Day of the Mediterranean, voyage . . .

Day of the Mediterranean, voyage . . .


Day of the Mediterranean, voyage through senses unites people

UfM’s music and social media for 28 November celebration



18 November 2022

NAPLES – The Day of the Mediterranean, launched in 2020, will be held again on 28 November 2022. The day is a way to recognize the importance of Mediterranean culture and cooperation and to embrace the rich diversity present in the region. The Union for the Mediterranean (UfM) highlights these aspects while launching various events and initiatives focused on music which will take place across the region. Starting from Spain, with a concert of the Arabic Orchestra of Barcelona and of the singer Judit Neddermann, on 26 November. The concert is organized by the European Institute for the Mediterranean and by the UfM secretariat in collaboration with local authorities. While the Anna Lindh Foundation (ALF) is coordinating civil society organizations across 25 Euro-Mediterranean countries, with 36 different free musical shows at community level, which will take place simultaneously on 28 November.

The Day of the Mediterranean will also provide new drive to build a common identity in the region, from European countries to those of the MENA region. The UfM launched an on-line campaign called “The Mediterranean, a voyage through the senses”, inviting all citizens to think about their common origins and what unites us as a Mediterranean population by filming a short video, sharing a picture or publishing a post in which one of our sense is most stimulated by the idea of the Mediterranean. The Day will also provide the opportunity to present themes of public interest, mobilize political will and resources to face the region’s problems, by remembering the creation of the Barcelona Process on 28 November, 1995.

Therefore the Day of the Mediterranean is a precious reminder of this commitment, to continue to work on this process despite the challenges. Among the initiatives, the ALF secretariat is organizing a special celebration at its headquarters. Among these celebrations there will be a multicultural musical exhibition and the projection of the logo on the building of the von Gerber home, which is located on the seafront in Alexandria, Egypt. The Mediterranean Day was launched in 2020 by 42 Member States of the UfM who declared 28 November the yearly celebratory date.

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Protecting Human Rights the Euro-Med Monitor Way

Protecting Human Rights the Euro-Med Monitor Way

Protecting Human Rights in the Euro-Med Monitor Way as proposed by Richard Falk, should not come as a surprise.  The Mediterranean Sea today is a vital corridor for the world.  It has been so for time immemorial.

The above image is of Encyclopedia Britannica


Protecting Human Rights the Euro-Med Monitor Way


Photograph Source: Lorenzo Tlacaelel – CC BY 2.0

Not as widely known as it deserves to be given its accomplishments and creative approach, is a small human rights civil society organization called Euro-Med Human Monitor (EMM). It was inspired 11 years ago by the oppressive conditions existing in Gaza, and founded by a group of activists led by Ramy Abdu, then a resident of Gaza while still a doctoral student at the University of Manchester.

From the beginning EMM’s dedication to the promotion of human rights spread beyond the borders of Occupied Palestine, and EMM now has offices or representatives in 17 countries in the Middle East and North Africa, known as the MENA region and Europe, it is becoming a truly international organization with headquarters in Geneva, supported by volunteers and representatives spread throughout the world. In its short lifetime EMM has developed a strong reputation for political independence, staff dedication, effectiveness and efficiency, and most of all for its distinctive way of operating.

To begin withl, EMM is youth-oriented and much of its work is done by volunteers who learn by doing and working as teams with more experienced defenders of human rights. By adopting this mode of work, EMM has avoided diversions of its energies by major fundraising efforts, preferring to move forward with a small budget offset by big ideas, an impressive record of performance, continually motivated by outrage resulting from the widespread wrongdoing of governments throughout MENA. The initial idea of Euro-Med Monitor was inspired by popular rebellions against tyranny and oppression. This spirit of resistance swept through the Arab region in 2011 and continues to make its influence felt everywhere. Euro-Med Monitor strives to support these movements by planting seeds for international mobilization and stimulating international organizations and decision-makers to focus on violations of the people’s right to expression, freedom, and self-determination.

