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Due to the transboundary character of most environmental issues, the lack of internal resources for solving these issues, and the necessity to consolidate efforts at the international level, as well as taking into account the development of the democracy processes in Ukraine and the intention to become integrated into the European Union, international environmental cooperation has became a logical and necessary part of state policy. During 1998, in spite of economic difficulties, international cooperation was developed and strengthened. Governmental bodies of Ukraine coordinated activities to comply with requirements of existing international multilateral agreements (conventions) to which Ukraine is a party as well as to prepare the signing of new agreements and their ratification; arranged activities at the bilateral level within the framework of agreements in force and concluded new bilateral agreements in the field of environmental safety; participated in the environmental activities of international intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations, including those in which Ukraine has become a member since its independence (Council of Europe, IAEA, etc.)

In 1998, the main priorities in the development of international cooperation were:

  •  Integration of Ukraine into the European Union and participation in the international legislative and policy process;
  •  implementation of modern international environmental policies, standards and norms, development of research and technology;
  •  attracting foreign assistance for environmental protection, nuclear safety and rational use of natural resources;
  •  solution of problems connected with the closure of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant;
  •  bilateral cooperation with neighbouring countries, other important partner and donor countries;
  •  implementation of economic principles of exploitation of natural resources;
  •  training of personnel; information, database and software exchange in the field of environmental and nuclear safety;
  •  participation in regional programmes of environmental protection (Black Sea and Sea of Azov, Dnieper and Danube river basins, Carpathian Mountains, etc.)

The main achievements of international environmental activities of Ukraine in 1998 are:

Multilateral cooperation

The legislative base of cooperation are international environmental agreements. The institutions generally involved in this activity are the Cabinet of Ministers, the President Administration, the Ministry for Environmental Protection and Nuclear Safety, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the National Agency of Ukraine for Reconstruction and European Integration, and, depending on the subject, other ministries such as the Ministries of Finance, Economy, Justice, Health, Transport. In 1998, Ukraine was a party to 19 global and regional conventions or agreements on environmental protection and nuclear safety and to 5 related protocols. It has signed or is considering the ratification of another 25 international and regional conventions, protocols and agreements. The Ministry for Environmental Protection and Nuclear Safety has actively participated in the drawing up of new international documents.

Implementation of Agenda 21

Having signed the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development (1992), Ukraine is committed to the implementation of the principles of sustainable development. Important stages of this process are development of the principal policy document of the National Environmental Action Plan – “Main aspects of the national policy on environmental protection, utilization of natural resources, and guarantee of environmental safety” – and the Conception of Sustainable Development of Ukraine. According to the resolution of the Rio Summit, “Main Aspects” was adopted by the Parliament of Ukraine in March 1998. The Conception is still under consideration by relevant governmental bodies. The main objectives of these key policy documents are a strengthening of the economic and political importance of sustainable development, and integration of environmental priorities into the strategy of social and economic development.

In 1997, the National Commission for Sustainable Development was set up. To strengthen its capacity, the Ukrainian-American Commission to Promote Sustainable Development in Ukraine was established within the framework of technical assistance of US AID (1993 Environmental Policy and Technology Project). It has five working groups (Urban Water Supply, Sustainable Agriculture, Industry and Environmental Management, Energy Efficiency, International Environmental Treaties). The Working Group on International Environmental Treaties covers five topics: climate change, transboundary watercourses, international approaches to environmental management, biodiversity conservation, and environmental information, education and health. This project has produced some positive results. It has provided training for the people involved; professionals, including participants from NGOs, has exchanged information; and the major bottlenecks in the area of international treaties have been identified. The project was completed in August 1998, but US AID is providing financial support (US$ 200,000) to continue this activity for one more year.

Climate change issues

The first steps to arrange the implementation of the provisions of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (FCCC, ratified in 1996) were taken in 1998. The first national communication of Ukraine on climate change issues was prepared in Russian and English and submitted to the FCCC Secretariat. In 1998, a Task Force for formulation of the national implementation strategy of the FCCC as well as for inter-agency coordination of relevant activities was created within the Ministry for Environmental Protection and Nuclear Safety.

