraf Ghani, to discuss bilateral issues with Finland as well as new opportunities in the environment sector. Notably, President Ashraf Ghani emphasized the importance of investing in sustainable water management and forest protection.


For the past several years, UNEP and partners have been working in the mountainous central highlands of Afghanistan to address these issues. The construction of new storage ponds, and the implementation of community-led, ecosystem-based approaches to reduce disaster risk and build climate resilience are a few examples of these efforts. Results from these pilot projects are expected to help inform the development of national environmental policies.


Supported by the Global Environmental Facility, the UK Department for International Development and the Government of Estonia, UNEP, in partnership with the Government of Afghanistan aims to advance the sustainable environmental management of Afghanistan.


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