Perhaps, one the most innovative features of EMM is its stress on empowering victims of abuse to tell their stories to the world in their own voices. A recent example was the testimony at the Human Rights Council in Geneva of Suhaila al-Masri, the grandmother of Fatima al-Masri, who told the heart-rending story of how her 20 month old granddaughter died of suffocation because her exit permit from Gaza to receive emergency treatment was delayed without reason. EMM prides itself by working with victims to recover their sense of worth in a variety of struggles against the abuses they endured in the hope of avoiding similar suffering by others. In this innovative sense the empowerment of victims is complemented by establishing sites for training young human rights defenders to go on to have a variety of societal roles as they older.

Another example of this empowerment ethos practiced by EMM involves a 22-yearr old Palestinian woman, Zainab al-Quolaq, who lost 22 members of her family in an air attack that destroyed her home in Gaza a few year ago.  Zainab herself miraculously survived despite being buried in rubble from the attack for 20 hours. EMM encouraged Zainab to write her story, but writing did not come easily to her, but it was discovered that she was a natural artist. Not only could she draw but she could depict a range of emotions, especially of torment and loss, that derived from her tragic encounter with the mass death of her family members. In what was a dramatic success story, Zainab al-Quolaq, began serious study of painting, going on to become an acclaimed artist, even holding gallery exhibitions of her work in her native Gaza, but also in Geneva, even in the United States, evoking media enthusiasm. Zainab also spoke before the Human rights Council on behalf of Euro-Med Monitor in March. EMM and UN Women helped her release her first booklet containing 9 of her paintings describing her feelings during and in the aftermath of the attack. After she was isolating herself for months following the traumatizing attack, Zainab is now more open and has begun a Master’s degree in business administration.

At this time, EMM feels its special identity is solidified by having 70% of its active staff either drawn from youth or from the ranks of those victimized by human rights abuses. The organization reaches out beyond victims of war and torture to more subtle forms of encroachment on human dignity such as prolonged refugee status or mistreatment of women. An instructive example is the encouragement of the formation of a Gaza initiative with the assertive name, We Are Not Numbers, suggesting human rights is about self-preservation of human identity under circumstances of pervasive oppression of which Gaza is the most vivid instance, but by no means the only site of such struggles within the MENA region.

It would be a mistake to suppose that EMM, despite its origins, was only concerned with the Palestinian agenda. A look at its Website or Twitter account would quickly dispel such an idea as would a glance at the titles of recent EMM reports or appearances before the Human Rights Council. Among the topic covered in recent reports are the targeting of journalists in Sudan, disguised and punitive racism toward MENA asylum seekers and immigrants from MENA, human displacement in Yemen, interferences with the freedom and safety of journalists in various countries within their scope of concern. EMM uses a network of 300 writers to tell the stories of those who have been abused when the victims themselves are not available. The overall EMM undertaking seeks to convey the issues of concern in different countries by employing what Ramy Abdu calls ‘the real discourse of the people.’

With its headquarters in Geneva, EMM is particularly active in the formal proceedings and side events associated with the Human Rights Council. It has mounted actions and testimony on such matters as opposition to EU surveillance of asylum seekers in Europe, arms exports to Yemen, and the rescue of persons who have been coercively disappeared in Yemen and Syria.

In my judgment, EMM is creating a new and exciting model for how to combine civil society activism with effective efforts to improve the overall protection of human rights. It is a young organization, but one with incredible promise, having already compiled a record to admire and emulate.

For contact ; for website 

Richard Falk is Albert G. Milbank Professor Emeritus of International Law at Princeton University, Chair of Global law, Queen Mary University London, and Research Associate, Orfalea Center of Global Studies, UCSB.



Tunisia Is Using U.S. Funds to Broaden Its Tourism

Tunisia Is Using U.S. Funds to Broaden Its Tourism

Recently, Tunisia was found to be using U.S. Funds to broaden its Tourism attractiveness. Having gone through ups and downs, it is a matter of how Tunisia is using those U.S. Funds to broaden its Tourism branding.

So, how is Tunisia using U.S. Funds to Broaden Its Tourism? Let us see.

Tunisia recorded two million tourists in 2020, ranking 66th in the world. It generated around $1.01 billion in its tourism sector, corresponding to 2.1 percent of its gross domestic product and approximately 10 percent of all international tourism receipts in Northern Africa.  