Ukraine’s first joint implementation agreement - Protocol on intention to cooperate on climate change issues with the Netherlands – was developed, approved and signed in 1998. Within the framework of this Protocol, Ukraine received assistance from the Government of the Netherlands (US$ 2.5 million) for joint implementation projects in three different sectors. A similar agreement has been entered into with the Government of Canada (signed in January 1999). Intergovernmental negotiations with the USA aimed at development of cooperation on climate change  prevention took place in 1998. Terms of Reference of the technical assistance for establishment of a national infrastructure for the registration of greenhouse gas emissions has been considered. US AID is planning to focus an important part of its future work (starting in 1999) in Ukraine on climate change and energy efficiency.

Ukrainian representatives also participated in the meetings of the intergovernmental Umbrella Group established to meet the requirements of the FCCC. In 1998, it was also considering signing of the Kyoto Protocol.

Protection of the ozone layer

Ukraine ratified the Vienna Convention in 1986, the Montreal Protocol in 1988, and the London Amendment in 1997. Ratification of the Copenhagen Amendment is under consideration. In order to comply with requirements of these agreements, the National Ozone-Depleting Substances (ODS) Phase-out Country Programme was developed in 1996. It aims to phase out regulated substances by the year 2000 according to the London Amendment’s schedule. Inventories of ODS were made in 1997, including inventories of locally significant types of industry linked to ozone depletion.

The GEF approved a grant worth US$ 23.3 million in 1997 for the reduction of the use of ODS in Ukraine. In 1998, an agreement between Ukraine and the World Bank was concluded and submitted, according to the rules of the World Bank, to the Parliament of Ukraine for ratification (the agreement was ratified on 4 March 1999). Under this project, electronic, machine-building, construction and selected chemical enterprises will receive financial and technical support. The project will also provide needed technical assistance for the phasing-out of the halon sector; technology transfer associated with refrigerants with a low global warming potential for domestic refrigeration; and institutional strengthening of the Ozone Office (established by the Ministry for Environmental Protection and Nuclear Safety), which will act as the implementing unit for the Project.

In 1998, Ukraine received assistance from UNIDO for a project on servicing the refrigeration sector implemented in cooperation with the Czech Republic. Under this project, 35 servicing centres will be provided with equipment to collect and recycle used ODS.

Ukraine is monitoring ozone-depleting substances through a system of regional authorities that control all the bodies using the substances. The import and export of ozone-depleting substances and of the goods containing them are subject to licensing. Voluntary agreements between ODS users and producers have been concluded as well, and in 1998 the All Ukrainian Association of Users of Refrigerants was created. This Association is, inter alia, a forum for sharing information on international standards and technologies.

Regional Cooperation
“Environment for Europe” process

Ukraine has participated in the “Environment for Europe” process since the second Ministerial Conference in 1993 in Lucerne, Switzerland. For Ukraine, the endorsement of the Environmental Action Programme for Central and Eastern Europe at that Conference served as an important impetus for the development of its National Environmental Action Plan (NEAP, 1998, see above). The 1995 Conference in Sofia endorsed the Pan-European Biological and Landscape Diversity Strategy. Ukraine has made a strong commitment to this Strategy and its implementation, especially regarding grassland management. The Sofia Conference also approved a declaration on new regional environment centres in the Newly Independent States. As a consequence of this declaration, a project aimed at the establishment of a New Regional Environmental Centre in Kyiv was under implementation in 1998. The project is supported by the USA and other donors (particularly the TACIS Programme). The Ministry for Environmental Protection and Nuclear Safety has supported the establishment of the NREC Coordination office and has prepared the statute documents and relevant agreements with the USA and the European Commission.

A Ukrainian delegation participated in the 4th Pan-European Ministerial Conference “Environment for Europe” (Aarhus, June 1998). During this Conference, a number of important international agreements (such as the Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters) were signed on behalf of Ukraine, which clearly shows the country’s political will to achieve the goals of European environmental policy.

In the autumn of 1998, the Committee on Environmental Policy of the UN Economic Commission for Europe decided to choose Ukraine to be the host of the 5th Ministerial Conference “Environment for Europe”, which can be considered as a recognition of the considerable role Ukraine is playing in the environmental protection in Europe.

