25 Apr 2016 Press release Ecosystems

UNEP Executive Director Visits Iran for Interfaith Dialogue on the Environment and Culture

Tehran, 25 April 2016 - UN Environment Programme (UNEP) Executive Director Achim Steiner visited Iran on April 23-24, where he took part in the 2nd International Seminar on Environment, Culture and Religion. The Executive Director also delivered a lecture at the University of Tehran and oversaw the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding that provides for an innovative insurance scheme to protect leopards by compensating farmers for loss of livestock.

The International Seminar was co-hosted by UNEP, UNESCO and the Department of Environment of the Islamic Republic of Iran, and attended by President Hassan Rouhani, Vice President and Head of the Department of Environment Masoumeh Ebtekar, Science Minister Mohammad Farhadi, as well as the former Executive Director of UNEP, Dr. Klaus Toepfer.

Speaking at the Seminar, President Rouhani said: "All divine religions have the same message for humanity: You are responsible for Earth's care."

The event brought together religious leaders and scholars from 24 countries and nine religious denominations for this interfaith dialogue.

Speaking at the Seminar, Mr. Steiner said, "Faith and culture are important determinants of social behaviour, and have an important educational role in inspiring and promoting ethical values for environmentally sustainable practices. "Addressing today's environmental challenges will require a new ethical approach and changes in the way we produce and consume. This Seminar underlines the need for a continued dialogue on environment, culture and religion to contribute to the effective implementation of the 2030 Agenda."

In a bilateral meeting Mr. Steiner and Minister Ebtekar discussed the upcoming second United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA) and issues and resolutions that will be addressed at that meeting, such as the nexus between environment and health. They also discussed Iran's efforts of incorporating green economy principles in the country's development, and challenges faced in the agricultural sector, including water use, food security as well as sand and and dust storms.

At the University of Tehran, Mr. Steiner met with the President of the University, Mahmoud Nili Ahmadabadi and the University's Vice President for International Affairs Mohammad Bagher Ghahrami. With them, he discussed UNEP's Green Universities initiative and potential for collaboration during the University's upcoming expansion.

In an address to some 350 students and faculty, the Executive Director spoke on the responsibility of students as future leaders to help raise awareness environmental problems and their solutions. He said, "The problems of environment are not limited to a specific country and we need a collective effort to address them. It is the responsibility of every citizen of the world to cooperate on finding solutions to environmental issues. The academic community is particularly suited to encouraging this collective endeavour."

The Memorandum of Understanding, which delivers a "Leopard Insurance Scheme", was signed by the Department of Environment and MA Insurance. It provides for compensation to farmers who have had livestock taken by leopards in an effort to de-escalate human-widlife conflict.

Mr Steiner also met with representatives of the UN Country Team , hosted by UN Resident Coordinator, Gary Lewis, and explored opportunities for UNEP's future support to UN activities in Iran.