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Economic uncertainties within the GCC countries

Economic uncertainties within the GCC countries

Travel AND Tour World published on Monday, July 29, 2019, this article elaborating on the current tourism together with other types of related business activities in the Gulf region. Dubai with its impressive urban development, artificial islands and other coastline attractions has been for a time spearheading the regional shopping and business tourism. The recent economic uncertainties within the GCC countries as well as through the political movements of the US, the EU and all other heavyweights vested interests of the world economy seem to be behind this story.

Tourism slowdown in Dubai’s Jumeirah cuts 500 jobs

Economic uncertainties within the GCC countries

Due to a slowdown in the emirate’s tourism industry, Jumeirah Group has cut hundreds of jobs and according to people familiar with the industry, it weighs on the operator of Dubai’s sail-shaped Burj Al Arab hotel.

As per sources hundreds of jobs were slashed recently by the operators of Burj Al Arab along with 24 hotels worldwide.

As the information was private the government-owned luxury hotel chain, which manages 24 properties in eight countries, recently shed about 500 jobs.

Jumeriah has more than 13,500 employees according to its website and most of the cuts were support roles.

The tourism sector is stalled causing Dubai’s hotels to struggle and the occupancy level was found to be the lowest during the second quarter since 2009.

The average daily rates and revenue available per room fell to 2003 levels as stated by STR, a global hotel data provider.

There has been an oversupply due to new opening ahead of the 2020 World Expo.

The geopolitical tensions, relatively low oil prices, the ongoing real estate and the retail slump has caused Dubai-based companies and real estate developer and banks to cut down their staffs.

New measures have been introduced by the Dubai government to stimulate the economy by lowering business fees and providing long-term visas.

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Tracing Humankind’s Footsteps out of Africa

Tracing Humankind’s Footsteps out of Africa

Paul Salopek is tracing humankind’s footsteps out of Africa, giving voice on the way to migrants who are part of history’s largest diaspora.

A storyteller chronicles the mass migrations that define our age

By Paul Salopek, Photographs by John Stanmeyer


This story appears in the August 2019 issue of National Geographic magazine.


Tracing Humankind’s Footsteps out of Africa
ETHIOPIA 2013, FOLLOWING OUR FOREBEARS Paul Salopek (at left) and his guide Ahmed Elema begin day two of the author’s global odyssey at the village of Herto Bouri, where the . . . Read More Magazine Out of Eden Walk

For nearly seven years I have been walking with migrants.

In the winter of 2013 I set out from an ancient Homo sapiens fossil site called Herto Bouri, in the north of Ethiopia, and began retracing, on foot, the defining journey of humankind: our first colonization of the Earth during the Stone Age.

My long walk is about storytelling. I report what I see at boot level along the pathways of our original discovery of the planet. From the start, I knew my route would be vague. Anthropologists suggest that our species first stepped out of Africa 600 centuries ago and eventually wandered, more or less aimlessly, to the tip of South America—the last unknown edge of the continents and my own journey’s finish line. We were roving hunters and foragers. We lacked writing, the wheel, domesticated animals, and agriculture. Advancing along empty beaches, we sampled shellfish. We took our bearings off the rippling arrows of migrating cranes. Destinations had yet to be invented. I have trailed these forgotten adventurers for more than 10,000 miles so far. Today I am traversing India.

Our modern lives, housebound as they are, have changed almost beyond recognition since that golden age of footloose exploration.

Or have they?

The United Nations estimates that more than a billion people—one in seven humans alive today—are voting with their feet, migrating within their countries or across international borders. Millions are fleeing violence: war, persecution, criminality, political chaos. Many more, suffocated by poverty, are seeking economic relief beyond their horizons. The roots of this colossal new exodus include a globalized market system that tears apart social safety nets, a pollutant-warped climate, and human yearnings supercharged by instant media. In sheer numbers, this is the largest diaspora in the long history of our species.

I pace off the world at 15 miles a day. I mingle often among the uprooted.

In Djibouti I have sipped chai with migrants in bleak truck stops. I have slept alongside them in dusty UN refugee tents in Jordan. I have accepted their stories of pain. I have repaid their laughter. I am not one of them, of course: I am a privileged walker. I carry inside my rucksack an ATM card and a passport. But I have shared the misery of dysentery with them and have been detained many times by their nemesis—police. (Eritrea, Sudan, Iran, and Turkmenistan have denied me visas; Pakistan ejected me, then allowed me back in.)

