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Lebanon - Environmental Education for a sustainable future

1998, by Andrea Munla

About the SPNL
The Society for the Protection of Nature in Lebanon (SPNL), established in 1984, is a national non-profit, non-governmental association. The SPNL is known locally and internationally for its fight against environmental degradation in Lebanon, its media productions and its commitment to environmental education and nature conservation. In particular, the SPNL has been instrumental and successful in lobbying for the establishment of protected areas and for modernized hunting laws. The SPNL has also produced several TV spots, books, and TV documentaries on environmental issues and the protected areas in Lebanon.
The SPNL is the national partner of BirdLife International, and a member of the World Conservation Union IUCN, the MED Forum (a Mediterranean umbrella organization) and the Lebanese Environment Forum LEF.
In 1992, the SPNL opened one of the first two environmental clubs in schools in Lebanon. The association soon recognized that the growing number of environmental educators, as well as the public, would greatly benefit from an environmental resource center. Initial efforts to establish such a center with the existing means of the association proved insufficient, and resulted in the active search for a greater funding base for the project.

About the EIC
Finally, in September 1996, the SPNL established the Environment Information Center (EIC) / SPNL, with the help of a grant from the UNDP-LIFE Program and the support of individuals and the private sector. The opening of the Center underlined the determination of the association to maximize its effectiveness and efficiency through specialization.
The EIC is run by the director, Andrea Munla, who has been working for 7 years in Lebanon in the field of environmental education. She is assisted by a specialist in “Environmental Health” and by many volunteers who participate actively in the projects and activities carried out by the Center. The director of the Center reports directly to the Executive Committee of the SPNL.
An Advisory Committee has been chosen for the EIC, to include members from the different sectors of society in order to enrich the EIC with their experiences and support efficient management of the Center.

Goals and Objective of the EIC
The mission of the Center is to promote sustainable human development through environmental education initiatives and information dissemination at schools and in the community.
The goal of the EIC is to build an institution, which provides environmental educators and the public with a focal point for information, professional educational services, and training on sustainable development.
The principal objectives of the Center are:
To strengthen non-formal environmental education and provide leadership in the field on the national and regional level;
To contribute to capacity building and improve networking and dialogue of environmental educators on the local and national level;
To facilitate access for the public to environmental information which comes from various sources and presents different points of views;
To foster environmental literacy of the population in general, and of students and teachers in particular ;
To encourage citizens and provide them with the necessary skills to take an active role in environmental stewardship and sustainable development.

Activities and Projects

To achieve its objectives, the EIC / SPNL:
makes environmental information more accessible to the public through a multi-media library, which focuses on environment in Lebanon and environmental education;
provides information services including links to other sources of information;
promotes environmental awareness through information dissemination and awareness campaigns;
develops educational materials;
trains and provides assistance to environmental educators;
strives to complement with all its capacity, the efforts of the Ministry of Environment, the Ministry of Education, other concerned ministries and municipalities to promote sustainable human development;
pursues active networking with all NGO’s and community-based associations who want to advance sustainable human development.

Activities in Detail:
Quality Service and Management
The EIC is constantly working to improve its services through efficient management. Some of the recent training of EIC/ SPNL members included office management, financial management and proposal writing. The members frequently attend international conferences and workshops to improve their professional levels and to benefit from the international experiences in the field.

2. The Library
The library focuses on environmental issues in Lebanon and environmental education. The Center’s library consists currently of over 1000 books in English, Arabic, French and German as well as many magazines, articles, newspaper clippings, CD-ROM’s, videos and slides.

3. Information Services and Databases
The EIC offers information services to visitors and callers. The Center distributes environmental publications by various organizations and informs about local and international events, including training and competitions. It has a database on environmental NGO’s, books available in the Center, and work has begun on databases for environmental experts, consultants and environmentally friendly businesses. The homepage of the EIC includes a lot of information about environment in Lebanon, information available in the Center and educational activities (some parts are still under construction).