At the request of the Government of Ukraine, the UN ECE started the preparation of an Environmental Performance Review. The Ministry for Environmental Protection and Nuclear Safety provided support for the first mission of UN ECE experts in October 1998. The Environmental Performance Review of Ukraine will be completed in 1999.

Cooperation with the European Union

Integration into the European Union is considered as a strategic goal of the national policy. In June 1994, Ukraine signed a Partnership and Cooperation Agreement with the EU, providing for cooperation in 25 areas, including nuclear energy, industry, finance, transport, agriculture and the environment. The Ministry for Environmental Protection and Nuclear Safety of Ukraine has developed a Draft Concept on implementation of the Strategy of integration of Ukraine into the EU in the field of environmental policy as well as a corresponding draft programme.

TACIS, the programme of the European Commission, provides technical assistance to Ukraine and other NIS countries. Due to inadequate use of available resources and ineffective management, TACIS was severely criticized by recipients of assistance, and in 1998 some procedures of project preparation were changed and improved. To prepare Terms of Reference of new projects, Ukrainian experts were invited. Representatives of Ukraine also participated in the meetings of the Tender Committee and contributed to its decision-making process.

Nuclear safety, transboundary waters, environmental management and biodiversity conservation are the fields of the most intensive cooperation with and assistance of the EU.

Control of Air Pollution

Ukraine ratified the Convention on Long-range Transboundary Air Pollution in 1980 and its Protocol on Long-term Financing of the European Monitoring and Evaluation Programme (EMEP) in 1985. It is meeting the targets of the first Sulphur Protocol, which it ratified in 1986, mainly due to the economic recession. The Protocol on Nitrogen was ratified in 1988. Other additional abatement protocols have been signed but not ratified. Implementation of the agreements in force faced difficulties due to a lack of adequate financial resources. In spite of this, during the Aarhus Ministerial Conference (June 1998), the Protocol on heavy metals, the Protocol on persistent organic pollutants and the Pan-European Strategy on the phasing-out of unleaded petrol by 2005 were signed on behalf of Ukraine. A national strategy on implementation of these documents is under consideration.

Control of Water Pollution

Ukraine has 22,000 rivers with a total length of 170,000 km. Most drain into the Black Sea Basin and the Sea of Azov. The most important transboundary waters are the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov, the Danube Basin, the Dnieper Basin, the Western Bug, the Dniester and the Siversky Donets. The main water-quality problems are related to the pollution from point and diffuse sources, and eutrophication. Of Ukraine’s rivers, 75% are transboundary, and this is therefore an important area for regional cooperation. Ukraine has specific agreements on transboundary waters with the Republic of Moldova, the Russian Federation, Poland, Romania and Slovakia, and is considering accession to the Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes as a high priority. Preparation of ratification documents was completed in 1998. Ukraine was one of the initiators and made considerable contributions in the development of the new Protocol on Water and Health to the Convention. A draft of this document was prepared in 1998.

The Dniper is a river of national concern, from which 70% of the Ukrainian population use water for drinking and other purposes. Therefore, special efforts have been undertaken to attract foreign assistance for a programme of protection and rehabilitation of the Dniper River Basin. In 1994, a project on environmental management in the Dnieper River Basin was initiated, in very close cooperation with and funded by the Canadian government. The first phase of this project was completed in 1997 and focused mainly on research into the ecological conditions of the Dnieper Basin and its rehabilitation. The second phase (Can$ 4.2 million, of which 2.6 million will be used in Ukraine) started in 1997 and was continued in 1998. It has a more practical focus and builds on the results of the first phase.

In 1997, preparations for a GEF project for the Dnieper Basin started, based on pre-feasibility studies carried out by the UNDP. The project involves Ukraine, the Russian Federation and Belarus and focuses on the remediation of serious environmental effects of pollution, sustainable use of resources and the protection of biodiversity. The project is expected to be approved in 1999 and is aimed at ensuring coordination and cooperation among Dniper Basin countries.