What can be said about these exiled brothers and sisters? About the immense shadowlands they inhabit, paradoxically, in plain sight?

Hunger, ambition, fear, political defiance—the reasons for movement are not truly the question. More important is knowing how the journey itself shapes a different class of human being: people whose ideas of “home” now incorporate an open road—a vast and risky tangent of possibility that begins somewhere far away and ends at your doorsill. How you accept this tiding, with open arms or crouched behind high walls, isn’t at issue either. Because however you react, with compassion or fear, humankind’s reawakened mobility has changed you already.

The first migrants I encountered were dead. They lay under small piles of stones in the Great Rift Valley of Africa.

Who were these unfortunates?

It was difficult to know. The world’s poorest people travel from many distant lands to perish in the Afar Triangle of Ethiopia, one of the hottest deserts on Earth. They walk into these terrible barrens in order to reach the Gulf of Aden. There the sea is the doorway to a new (though not always better) life beyond Africa: slave-wage jobs in the cities and date plantations of the Arabian Peninsula. Some of the migrants’ graves doubtless contained Somalis: war refugees. Others likely held deserters from Eritrea. Or drought-weakened Oromos from Ethiopia. All had hoped to sneak across the unmarked borders of Djibouti. They became lost. They collapsed under a molten sun. Sometimes they dropped from thirst within sight of the sea. The columns of exhausted travelers walking behind hastily buried the bodies.

How long have we been depositing our bones like this on the desolate trails of the African Horn? For a long time. From the very beginning. After all, this is the same corridor used by the first modern humans to exit Africa during the Pleistocene.

One day I stumbled across a group of scarecrows hiding in the scant shade of some boulders—15 lean Ethiopian men who seemed to pretend that if they didn’t move a muscle, they would be invisible. Some were manual laborers. Most were farmers from the Ethiopian highlands. The annual rains, the farmers said, had become impossibly erratic. Sticking it out on their sun-cracked fields meant slow starvation. Better to chance the ocean of white light that is the Afar Triangle, even if you never returned. They were pioneers of sorts, new climate change refugees.

A recent World Bank study calculates that by 2050 more than 140 million people in sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, and Latin America could be tumbled into motion by the catastrophic effects of climate change. Ten million climate refugees could swell the trails of East Africa alone. In Ethiopia the tide may reach 1.5 million people—more than 15 times the emigrants now straggling annually through the Afar Triangle to reach the Middle East.

Inching north up the Rift, I was forced to consider the urge to leave a familiar world that was falling apart, a home where the sky itself was against you. All around me snaked the invisible battle lines of an intensifying range war between the Afar and Issa pastoralists—two competing herder groups whose shallow wells were drying up, whose pastures were thinning from a relentless cycle of droughts. They shot at each other over the ownership of a papery blade of grass, over a cup of sandy water. In other words, over survival. Here was the source of our oldest travel story. Drastic climate change and murderous famines, experts say, likely helped drive the first pulses of humans out of Africa.

How strong is the push to leave? To abandon what you love? To walk into the unknown with all your possessions stuffed into a pocket? It is more powerful than fear of death.

In the Afar Triangle I stumbled across seven unburied bodies. They were women and men clustered together. They lay faceup, mummified atop a dark lava field. The heat was devastating. The little wild dogs of the desert, the jackals, had taken these travelers’ hands and feet. My walking partner, Houssain Mohamed Houssain, shook his head in wonder, in disgust. He was an ethnic Afar, a descendant of camel herders, the old kings of the desert. His people called the recent waves of transients hahai—“people of the wind”—ghosts who blew across the land. He snapped a picture.

“You show them this,” Houssain said angrily, “and they say, ‘Oh, that won’t happen to me!’ ”

One of the unlucky migrants had squeezed under a ledge. Doubtless he was crazed for shade. He had placed his shoes next to his naked body, just so, with one sock rolled carefully inside each shoe. He knew: His walking days were over.

Walking the continents teaches you to look down. You appreciate the importance of feet. You take an interest in footwear. This is natural.

