DOE—24 December 2017—The Department of Environment held an event today to honor United Nations Resident Coordinator in Iran, Gary Lewis whose term in Iran has ended.
Vice President Isa Kalantari, Head of the Department of Environment (DOE) said, “I hope that Gary Lewis’s cooperation with us continues and becomes stronger. As you know, environmental problems such as sand and dust storms, air pollution and water scarcity have become a real concern for both the public and decision makers in Iran. We need international aid in education in order to raise awareness about the Environment in our country. The proposed projects are good but what we currently need most is “education”. The personnel of the Department of Environment must receive a solid scientific education in accordance to the latest technological advancements and breakthroughs in the world. In the past years, Iran’s Department of Environment has greatly suffered from a nonscientific approach that has weakened its internal capacities and isolated it from the international community.
Kalantari said that the DOE’s strategy in the new government is consistent with the notion of sustainable development and explained, “In the past the DOE view was that sustainable development is synonymous to “conserving the Environment”. Previous DOE leadership believed that sustainable development is solely confined to environmental matters. But the truth is that the Environment itself is part of the larger concept of Sustainable Development. Economic and social sectors are also part of Sustainable Development. The previous approach omitted these other important “rights” of the people and future generations .Education is what we need. We expect international organizations that are willing to assist our country, to focus mainly on research and education.”
United Nations Resident Coordinator in Iran, Gary Lewis spoke about his stay in Iran.
“I feel a little emotional this morning. ” he said. “I am the latest in a long line of UN Resident Coordinators who have been in Iran for the past 50 years, trying to support the government and the citizens of this country. It is now time for me to say farewell.”
Lewis continued, “This building to some extend has been a home for me and for the energetic team I have had the privilege to work with for some five years now. We have come here to try and show international support and solidarity - whether it was trying to revive Lake Urmia or to find solutions for the dried out Hamoun or the Shadegan or the cheetah or reversing desertification and deforestation or trying to find solutions for the water challenges that we face. My voice is one of many voices and it will soon end in this room. But there will be others to come and support. And of course, we will have the continuous support of some of your best, most knowledgeable Iranians who are part of the team at the UN. To me this reflects the enduring partnership that we have together.”
He said, “Perhaps more than any other issue, I have tried to devote my time in Iran to supporting matters related to the environment because, quite honestly, I see the environment as a hardcore security issue for people’s lives and livelihoods. I am also happy to see that in the last five years many more people in Iran are talking about the environment as an essential issue. It is not an optional issue on the national agenda—it is an essential issue for the region and for the diplomacy of the region, and for sustaining livelihoods.”
Before starting his presentation about U.N’s environmental cooperation in Iran, Lewis announced that he will soon be working as Principal Coordinator for Policy/Programme at the U.N Headquarters in Kenya and said “I would like to thank you, all the Iranians in this room, for teaching me and making me understand better the challenges that an important country like Iran faces on the environment. And I would also like to ask you to allow us - with me still leading the UN here - to make a proposal with your new leadership for trying to show how the UN and the UNEP specifically, can continue to be relevant to your priorities in the environment.”
DOE Deputy Chief Kaveh Madani thanked Lewis for his hard work in Iran and said, “Gary and his team have been very active in Iran about environmental matters. He has been a great help to us and we appreciate all that. This might be the last meeting with him in this capacity and work, but we look forward to doing more work together in his new capacity. We would support any initiatives with this setup, which is inlying with our national interests and I am sure that we can do more and more. One of the major concerns for Iran is politicization of all the international funds. This is something that we are all trying to get rid of and make sure that everyone knows what the environmental problems are trans-boundary and trans-generational. Unless we address them today, some time, very soon, they will cause us trouble, whether here in Iran or elsewhere. We need to think globally and act locally and solve the problems. We really appreciate that his passion and interest and belief in what he is doing and how we all can act together and work together to solve the problems.”
Madani added, “Gary has remained big shoes to fill. We hope the next person would do as much as he can and improve and take advantage of what is already out there. On behalf of the Department of Environment, Madam Ebtekar, and also people of Iran, I would like to thank you for what you have done. The friendship between the people of Iran and you will be there forever and we will do more and more together to solve the problems. We thank you for what you have done for Lake Urmia, for the cheetahs, for, I think the highlight is the sand and dust storm—the problem that the globe should pay attention to.”