How Tunisia Is Using U.S. Funds to Broaden Its Tourism Branding

Skift Take

The sustainable planning phase of Tunisia’s destination marketing rebirth — the easy part — is done. Plan implementation is where the real work will begin.

The U.S. government is trying to help Tunisia develop a multifaceted destination brand, one that captures its diverse offerings and incorporates community stakeholders. That journey has come with obstacles from entrenched stakeholders, a historic beach image and developing visitor infrastructure.

In February, the U.S. government injected $50 million into Tunisia’s tourism sector through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) under a five-year project called “Visit Tunisia.”

The project’s aim is to promote the northern African country of 12 million people as a high-quality tourist destination with diverse offerings, increase the number of tourists year-round, and create new source markets. A key objective is to have the country draw 11.5 million tourist arrivals by 2026.

The USAID, an independent agency of the U.S. federal government, doesn’t typically assist global destinations with tourism marketing. In Tunisia’s case, the agency has been investing in its economic and political development since its 2011 Revolution, which overthrew longtime president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. “This was seen as an opportune time to see what Tunisia’s tourism future could look like,” said Visit Tunisia Destination Marketing Team Leader Mackenzie Mackenzie.

Tunisia’s brand has traditionally been a beach destination. “Tunisia has a strong tourism legacy from years of being promoted, especially in the European markets, as a sun and sand destination,” said Mackenzie.

The Tunisian National Tourism Office has offices around the world that lean on this image, Mackenzie said. Travelers on the “budget end of the market” come to the country for its coastal beaches and resorts during the summer season.

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“Unfortunately the biggest number of people coming to Tunisia are coming for the resorts,” said Overseas Adventure Travel Tunisia Country Manger Chaker Abichou.  He expects that 90 percent of tourists that came to the destination this year are here for Sousse and other popular resort towns located on the country’s north and east coast.

USAID’s aim is to expand the number of flexible, independent and younger travelers already exploring the country. “We are looking at what they’re doing and what they are seeing,” Mackenzie said. These travelers go beyond the beach and take on motorcycle tours, camping in the Sahara, hiking adventures, stay in local guest houses and explore local experiences.

The marketing ambition comes as Tunisia bounces back after a rough 11 years since its revolution. In that period, the tourism sector experienced civil unrest, terrorist attacks and Covid-19. “It’s been a triple whammy for the sector,” Mackenzie said.

In 2015, a mass shooting killed 38 people at the tourist resort of Port El Kantahoui, Tunisia has been under a state of emergency since 2015. The security situation has improved greatly in the last decade, said Abichou. He said tourist feedback on safety has been very positive.

Even so, the U.S., UKFrance and Germany have issued warnings to their citizens to be cautious about travel to the country and to explicitly not travel to certain due to terrorist activities.

Tunisia has the untapped potential to attract the flexible, independent traveler market. The destination is home to famous battle sites, well-preserved Roman and other civilizational ruins, filming locations for popular movies like Star Wars, mountains, Sahara, religious sites, a rich culture and more. Communities just need help to leverage these strengths, MacKenzie said.

USAID has sought out attracting tour operators focused on experiential and adventure travel. It has partnered with the Smithsonian Institution to develop the destination’s cultural heritage. Investments in visitor infrastructure for cultural and archaeological sites like better roads, hiking trails and boardwalks throughout the country are also being planned.

The agency has zeroed in on six communities for more focused destination development. “They typically don’t have a destination marketing organization structure,” said Mackenzie. “We are looking at how we work with destinations and innovate and harness the capacity in those communities. If it won’t be a DMO, what will it be?”

Working with industry and community stakeholders to develop sustainable models has eaten up the first year of the project. “Pretty much the first year has been dedicated to stakeholder engagement,” said Mackenzie.

The agency wants to avoid the common mistake international development agencies make of not developing a plan that outlasts their exit. “Often the experts come in, make a plan, off they go and the plan sits around,” said Mackenzie. With stakeholder input, plans have been drawn up to develop visitor infrastructure and promotional efforts.

USAID’s work in the first year underscores the 2022 Skift Megatrend “Communities Are No Longer Spectators in Travel.”

One group of stakeholders that have proven a challenge to work with is the dominant resort community. Many in the group view the attempt at marketing diversification as “turning away from our bread and butter, resort tourism,” said Chris Seek, CEO of Solimar International, a sustainable tourism consultancy which works with USAID on Visit Tunisia.