Human character, of course, is mirrored in the face. The eyes reveal sincerity, lying, curiosity, love, hate. But one’s choice of shoes (or even lack of it) speaks to personal geography: wealth or poverty, age, type of work, education, gender, urban versus rural. Among the world’s legions of migrants, a certain pedal taxonomy holds. Economic migrants—the destitute millions with time to plan ahead—seem to favor the shoe of the 21st century’s poor: the cheap, unisex, multipurpose Chinese sneaker. War refugees escaping violence, by contrast, must trudge their wretched roads in rubber flip-flops, dress loafers, dusty sandals, high-heeled pumps, booties improvised from rags, etc. They flee burning cities, abandon villages and farms. They pull on whatever shoes lie within reach at a moment’s notice. I first began to see such eclectic piles of footwear appearing outside refugee tents in the highlands of Jordan.

“I wake up to these mountains,” cried Zaeleh al Khaled al Hamdu, a Syrian grandmother shod in beaded house slippers. Tiny blue flowers were tattooed on her wrinkled chin and cheeks. She waved a bony hand at the alien peaks around her. “It feels like these mountains, I am carrying them on my back.”

Heaviness. Weight. The crush of despair. The mountainous burden of helplessness.

This is the badge of the war refugee. Or so our televisions, newspapers, and mobile phones would inform us. The stock media photo of the war-displaced: columns of traumatized souls marching with heavy steps, with slumped shoulders, along a burning road. Or families jammed into leaky boats on the Mediterranean, their gazes sagging with anguish, sunk in vulnerability. But these snapshots of refugee life—seen through the lens of the rich world—are limited, misleading, even self-serving.

For weeks I walked from tent to dusty tent in Jordan. At least half a million Syrians languished there—just one aching shard of some 12 million civilians scattered by the bloodiest civil war in the Middle East. War steals your past and future. The Syrians could not go back to the contested rubble of their homes—to Idlib, Hamah, or Damascus. Nobody else wanted them. They were stuck. All they owned was their miserable present.

Tracing Humankind’s Footsteps out of Africa

Many toiled illegally on farms.

They eked out another breath of life by picking tomatoes for $11 a day. When I plodded past, they waved me over. They jauntily fed me their employers’ crops. (Residents of a poor nation, Jordanians spared little affection for their even poorer Syrian guests.) They poured gallons of tea with wild thyme down my throat. They shook out their filthy blankets and bade me sit and rest.

“Here, we only dream of chicken,” one man joked. He’d eaten grass to survive in Syria. In one tent a young woman stepped behind a hanging bedsheet and reemerged in her finest dress—pink with silver stripes. She was dazzlingly pregnant, and her beauty passed in a clean hush through my chest, into the moldering tent, before blowing unstoppably out into the desert.

What I’m trying to say is this: Whatever else refugees may be, they aren’t powerless.

They aren’t the infantilized victims usually featured in the political left’s suffering porn. They resemble even less the cartoon invaders feared by right-wing populists and bigots—the barbarian hordes coming to take jobs, housing, social services, racial identity, religion, sex partners, and everything else vital and good in wealthy host countries. (Since Neolithic times, the earliest populations of Europe have been overrun and utterly transformed by waves of immigrants from Central Asia and the eastern Mediterranean. Without such interbreeding, modern “Europeans” wouldn’t exist.)

No. The refugees I have walked among are bearded pharmacists and girl goatherds. Shopkeepers and intellectuals. That is, supremely ordinary beings grappling with meager options. Remembering their dead, they cup their hands to their faces and weep. But often they are incredibly strong. And generous.

“Please come, mister,” a Syrian teacher whispered in Turkey, guiding me from a refugee camp classroom out into the open air. Her students had been drawing decapitations and hangings as part of their art therapy. She noticed I had fallen silent. She was worried about my emotions.

A thousand walked miles to the east, in the Caucasus, a family of ethnic Armenian refugees from Syria hollered, “Don’t come in please!”—making me wait outside their dilapidated home while they hastily set a table they couldn’t afford. They recently moved into a house that once belonged to ethnic Azerbaijanis, a local population ejected during the decades-old Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. I found the Azerbaijanis 120 miles later. They refused my money in a refugee camp café.