4. Material Development / Publications
Materials currently developed by the EIC include materials for formal and non-formal environmental education and visual material. Our aim is to produce more material in Arabic, more audio-visual material and some educational games and kits, if funding can be secured.
The EIC is currently in the process of publishing a book about environmental activities for teachers and club leaders, which is funded by the Canada Fund. This book will be a vital component needed for the training of non-formal environmental educators and youth leaders.
Publications in preparation include:
Layout and graphics for the newsletter of the IUCN National Committee;
A facelift for the Internet Home page;
A new brochure for the EIC
A new brochure for the SPNL
a pocket guide on mammals in Lebanon
An activity book for “Friends of the Forest” , to encourage young people to contribute to the conservation of forest in Lebanon

5. Training Workshops
The Center has held several workshops for associations and environmental educators including a workshop for the Ministry of Displaced in coordination with the UNDP Program for the Displaced. In 1999, the EIC is offering several workshops for scouts and environmental club leaders.

Environmental Education Consulting Services
The EIC is working intensively with 5 public schools in cooperation with the UNDP Program for the Displaced (UNRSRD) on the planning and implementation of environmental activities. The Center is also in regular contact with a number of subject coordinators and environmental club coordinators at schools. The Center has provided numerous teachers with materials and environmental education activities and supports other NGO’s in the development of an educational program.

Networking Facilities
The EIC holds frequent meetings with educators and interested NGO’s to exchange ideas and find more productive ways of cooperation. The Center is also available for all environmental NGO’s in need of a location for meetings. The Center also hosts the IUCN National Committee on its premises.

8. Presentations
Presentations are held for school audiences (K-12) and to community based organizations (CBO’s). The format and methodology depends on the age and size of the target audience and can include Muppets and slide shows, interactive role-playing, discussions and audio-visual material. Presentations are as interactive as possible and promote learning by doing and in a fun-filled atmosphere.

9. Exhibits and information stands
The EIC has organized exhibits at several schools, participates in many community events with an information stand (Arab Book Fair, etc.) and is in charge of the organization of the Hamra Festival’s Environmental Section. (Models and materials are available to other organizations for exhibits.)

Future Plans
The EIC has many plans for the future. Our main priorities are to expand our training capacities, produce more material for environmental educators, and optimize our operations and services. In particular, we will be working to establish capacity for a “training of trainers” program and to enhance our facilitation techniques.
To improve our effectiveness, we will strive to formalize our relationship with the concerned ministries and schools and we will actively pursue networking with other NGO’s on the national and regional level and with other stakeholders.
As an incentive for volunteers, we are planning to develop an attractive program to encourage their participation.

As a non-profit organization, the SPNL and its Environment Information Center rely to a great extent on grants and donations for their work. People help us in several ways:
a) The “Friends of the Environment Center / SPNL” is a special group of individuals who believe in the importance of environmental awareness and in the need for effective environmental education initiatives and who have therefore decided to support the work of the Center through a small personal donation. The “Friends” are kept informed of the Center’s activities, have library privileges, and receive complementary items in appreciation of their support.
b) The EIC has several projects on hold due to lack of funds, which include training workshops, printed material and technical equipment. For all of these we are actively involved in fundraising. Sponsors are given a high visibility in its publications, activities and internet homepage.
c) A lot of people donate material to the EIC. We greatly appreciate donations of books (even if used), studies, CD-ROM’s, etc. on environmental topics. In the EIC library they will be useful for many people in search of environmental information.
d) We always have work for interested volunteers from all walks of life. In particular, we need translators, writers, photographers, graphic designers, media and computer specialists. Our volunteers work in a friendly, team-oriented atmosphere with much room for personal initiative and creativity.

Comments and suggestions are always welcome and appreciated!

KEY WORDS: Environmental Education; Communication for environment; Educational material; School; Public at large.
AUTHOR: Andrea Munla, Environment Information Center/SPNL, Sadat Street, Sadat Tower 8th floor (above the City Café), Hamra- Beyrouth, Liban, Tel.: 961-1-801 577 post 130, 03/ 383 487, Fax: 961-1-801 576, E-mail:, Site Web site:
SPNL Office : Abdel Aziz Street, Awad Bldg. 6th floor, Hamra- Beyrouth, Tel.: 01/343740, Fax: 01/342701, 343740