Special attention is being paid to the improvement of the Danube River environment. The Danube Basin in Ukraine includes the downstream part of the Danube River, the Prut River in the south-west, and the Tizsa, Latoritza and Uzs rivers in the Transcarpathian area. Ukraine signed the Danube Convention in 1994 (the Convention entered into force on 22 October 1998), but has not yet ratified it, mainly because of financial constraints. However, the Ministry for Environmental Protection and Nuclear Safety still considers ratification of the Convention to be very important. In the meantime, Ukraine is an active participant of the activities related to the implementation of the provisions of the Convention, particularly within the international Danube environmental programme supported by different donors, mainly by GEF and EU/TACIS. Within the framework of technical assistance provided by EU/TACIS programme, the two-year project on “Accident emergency warning system (AEWS) and monitoring, laboratory and information management for Ukraine and Moldova” was started in January 1998. Another four separate projects for Ukraine and the Republic of Moldova started at the end of 1998 with a large TACIS grant. All these projects are aimed at the improvement of the water quality control and management system in the low Danube area. The preparatory stage of the GEF projects for the reduction of the Danube River pollution and the mitigation of nutrient input from the Danube Basin into the Black Sea was completed in 1998. It is expected that investments for all Danube countries under the project will be determined in 1999.

A TACIS project for the Western Bug River on transboundary analysis and monitoring systems was started in 1998 and involves Ukraine, Belarus, and Poland. Another TACIS project on monitoring and assessment of water resources in the Seversky Donets River Basin was also started in 1998. Another TACIS project on transboundary water-quality assessment started at the end of 1998 for the Latoritza and Uzh Rivers, involving Ukraine and Slovakia. All these projects are expected to improve monitoring and assessment of transboundary river quality.

In 1998, within the Ukraine-Moldavian Intergovernmental Commission on Trade and Economic Cooperation, a special Task Force was established. The aims of this body are the assessment of the transboundary problems in the Dnister River Basin and the anthropogenic impact of economic and household activities on the Dnister ecosystem. It is agreed that a Programme of environmental rehabilitation of the Dnister Basin will be drawn up by the Task Force.

Most of these rivers run into the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov and are considerable sources of pollution of marine ecosystems. For this reason, marine ecosystems are threatened by human activities of both the coastal and basin population, and the magnitude of the degradation of the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov surpass the boundaries of the individual coastal states. Since its independence, Ukraine has made substantial efforts to establish an adequate international legal framework and ensure effective cooperation to protect the marine environment. The basic international document that outlines the framework for common regional principles is the Convention on the Protection of the Black Sea against Pollution (Bucharest Convention, signed by Ukraine in 1992 and ratified in 1994). The main objective of the Convention is to set up favourable conditions for concerted action to preserve the environment and living resources of the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov, taking into consideration the economic, social and health aspects of their pollution. The Ministerial Declaration on the Protection of the Black Sea (Odesa, 1993) outlines the political framework for the implementation of the Convention.

Ukraine participated in the international Black Sea Environmental Programme (BSEP, 1993-97) aimed at the implementation of the Bucharest Convention and Odesa Declaration. Until 1996 the Programme was funded by GEF and a substantial contribution from the EC. In 1998 the BSEP was funded by the UNDP and the TACIS/PHARE programmes and some coastal States, including Ukraine, provided some funding themselves. Six BSEP Activity Centres (Emergency Response Centre, Centre for Routine Pollution Monitoring, Centre for Biodiversity Conservation, Centre for Development of Fisheries and Marine Aquaculture, Centre for Special Pollution Monitoring, Impact Assessment Programmes and Environmental Quality Standards, and Centre for Integrated Coastal Zone Management) were set up in Ukraine and have continued their research, monitoring and management programmes in 1998, primarily through support of the TACIS Funds 1995/1996 for BSEP. The Ministry for Environmental Protection and Nuclear Safety of Ukraine has developed a National Concept of the Protection and Rehabilitation of the Environment of the Sea of Azov and the Black Sea, finally approved by the Cabinet of Ministers in July 1998. This was the first phase in the development of the National Programme for the Protection and Rehabilitation of the Environment of the Sea of Azov and the Black Sea in response to the international obligations of Ukraine.