“We have been waiting for peace so long,” Nemat Huseynov, the café owner, said. He had owned many sheep when the conflict began in 1988. It goes on, despite a cease-fire in 1994.

Huseynov stared at his big, work-swollen shepherd’s hands splayed palm down on the worn tablecloth.

Home.

You cannot always choose your shoes on a long walk.

The world’s refugees and migrants don’t demand our pity. They just ask for our attention. Me they pitied because I walked on.

But before you do, refer to the original document for more with lots of pictures and related texts.

Transparency, data privacy and collaboration critical to urban innovation

Transparency, data privacy and collaboration critical to urban innovation

Yung Wu, per this contribution of his holds that transparency, data privacy and collaboration critical to urban innovation are of vital importance especially in the MENA region whilst:

Cities must plan ahead for innovation without leaving people behind

GettyImages 508463561

Yung Wu is CEO of MaRS Discovery District, a Toronto-based innovation hub.

From Toronto to Tokyo, the challenges faced by cities today are often remarkably similar: climate change, rising housing costs, traffic, economic polarization, unemployment. To tackle these problems, new technology companies and industries have been sprouting and scaling up with innovative digital solutions like ride sharing and home sharing. Without a doubt, the city of the future must be digital. It must be smart. It must work for everyone.

This is a trend civic leaders everywhere need to embrace wholeheartedly. But building a truly operational smart city is going to take a village, and then some. It won’t happen overnight, but progress is already under way.

As tech broadens its urban footprint, there will be more and more potential for conflict between innovation and citizen priorities like privacy and inclusive growth. Last month, we were reminded of that in Toronto, where planning authorities from three levels of government released a 1,500-page plan by Alphabet’s Sidewalk Labs meant to pave the way for a futuristic waterfront development. Months in the making, the plan met with considerably less than universal acclaim.

But whether it’s with Sidewalk or other tech partners, the imperative to resolve these conflicts becomes even stronger for cities like Toronto. If they’re playing this game to win, civic leaders need to minimize the damage and maximize the benefits for the people they represent. They need to develop co-ordinated innovation plans that prioritize transparency, public engagement, data privacy and collaboration.

Transparency

The Sidewalk Labs  plan is full of tech-forward proposals for new transit, green buildings and affordable housing, optimized by sensors, algorithms and mountains of data. But even the best intentions of a business or a city can be misconstrued when leaders fail to be transparent about their plans. Openness and engagement are critical for building legitimacy and social license.

Sidewalk says it consulted 21,000 Toronto citizens while developing its proposal. But some critics have already complained that the big decisions were made behind closed doors, with too many public platitudes and not enough debate about issues raised by citizens, city staff and the region’s already thriving innovation ecosystem.

In defense of Sidewalk Labs and Alphabet,  their roots are in Internet services. They are relative newcomers to the give and take of community consultation. But they are definitely now hearing how citizens would prefer to be engaged and consulted.

As for the public planners, they have a number of excellent examples to draw from. In Barcelona, for example, the city government opened up its data sets to citizens to encourage shared use among private, public and academic sectors. And in Pittsburgh, which has become a hub for the testing of autonomous vehicles, the city provided open forum opportunities for the public to raise questions, concerns and issues directly with civic decision-makers.

Other forward-looking cities, such as San Francisco, Singapore, Helsinki and Glasgow, are already using digital technology and smart sensors to build futuristic urban services that can serve as real-world case studies for Toronto and others. However, to achieve true success, city officials need to earn residents’ trust and confidence that they are following and adapting best practices.

Toronto skyline courtesy of Shutterstock/Niloo

Data privacy

Access to shared data is crucial to informing and improving tech-enabled urban innovation. But it could also fuel a technologically driven move toward surveillance capitalism or a surveillance state – profiteering or big brother instead of trust and security.

The Sidewalk proposal respects the principles of responsible use of data and artificial intelligence. It outlines principles for guiding the smart-city project’s ethical handling of citizen data and secure use of emerging technologies like facial recognition. But these principles aren’t yet accompanied by clear, enforceable standards.

Members of the MaRS Discovery District  recently co-authored an open-source report with fellow design and data governance experts, outlining how privacy conflicts could be addressed by an ethical digital trust. A digital trust ought to be transparently governed by independent, representative third-party trustees. Its trustees should be mandated to make data-use decisions in the public interest: how data could be gathered, how anonymity could be ensured, how requests for use should be dealt with.

