Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Our Time to Engage

On Sunday, In a ceremony to mark the 26th anniversary of the Montreal protocol, the resident UN Coordinator Garry Lewis read a meassage from Achim Steiner, the executive director of UNEP, congratulating my appointment as vice president of Iran. Steiner had also pointed to the UNEP Champion of the Earth award in his letter. I spoke in that ceremony and mentioned the resolve of the government of Dr. Rohani to improve relations with the world and our policy of environmental diplomacy in the DOE as a strategy to enhance our role in the international community and promote regional and international collboration to face the current environmental challenges. I also planted a tree on that day in the name of peace,on the international day of peace and dialogue among civilisations. We also named a street in Pardisan Park on that occasion. A number of prominent political prisoners were freed last week includind dr. Aminzadeh the former deputy minister and Nasrin Sotudeh. Hopes are high for the release of the remaining political prisoners who were detained after or due to the disputed elections of 2009. President Rouhani has written an important note entitled Time to Engage in the Washington Post and former President Khatami has authored an article for the Guardian. In addition, President Rouhani is in New York for the UNGA session and there is much speculation that direct negotiations between the US and Iran will ease tensions in the region and help to resolve the current nuclear standoff. I hope President Obama understands the unique opportunity created by the democratic elections leading to a wave of change in Iran. Iran is looking forward to a new era of constructive dialogue and engagement with the world. http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/sep/23/iran-west-not-turn-back-diplomacy

Saturday, September 14, 2013

To Serve for the Environment

Sometimes destiny plays its game, sometimes you feel there is a reason behind God's will, a reason that you do not know or understand. The Iranian society faced very difficult times during the ninth and tenth governments. Radical and unexperienced groups infiltrated the executive branches and dealt severe blows to the economy, environment and culture. Students, journalists and activists faced harsh repercussions for resisting the deviations of those in power. We experienced set backs in many areas including international relations. Very few believed that a transformation could occur to change these trends, but  Presidential elections posed an opportunity which the people took for granted and changed the negative course of events. The composition of the new cabinet and the new Foreign Minister Dr. Zarif are all signs of a new era for Iran in both domestic and international affairs.

I was appointed as Vice President and Head of the Department of Environment by Dr. Rouhani on Tuesday. The difficult and deteriorating conditions of Iran's environment is manifest and this underlines the challenges that I will face. I believe that God has vowed to support His servants, if they stay steadfast in the path of righteousness and make effort to serve his creation . I hope and pray that I would be able to accomplish what I have undertaken, I pray that God assist me to withstand the pressures and difficulties to tolerate and listen to the expectations of the people and civil society.
 I hope that we can create synergisms and partnerships between industries, private sectors and all those in the economic arena to save Iran's precious biodiversity and nature. As a UNEP Champion of the Earth , I look forward to collaboration with academics and scientists from across the globe. Environmental issues are global in nature and I call upon all international organisations, international NGO' s and environmentalists to join our campaign to save our precious natural heritage.  I believe that environmental diplomacy can help to foster peace and better relations among nations in today's world. 
I began work a few hours after appointment , at 8 am in the DOE to indicate my resolve to work hard to change things. On my second day, I visited Lake Urumia National Park which is now under serious water stress and parts have dried up. Urumia is the largest lake in Iran. The DOE has completed many research projects in partnership with international consultants, but now is the time to act.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Reformist Council Leader in Charge

I have served as councillor for Tehran City Council for 6 years 4 months and 2 days. The third round of Councils in Iran was exceptional in many respects. First, was the duration of this term which was extended after the disputed presidential elections of 2009. After that year, the reformists faced excessive pressures and as the few remaining active elements in the power construct, we had to make all efforts to reverse the negative trends and to speak out on behalf of the people. The diverse political factions in the council and the meaningful collaboration among them despite pressures against reformists, was also unique in many respects.
In addition, along with a capable and experienced  team of  experts, we established and conducted up to 1000 sessions, meetings ,working groups and visits in the Environment Committee. We endeavoured to promote a model of sustainable and democratic governance in the city . We enacted more than 40 bills for the council on environmental issues and amended more than 50 others to reflect environmental concerns. The committee also visited the 22 districts and environment related activities in Tehran each at least 3 times. 

We conducted the large meetings on the basis of a dynamic model of intersectoral and integrated urban management. Municipal authorities, government officials, NGOs ,professionals as well as private sector representatives were invited in each field of expertise to debate the terms of a new bill ,to seek intersectoral approaches or to oversee and regulate the functions of the executive agents. Once a year we also invited council members from across the country to exchange views and experiences and so they could also follow our model in their respective cities.

In the open sessions of the City Council,  I was one of those who criticised and spoke up against the shortcomings of the government and municipal authorities. Even though I was disqualified to run for the next round , I joined the reformist election campaigns for reformist council candidates as well as support for President Rouhani. Following the open invitation of former President Khatami and president Rafsanjani, people came to the polls and elected reformists candidates. In Tehran,we now have at least 16 reformists out of 31. Yesterday, in the first day of the new council members elected Ahmad Masjed Jamei as the new Head . Masjed Jamei was Minister of Culture during President Khatami . I have written about him and made several interviews about him in todays newspapers and sites. This is a great transformation.