The basic problems of international cooperation in the Black Sea region to be overcome are the lack of a sustainable funding mechanism and of an executive body for the Istanbul Commission. One of the options for solving the Programme’s financial difficulties is to establish a Black Sea environmental fund. In 1998, the EC TACIS programme provided financial and methodological assistance to study the feasibility of such a regional fund. However, no real outcome has been produced, and no final agreement among coastal States has been reached on the establishment of a Secretariat and Commission in 1998. This is a key objective of international cooperation in the Black Sea region to be achieved in the nearest future.

Biodiversity Conservation

In order to implement the provisions of the Convention on Biological Diversity (ratified in 1994), the Concept for Conservation of Biological Diversity in Ukraine was prepared with assistance from GEF and officially adopted by the Cabinet of Ministers in May 1997. The Inter-agency Coordination Commission, working under the supervision of the Ministry for Environmental Protection and Nuclear Safety, was established to coordinate implementation of the Concept. The Commission assisted in the preparation of the first national report that was submitted to the 4th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (Bratislava, Slovakia, May 1998). In 1998, a draft National Programme of Biodiversity Conservation for 1998-2015 was prepared and is now under consideration by governmental bodies.
Representatives of Ukraine participated and contributed in the process of preparing the Protocol on Biosafety to the Convention.

Ukraine became a party to the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands of International Importance Especially as Waterfowl Habitat in 1997 (the Law on legacy inheriting of Soviet Union was approved in 1996) and recognizes responsibility for the conservation of 22 water and wetland areas of international importance (total surface of 678,000 hectares). In relation to this Convention, the Strategic Action Plan for Wetland Protection 1997-2002 has been developed. The regional branch of Wetlands International for the Black Sea region in Kyiv (funded by the Netherlands government) and the Ukrainian Office for Coastal Conservation in Odesa were established in 1997. Both of them continued activities in 1998.

Since Ukraine became a member of the Council of Europe (1995), the Ministry for Environmental Protection and Nuclear Safety has been responsible for coordination of environmental cooperation with this organization, particularly in the field of implementation of the Pan-European Strategy of Biological and Landscape Diversity. In 1998 the Strategy was translated into Ukrainian and published. The Parliament of Ukraine approved the Law on accession to the Bern Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats in October 1996, but only after the signing of the Convention in September 1998 has the instrument on accession been accepted by the Council of Europe. One of the first steps of implementation of the Convention was to analyze the current status of the species of plants and animals included in the appendices to the Convention in Ukraine (more than 150). A special publication has been prepared to inform governmental bodies and NGOs about the provisions of the Bern Convention. The TACIS project “Carpathian Transfrontier Ecological Network” and the GEF project “Conservation of the Biodiversity in the Azov-Black Sea Ecological Corridor” also contribute to the implementation of the Bern Convention.

The Bonn Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals and its related regional agreements, the Agreement on the Conservation of Bats in Europe (EUROBATS), the Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds (AEWA), and the Agreement on the Conservation of Cetaceans in the Black and Mediterranean Seas and Contiguous Atlantic Area ACCOBAMS), have been translated into Ukrainian, and necessary documents for their ratification have been prepared. In 1998 Ukraine signed AEWA. Documents for accession to the Bonn Convention and the EUROBATS have been submitted to Parliament for approval. It is expected that all corresponding laws will be approved soon by the Parliament of Ukraine. In the meantime, a national strategy framework to implement these agreements is under consideration.

Ukraine also considers the accession to the Washington Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) to be of high importance. The necessary documents for accession have been discussed and agreed with the interested ministries and other institutions and submitted to Parliament for approval. At present, the Ministry for Environmental Protection and Nuclear Safety issues permits for the export and import of species of wild fauna except for CITES species; the Russian CITES Management Authority is responsible for issuing CITES permits for the former Soviet Union countries not yet parties to CITES. After Ukraine’s accession to CITES, a Ukrainian CITES management authority will be established.