They come with big questions to be resolved. But if a digital trust were developed for the Sidewalk project, it could be adapted and reused in other cities around the world, as civic leaders everywhere grapple with innovation plans of their own.

PCs on a grid in front of a city skyline.
Image courtesy of Getty Images/Colin Anderson

Collaboration

The private sector creates jobs and economic growth. Academia and education offers ideas, research and a sustainable flow of tech-savvy workers. The public sector provide policy guidance and accountability. Non-profits mobilize public awareness and surplus capital.

As Toronto is learning, it isn’t always easy to get buy-in, because every player in every sector has its own priorities. But civic leaders should be trying to pull all these innovation levers to overcome urban challenges, because when the mission is right, collaboration creates more than the sum of its parts.

One civic example we like to point to is New York, where the development of the High Line park and the rezoning of the West Chelsea Special District created a “halo effect.” A $260-million investment increased property values, boosted city tax revenues by $900-million and brought four million tourists per year to a formerly underused neighborhood.

A mission-oriented innovation ecosystem connects the dots between entrepreneurs and customers, academia and corporates, capital and talent, policymakers and activists, physical and digital infrastructure – and systems financing models can help us predict and more equitably distribute the returns. Organizations like Civic Capital Lab (disclaimer: a MaRS partner) work to repurpose projects like the High Line into real-life frameworks for other cities and communities.

That kind of planning works because the challenges cities face are so similar. When civic leaders are properly prepared to make the best of modern tech-driven innovation, there’s no problem they can’t overcome.

More posts of Yung Wu :

Europe’s Future will be decided in North Africa

Europe’s Future will be decided in North Africa

Foreign Policy‘s VOICE on Europe’s Future will be decided in North Africa elaborates on mainly the potential impact of Algeria’s current political instability on not only the region but also on the European Union.

Meanwhile, today July 19, 2019, is the twenty-second Friday of street demonstrations, were it not coincidentally for the Africa Cup of football happening the same day in the evening. Street demonstrations in all towns and villages of Algeria have become by now a sort of run of the mill. They are chasing a fundamental change of regime and not some epidermic exercise.

Europe’s Future Will Be Decided in North Africa

By Steven A. Cook

The United States should stop treating the region as secondary to the rest of the Middle East.

Handwritten notes are stuck on a boat used by migrants on Los Caños de Meca beach near Barbate, Spain, on Nov. 26, 2018. JORGE GUERRERO/AFP/GETTY IMAGES

When I first came to Washington in the 1990s, people who worked on North Africa were few and far between. It was considered a backwater; no one ever came to Washington to solve the Western Sahara problem.

Instead, U.S. foreign-policy strivers made their way to the Beltway to ensure the security of the Persian Gulf’s shipping lanes, to write cheesy lines about the appropriateness of Wahhabism’s austere creed arising from such a harsh landscape, and to chase the whitest of white whales—peace between Israelis and Palestinians. It is a narrow view of the region that continues today, which is unfortunate because North Africa is far more important to U.S. interests than the Middle East obsessions—old and new—of the policy community.

A long look at the map will tell you almost everything one needs to know about North Africa and its importance to a core American interest—the stability and security of Europe. Of course, the region is important to the millions of people who call it home, but their neighbors across the Mediterranean Sea have long been and will continue to be a focus of U.S. foreign policy. There are only 146 miles separating the Tunisian coast and the Italian coast and 286 miles from Libya to Greece. Algeria’s beaches are 469 miles from those of France—about the distance from Washington to Charleston, South Carolina. Morocco and Spain are separated by a mere 9 miles. Proximity and colonial legacies have shaped the region in such a way that at least the northern rim of the Maghreb seems to share more culturally with Southern Europe than it does with sub-Saharan Africa. Add to this Europe’s economic pull, a steady flow of migrants from African countries, a bevy of extremist groups, and copious energy resources.