Resort stakeholders have a lot of influence and power in the country’s tourism industry, said Overseas Adventure Travel Tunisia’s Abichou.

“We have to constantly try to remind them it’s not about turning away,” added Solimar’s Seek. “It’s about making your destination more competitive because you have things that other beaches don’t offer.”


Read more from Skift’s Tags: beachesgovernmentinternational tourismmiddle easttunisia


Cascading climate risks & options for resilience and adaptation in the MENA

Cascading climate risks & options for resilience and adaptation in the MENA

In the summer of 2022, cascading climate risks and options for resilience and adaptation in the MENA are evident for all to witness. A write-up by deserves to be looked at again, and every word in it is worth this trouble. It is a report on the southern face of the Mediterranean Sea and its northern facade.   

There has been a lot of information on the disruption to Earth’s freshwater cycle exceeding the safe limit in the MENA region, but this ultimately is well rounded as it was reported on all aspects of the environment in the same region today.

Here is a summary.


This report assesses the current situation and future projections of possible and likely biophysical climate impacts in the MENA region, based on a literature review, news articles and CASCADES climate impact data analysis.

Cascading climate risks and options for resilience and adaptation in the Middle East and North Africa

Climate change is a shared challenge for the MENA and European regions

The societies of Europe and the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) are historically, socially and economically intertwined. Climate change presents a shared and urgent challenge. Stretching from Morocco in the west to Syria in the north, Iran in the east and Yemen in the south, the MENA region covered by this report comprises 19 countries and is home to an estimated 472 million people, with a fast-growing young population. Conditions are diverse with some nations registering among the highest national income per capita in the world (e.g. Qatar, Kuwait, UAE) while others are low-income, conflict-affected societies, where human displacement and extreme poverty are rife (e.g. parts of Syria, Iraq, Yemen, the Occupied Palestinian Territories and Libya).

The MENA region is exposed to physical climate impacts that threaten human life and political stability on several fronts. Water and agricultural production are particularly sensitive to the extremes of global warming, given the region’s already arid and semi-arid climates. Sea level rise threatens rapidly expanding urban and industrial coastlines over the next century and most cities are ill-prepared for the ravages of cyclones, sand storms and flooding. Humidity may become the most serious challenge to human life, especially for coastal cities.

The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region covered by this report

Cascading climate risks & options for resilience and adaptation in the MENA

Climate change is already interacting with more immediate threats from armed conflict, environmental degradation, corruption and social and gender inequalities. Such compound conditions have worsened the humanitarian fallout from flooding in war-torn Yemen and facilitated extremist militant recruitment in drought-affected northern Iraq. Across the region, the role of long-term environmental mismanagement in worsening the impacts of climate change is brutally clear.

How communities and governments respond to evolving climatic conditions will affect the severity of effects that cross borders and continents, ‘cascading’ into European societies. As witnessed with forest fires in Lebanon in 2019 and recent water shortages in Iraq, Iran and Algeria, government failure to deal with environmental stress can trigger violent, potentially revolutionary, protests. Figure 1 illustrates variation in the capacity to cope with and adapt to climate threats. While all countries are challenged by their levels of fresh water relative to population and none are ranked as politically ‘sustainable’, some have a larger economic cushion to enable adaptation than others. The countries towards the right of the figure, affected by war and economic crisis, are the most vulnerable.

At the same time, climate change policies and rapidly changing costs of technology will alter oil- and gas-dominated trade relationships with MENA countries. Europe’s demand for petroleum imports is set to decline and new regulations for green growth and alignment with the Paris Agreement goals will affect imports and foreign investment. As Figure 2 shows, most countries would not be able to sustain their current economies for long with oil prices below
$50/barrel. These present both challenges and opportunities for MENA countries and several are pursuing long-term visions for economic diversification, the success of which will depend on new investment and trade relations.

The MENA region already imports more than 50 per cent of its food and will require increasing foreign exchange to meet growing demand. Meanwhile, sensitivity to food price rises due to, for example, droughts in other parts of the world, is high.

