Perspectives Issue#9 - A Region Heating Up: Climate Change Activism in the Middle East and North Africa



Print version available at Heinrich Boell Middle East office in Beirut

The Middle Eastern and Northern African (MENA) region, faced with tumultuous changes in the last five years, shows a picture of shrinking spaces for civil society activism. In contrast, ecological activism is growing and connecting the fight for climate justice to other demands for community and indigenous rights, gender equality, democracy and transparency.  

In recent negotiations based on the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), international geopolitical power dynamics have been reproduced and economic lobby groups, although formally belonging to the group of civil society observers, have commanded a great deal of power. The influence of the rest of civil society on the negotiators has depended greatly on their ability to make themselves heard.  This has been attempted by joining large coalitions, holding side events, exhibitions, mobilizations or whenever possible securing an invitation to join the official delegations of their governments.  

The status quo is unsatisfactory.  It raises political, economic and social questions at various levels; from the small scale at the local community level up to the larger scale on the regional and global levels.

In the run up to the next iteration of the Conference of Parties in the UNFCCC, ‘COP 22’ in Marrakesh, in November 2016, this issue of Perspectives explores the complex relationship between climate change and governance in the MENA region. In the following pages, activists, journalists, researchers and experts reflect on resources and climate change, climate activism, and the politics of climate negotiations in the MENA region. Throughout their focus is on those who bear the bulk of the negative effects of climate change, and on the areas where there is the most pressing need for action.

Suzanne Baaklini and Safa Al Jayoussi explore climate activism in the MENA region; Soraya El Kahlaoui, George Kurzom, Wim Zwijnenburg and Fedia Ghasmi (interviewed by Simon Ilse, ecology program coordinator in the Heinrich Böll Tunis office) discuss the impact of climate change on resources in Morocco, Palestine, Syria and Tunis; Ghassan Waïl El Karmouni  examines the consequences of the way renewable energies are being introduced in Morocco; Rana El Hajj, Jawad Moustakbal and Wael Hmaidan analyze the politics of international climate negotiations; and taking a ‘transversal’ approach, the Jordanian agricultural engineer, Fidaa Haddad, argues that climate forces are likely to raise gender specific issues in the MENA region.

This issue of Perspectives is illustrated by the Lebanese artist Mazen Kerbaj. 

Dorothea Rischewski, Bettina Marx, Joachim Paul and Bente Scheller

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