It would be an exaggeration to suggest that as goes North Africa so goes Europe but not by much. The United States still has a compelling interest in a Europe that, in the words of the late George H.W. Bush, is “whole and free.” And among policymakers in Washington, there is increasing concern about Europe’s vulnerability because so much of its natural gas comes from Russia. But 11 percent comes from Algeria. That might not sound like a lot, but some individual European countries are more vulnerable than others. Spain, for example, gets 52 percent of its natural gas from Algeria. The North African giant is also Italy’s second-largest gas supplier. If Algeria descended into violence—not out of the realm of possibility—and its gas supplies were somehow disrupted, Europe would have a significant problem.

If Algeria descended into violence—not out of the realm of possibility—and its gas supplies were somehow disrupted, Europe would have a significant problem.

 Could the continent make up the difference from other sources? Libya has a lot of gas, but it is in the midst of a civil war. Egypt also has tremendous amounts of gas, but it doesn’t have the capacity yet to make up any shortfalls that Europe might experience. The Israelis would love to sell gas to Europe, but the pipeline to Europe they envision may not be economically feasible.

Then there is migration, an issue that has vexed Europe’s leaders, caught as they are between the European Union’s liberal cosmopolitanism and a virulent nationalism that a united, democratic, and prosperous continent was supposed to make irrelevant. Of course, migrants arriving on European shores via North Africa did not create Europe’s right-wing nationalist and neo-fascist parties, but they did give them a boost—and the effect on Europe has been devastating. Setting aside developments in Austria, Hungary, and Poland, the leaders of the Brexit campaign and the Alternative for Germany (a far-right party) fed off Europe’s migration crisis in 2015 to advance their ruinous and dangerous agendas. The destabilization of the United Kingdom and the prospect of German political polarization are deeply troubling and a strategic setback for the United States. If Washington has a true partner in this world, it has been London. Meanwhile, a successful, democratic Germany is a bedrock of European stability and prosperity.

For almost two decades, Washington’s focus has been on combating al Qaeda and then the Islamic State in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, and Yemen. Extremism in North Africa seems to be an afterthought. It should not be. Algeria, Libya, and Tunisia all have terrorism problems that have affected Europe in frightening ways.

Algeria, Libya, and Tunisia all have terrorism problems that have affected Europe in frightening ways.

 In the 1990s, Algerian extremists bombed the Paris metro and hijacked an Air France flight in an attempt to force the crew to fly the plane into the Eiffel Tower. More recent terrorist attacks in Europe have been homegrown affairs, but that does not mean that Europe is safe from North African extremism. In Tunisia in 2015, extremists killed European tourists on a beach and in a museum. That is why the French have thrown their lot in with would-be Libyan strongman Gen. Khalifa Haftar—he promises to kill a lot of bad guys. President Emmanuel Macron may be wrong in his assessment of Haftar’s capabilities, and French policy may be making things worse, but his sense of where the threat comes from is clear. Algeria and Libya are huge countries that border Chad, Mali, and Niger, which are themselves confronting extremist violence. The prospect of groups linking up or merging in this region is a significant security challenge for Europeans.

Finally, it is not just North Africa’s old colonial powers—France and Italy—that are active there. Russia has a long-standing defense relationship with Algeria, but it has also become more active in Libya. It should be clear by now that President Vladimir Putin wants to weaken and divide Europe. He has already forged an arc of Russian influence around the Mediterranean, stretching from Ankara in the north, through Damascus and Cairo, and then heading west from there into Benghazi. The latter is in Haftar’s territory and the part of Libya where the bulk of the country’s oil reserves are located. Putin doesn’t need to collect allies at the expense of the United States per se—he just needs to give Russia a base from which he can continue to sow discord and confusion in Europe.

Given how energy, migration, extremism, and Russia’s ambition coincide in North Africa to threaten European stability, it does not seem wise for U.S. policymakers to continue to treat the region as an afterthought. Peace between Israelis and Palestinians, as well as democracy in the Middle East, would be nice, but given the limits of American power, it makes more sense to devote Washington’s resources to places that matter more to U.S. interests. And North Africa matters. If you don’t believe me, look at a map.

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Regional Powers’ Attempts to co-opt the Syrian tribes

Regional Powers’ Attempts to co-opt the Syrian tribes

The regional powers’s attempts to co-opt the Syrian tribes will only deepen the war-torn country’s divisions by creating rivalries between them sustains Haian Dukhan of University of Leicester per the following article.