International cooperation is also considered to be one of the most important tools in order to resolve national and international problems in biological and landscape diversity as well as in the implementation of the provisions of international conventions in the field. In 1998, several projects benefit from the foreign assistance. Some are supported by GEF:

  •  Biodiversity conservation in the Ukrainian Danube Delta (US$ 1.5 million, 1994-1998). The project is aimed at the improvement of the management of natural resources and enlargement of the area of the Dunaiski Plavni nature reserve;
  •  Preparation of the national biodiversity strategy/action plan and national report on biodiversity (US$ 112 000, 1997-1998). The outcome of the project was an essential contribution in the development of a national policy in the field;
  •  Biodiversity Conservation in the Azov-Black Sea Ecological Corridor to which GEF is contributing up to US$ 1.8 million.

Some projects are implemented jointly with international partners:

  • With IUCN, Ukrainian experts are participating in projects on Sustainable Agriculture and Biodiversity Conservation in the Steppe Zone of Russia and Ukraine (1996-1998);
  • With TACIS, the Carpathian Transfrontier Environmental Network started at the end of 1998;
  •  With Wetlands International, a Cooperation Programme for the Conservation of Wetlands and Wetland Species in the Azov-Black Sea region started in 1997;
  • With the World Wide Fund for Nature, a 3-year, US$ 1.5 million project for the restoration of wetlands in the Danube Delta has been launched (corresponding Memorandum on Understanding between the Ministry for Environmental Protection and Nuclear Safety of Ukraine and the WWF was signed in November 1998); and other.

Compliance with and enforcement of the multilateral environmental agreements that Ukraine has already ratified is often problematic because of the lack of financial commitments, institutional and human capacity and experience, and, in general, due to a limited priority of environmental issues in the state social and economic policies. In spite of this, Ukraine considers the signing and ratification of multilateral environmental agreements to be a priority, because this provides incentives for harmonizing national legislation with international practices. In 1998 Ukraine was preparing the ratification of the Convention on Environmental Impact Assessment in a Transboundary Context, the Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters, and the 1989 Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal and other. Relevant governmental bodies are considering the respective draft documents.

Bilateral cooperation

The Ministry for Environmental Protection and Nuclear Safety is responsible for cooperation under 60 bilateral agreements and treaties. Priority is given to cooperation with neighbour and donor countries. In 1998 negotiations have been concluded and new agreements on cooperation in the field of environmental protection with the governments of Uzbekistan and Turkey have been signed. Two agreements with the Government of the Russian Federation – on Cooperation in the Processing of Mercury-containing Waste and on Ensuring Environmental Safety in the Areas of Temporary Location of the Black Sea Fleet on Ukrainian Territory – have been signed as well. Several draft agreements on cooperation are in the preparation process.

The general obstacles of bilateral cooperation, especially with countries in transition, is the lack of a financial support mechanism. Therefore, efforts have been made to develop and implement joint projects using assistance and resources available from assistance programmes of international finance organizations and donor countries. In this respect, Ukraine’s cooperation with the USA, the Netherlands, Denmark, Canada, Germany and the United Kingdom are most significant. Ukrainian-Dutch cooperation on environmental protection involves general environmental management, development of nature reserves, water resource management and, since 1998, climate change. Cooperation with Denmark has resulted in a project for toxic waste management, clean technologies in the machine-building industry, regeneration of former military sites, etc. Cooperation with Canada has included extensive and successful work on improving the Dniper Basin. Germany has provided technical assistance for the nuclear sector. United Kingdom assisted with projects on wetland management and environmental education. Active cooperation with the USA, mainly coordinated by US AID, started in 1993 with the Environmental Policy and Technology Project and covers many sectors, namely sustainable development policy, water quality and infrastructure improvement, energy efficiency, agrochemicals and industrial waste management, environmental monitoring, setting-up of a new Regional Environment Centre, biodiversity conservation, environmental education and public information, and since 1998, climate change. As regards the international organizations, the most successful projects have been those aimed at water quality management of transboundary waters.

In 1998, international environmental cooperation in many areas with other countries and international organizations and institutions resulted in many positive achievements. In addition to having signed and/or ratified a number of global and regional environmental conventions, Ukraine has established many bilateral and multilateral partnerships and has concluded numerous framework and sectoral agreements with its partners. For implementation of these agreements, considerable efforts are required to formulate a specific national policy and action plans, to establish cooperative links with all stakeholders and institutions concerned, and to recognize this activity as a priority of national importance.


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