By Daniel Meron
Israelis tend to think the United Nations preoccupies itself with classic
political issues, but the reality is different. On taking office, Ban Ki-moon,
the UN secretary-general, declared his priority would be promoting worldwide
Last month, in Brazil, the Rio+20 Conference met to discuss sustainable development. The
conference attracted over 100 heads of state and 50,000 participants. For Israel
the conference was a considerable success.
"Sustainable development" is economic growth in which resource use aims to
meet human needs, while preserving the environment so these needs can be met for
generations to come.
success at Rio+20 was not guaranteed. The Syrian government tried to ban two
Israeli environmental organizations from participating - the JNF and Life and
Environment (an organization representing 130 Israeli environmental NGOs). At
the very time the Syrian regime is slaughtering its own people, it has time to
launch a diplomatic attack on Israel. A worldwide Israeli diplomatic campaign
ensured that the Syrian ploy failed.
The Palestinians failed to have their status upgraded at the conference to
that of a full-state member. Unfortunately Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad
al-Maliki chose to use his speech as a platform to attack Israel rather than
talking about cooperation and the environment.
The Israeli delegation came to Rio+20 with a vision of sustainable
development for the world. Prime
Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, in his greetings, said that Israel is a country
that manages to "do more with less," and in the future expects to do even more
with much less.
Israel's ability to do more with less and successes in sustainable
development have brought international recognition, causing a number of UN and
international figures to describe Israel as a "sustainability superpower."
Dr. Daniel Hillel from Israel was recently awarded the World Food
Prize for pioneering an innovative way of bringing water to crops in arid
and dry-land regions. CNN
selected Yosef Abramowitz, founder of the Arava Power Company, as one of six
world leading "green pioneers."
In 2008, Time magazine named Shai Agassi, the founder of Better Place, the company
responsible for introducing the electric car, as one of the "environmental
heroes" of the year.
In a further sign of international recognition, the head of the Israeli
delegation to Rio +20, Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan, was
elected vice chairman of the Conference. In his meetings with colleagues from
around the world, many expressed a desire to increase partnership with Israel,
mainly in water management.
This is hardly surprising: Israel is the world's leader in water re-use and
recycling. Israel treats and recycles 80 percent of effluent water for
agriculture. There are 35 desalination facilities in Israel. The Ashkelon
desalination plant is the world's second largest.
is a world leader in desalination and by 2015, 75% of Israel's water supply
will come from water desalination. The UN General Assembly recently adopted an
Israeli proposed resolution (A/RES/66/220) calling for international investment
in agricultural technology.
Israel is also a world leader in forestry as we implement Ben-Gurion's dream
of making the desert bloom - and one of the only countries that had more trees
at the end of the 20th century than at the start.
Thousands of experts flock to Israel every two years to attend WATEC: The Israel
Water Technologies, Renewable Energies and Environmental Control exhibition.
This November, Eilat- Eilot, the largest renewable energy conference of its kind
will be held in Eilat.
Since 1958, MASHAV
(Israel's agency for international development cooperation at the Foreign
Ministry) has brought to Israel over 270,000 professionals from across the globe
to take courses, learn from experts and see sustainable development in practice.
Israeli experts have also been sent to the developing world to run courses
During the Rio+20 conference the Israeli government, for the first time,
invested in an international
campaign on CNN branding Israel as a world leader in green technology. The
Foreign Ministry launched a Facebook Page called "GREEN ISRAEL" and an
Many places around the world suffer severe drought. Millions in Africa face
life-threatening hunger. Israel is willing and able to continue to share its
technology and know-how with the world and be a "light unto the nations" of
In the words of the prophet Isaiah: "I will make the wilderness a pool of
water, and the dry land springs of water." (Chapter 41, verse 18)
The writer is the coordinator for Sustainable Development in Israel's Foreign
Ministry and was a member of the delegation to the Rio+20 Conference, previously
Minister for Congressional Affairs at the Israeli Embassy in
Reprinted with permission from The Jerusalem Post, 30 July 2012