Syria: attempts by Saudi Arabia, Iran and Turkey to co-opt Arab tribes in Syria will deepen the country’s divisions

Saudi Arabia is putting renewed pressure on its ties with tribal groups in Syria as it continues to support those trying to topple the regime of Bashar al-Assad.

In a visit in late June to Syrian territories controlled by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), an alliance fighting against the Assad regime, the Saudi minister for Gulf affairs, Thamer Al-Sabhan, met with representatives of Arab tribes in Deir Ezzor, one of Syria’s most heavily tribal areas. He asked them to help the SDF maintain stability and security in their territories.

Arab tribes represent 20% of Syrian society and are particularly focused in the east of the country. But this area is currently divided: territory east of the Euphrates river is controlled by the SDF, which includes the Kurdish People’s Protection Units, or YPG, while much of the territory west of the river is governed by the Syrian regime.

Saudi Arabia’s rivals in the region are also trying to use their ties with Syrian tribes for their own ends. Although Iran and Turkey don’t have the same kinship ties that Saudi tribes do with the Syrian tribes, both countries have been working since the beginning of the Syrian conflict to create new ties with them. Their aim is to use the tribes to further their interests in Syria – toppling the Assad regime in the case of Turkey and propping it up in the case of Iran.

But these attempts to co-opt the Syrian tribes will only deepen the war-torn country’s divisions by creating rivalries between them.

Shifting allegiances

In the Syrian context, tribes refer to local groups of people that live geographically close to each other. They are distinct from other segments of Syrian society by having extended kinship ties, tribal customs and tribal leaders, or sheikhs. Some of Syria’s most prominent tribes are Aqaydate, Baggara and Busha’ban.

During the rule of Hafez al-Assad, Bashar’s father, between 1970 and 2000, tribes were part of the rural coalition that enabled the regime to preserve power. But Bashar al-Assad’s neo-liberal policies, such as lifting subsidies on livestock fodder and other agricultural products, accompanied by severe drought in 2003 changed the power dynamic and the tribes revolted against the regime in 2011.

The 2011 uprising in Syria was a golden opportunity for Saudi Arabia to use its links with the Syrian tribes to destroy the Assad regime and so eliminate growing Iranian influence in the country, which it considers its sphere of influence.

The Euphrates river in Deir Ezzor, Syria. Marcel Holyoak via Flickr, CC BY-NC-ND

Since the uprising, Saudi Arabia has used tribal networks to provide financial and military support to the armed opposition against Assad. It also encouraged tribal sheikhs to defect from the Syrian regime, promising to provide them with refuge and financial aid. This led to the defection of more than 20 Syrian tribal leaders, who took refuge in Saudi Arabia.

Iran tried its own tactics to woo Syria’s Arab tribes. Iranian officials continue to invite Syrian tribal leaders to visit Tehran for talks in an effort to persuade them to remain loyal to Assad. These visits are covered by Iranian and Syrian state media, which portray the visiting sheikhs as important national figures.

Iran has spent large amounts of money and expertise on training militias of the Tay and the Sheitat tribes to fight alongside the Syrian regime forces. Iranian missionary groups have also been working to convert people from the Baggara tribe in Deir Ezzor from the Sunni to the Shia branch of Islam, in order to counterbalance the power of the Sunni Aqaydate tribe that has strong kinship ties to Saudi Arabia.

A counter balance to Turkey and Qatar

The rift between Saudi Arabia and Turkey took place after the Arab Spring and intensified after Turkey decided to back Qatar, offering it economic and military aid to help overcome a blockade by Saudi Arabia and the UAE. Since around 2013, the competition between these two regional hegemons moved to Syria.

Turkey aims to use the Arab tribes in Turkey to legitimise its intervention against the SDF, and in particular its Kurdish forces, in the area to east of the Euphrates. Ultimately, it wants to have Arab fighters alongside its own army on Syrian soil. In a February 2018 visit to Urfa, a town close to the Turkish-Syrian border, the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, met with Syrian tribal leaders who praised Turkey’s Operation Olive Branch against SDF forces in the Afrin district.

But Saudi Arabia considers the area to the east of the Euphrates river in Syria to be within its sphere of influence and will do whatever is possible to prevent it from falling under Turkish control. The Saudis are using financial aid to stabilise the SDF’s rule and decrease some of the tension between the SDF and Arab tribes.

But these attempts to co-opt the tribes by regional powers will only deepen Syria’s divisions. Many tribes have been split into competing clans that are fighting each other just because they find themselves to the east or west of the Euphrates.

Instead of trying to look for tribes who can serve their interests in Syria, Saudia Arabia, Iran and Turkey should support initiatives that foster a shared national identity for all Syrians.

Haian Dukhan, Teaching Fellow in International Relations, University of Leicester

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Food supply chains will get disrupted globally

Food supply chains will get disrupted globally

As Climate change could cause 29% spike in cereal prices: leaked UN report, because Food supply chains will get disrupted globally, the study warns. Report to be officially released in August informs Nitin Sethi, of New Delhi in this article of Business Standard.

As far as the MENA region is concerned, food has always been in short supply, but does this mean it would get worse.

Food supply chains will get disrupted globally

The report will be put before all member countries of the UN Framework Convention and once it gets their stamp of approval by consensus it will be made public on August 8. Photo: Representative Image

“The rate and geographic extent of global land and freshwater resources over recent decades is unprecedented in human history,” a report authored by UN’s panel of scientists from across the world on climate change is set to inform. Business Standard reviewed a leaked copy of the draft report sent to the governments of 197 countries. The report warns that as the global temperatures rise, the stress on land resources and its productivity is set to rise.

The report by the UN Inter-governmental panel on climate change, is called, “IPCC Special Report on Climate Change, Desertification, Land Degradation, Sustainable Land Management, Food Security, and Greenhouse gas fluxes in terrestrial ecosystems.”

The report will be put before all member countries of the UN Framework Convention and once it gets their stamp of approval by consensus it will be made public on August 8.

The authors of the report, gleaning through state-of-art science research have concluded that, “Observed climate change is already affecting the four pillars of food security – availability, access, utilization, and stability – through increased temperatures, changing precipitation patterns, and greater frequency of some extreme events.”

Continuing climate change is expected to further “create additional stresses on land systems exacerbating risks related to desertification, land degradation and food security,” the report says.

In a significant finding for countries such as India, the authors say, at global warming of 2° Celsius, the population of drylands exposed and vulnerable to water stress, increased drought intensity and habitat degradation could be as high as 522 million. Scientists conclude that at current levels of greenhouse gas emission reductions committed by the countries under Paris Agreement there is a good likelihood for the planet to breach the 2° Celsius temperature rise barrier.

“In drylands, desertification and climate change are projected to cause further reduction in crop and livestock productivity, modify the composition of plant species and reduce biological diversity,” research endorsed by the scientific panel shows.

Half of the vulnerable population due to the climate-change induced aridity would be in South Asia. The degradation of land due to climate change is already leading to consequent shaving off of the global economy, the scientific panel notes. “There are increasingly negative effects on GDP from impacts on land-based values and ecosystem service as temperature increases,” the report says. But, it notes that, at the regional level, the impacts would vary. “Compound extreme events, such as a heat wave within a drought or drought followed by extreme rainfall, will decrease gross primary productivity of lands, the authors warn

The impact on agriculture in higher latitudes is recorded to be different than in lower ones, such as one covering India. “Increasing temperature are affecting agricultural productivity in higher latitudes, raising yields of some crops such as maize, cotton, wheat, sugar beets, while in lower-latitude regions yields of crops such as maize, wheat and barley are declining.

Modelling results, that the scientific panel reviewed, show that cereal prices could rise by up to 29 per cent in 2050 due to climate change, which would impact consumers globally through higher food prices, though the impact would vary by regions. The stability of food supply is expected to decrease as the magnitude and frequency of extreme events caused by climate change increases, disrupting food chains globally.

The increase in global temperatures and consequent climate change is already affecting the productivity of livestock, which is one a main-stay of Indian rural economy. The authors conclude, “Observed impacts in pastoral systems include pasture declines, lower animal growth rates and productivity, damaged reproductive functions, increased pests and diseases, and loss of biodiversity.”

At the same time coastal economies are already suffering an impact as well. “Coastal erosion is affecting new regions as a result of interacting human drivers and climate change such as sea-level rise and impacts of changing cyclone paths,” though the scientists hold a low level confidence in the scientific research that concludes the impact of climate change on cyclone paths.

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