Figure 1. MENA country variation in renewable freshwater availability, socio-political stability and spending capacity

Cascading climate risks & options for resilience and adaptation in the MENA

Figure 2. Oil and gas dependence in selected MENA exporter countries

Cascading climate risks & options for resilience and adaptation in the MENA

Climate resilience strategies, green economic diversification and investment in long-term adaptation are critical to achieving sustainable peace and prosperity in the region. The European Union (EU) and European countries can harness existing relationships, investments and capacities to contribute to this effort. These range from the EU’s evolving neighbourhood partnerships, humanitarian assistance and development bank lending to traditional bilateral diplomacy, trade agreements and engagement with UN bodies. The EU is already extending the principles of its Green Deal to partnerships in its Southern Neighbourhood with reinvigorated commitment to green transition and climate resilience through the Agenda for the Mediterranean. With a fast-changing combination of conditions intersecting with climate change, EU institutions and businesses will need to both learn lessons from the past and anticipate new realities on the ground.

The purpose of this report

This report assesses the current situation and future projections of possible and likely biophysical climate impacts in the MENA region, based on a literature review, news articles and CASCADES climate impact data analysis.

The authors adopt a water–food–energy nexus perspective, given that this resonates with environmental interests in the region. However, this concept remains open to new understandings that put a greater emphasis on ecosystems and well-being – for example, air quality, biodiversity and nutrition. Irrigation for crops and agricultural processing, water for energy, energy for potable water as well as oil and gas revenues to pay for food imports are some of the dependencies that climate change is challenging in the region. These are also some critical areas offering opportunities for resilience-building.

Scenarios illustrate ways in which climate impacts in the MENA could compound other stresses and cascade, with effects that cross borders and affect Europe and European interests. Figure 3 shows a generic example of cascading risks. We highlight five subregions: Iraq (with relevance for Iran and Syria), North Africa, the Jordan Valley, the Nile and the Gulf Cooperation Council countries. Sister CASCADES studies on the Euphrates–Tigris Basin and North Africa, which are referred to in this study, provide more insight. The purpose of the scenarios is to enhance understanding of how resilience and adaptive actions might help to mitigate risks and limit the scope of harm that climate impacts could set in motion.

Figure 3. An example of climate-related risks in the MENA that can cascade across borders

Cascading climate risks & options for resilience and adaptation in the MENA

Research benefited greatly from a series of interviews and workshops with regional
experts. There are significant geographical, climatic and political differences between the subregions and within several countries. As such, this can only be a broad-brush introduction to the changes taking place and their interactions with ongoing resource and societal issues. The views and opinions of experts in the region have shaped the report’s discussion of vulnerability and resilience factors, the scenarios for the future and the recommendations.

Key findings

Climate impacts are damaging human security in the MENA, yet resilience to climate change has been low on most public and political agendas. Climate change, particularly in the form of drought, flooding and storms, is already threatening lives and economies. The water and agricultural crises in Iraq are a case in point. Authorities and people in the region have generally not considered climate change and environmental health urgent issues, given more immediate threats of war, poverty, unemployment and human rights abuses. However, this is changing. In Oman, for example, cyclone devastation has spurred greater attention to disaster risk reduction (DRR) preparation for climate change. Civil society, particularly in parts of the Levant and North Africa, is increasingly vocal on environmental issues, often tackling them through a heritage conservation, local economy or social justice lens.

The two upcoming climate summits (COP27 and COP28) to be hosted by Egypt and the UAE, and the Saudi-led Middle East Green Initiative provide platforms for stronger cross-regional coordination and international partnerships.

Over the next 30 years, current water use, agricultural and building practices will become untenable; beyond 2050, liveability in the MENA region will be determined significantly by our global emissions trajectory. Irrespective of mitigation, cumulative emissions mean that the current warming trajectory will continue until at least around mid-century. While there are fewer long-term projections focusing on a 1.5°C scenario, this would suggest a far less damaging prospect for MENA countries than 2°C+, given existing aridity and coastal exposure. The extent of coastal land mass loss through sea level rise in this century will largely be determined by these trends.

Local and regional treatment of the environment is integral to climate risks. In all cases, local human developments and practices such as the density of population, overgrazing and monocropping, urban development on floodplains, damming of rivers, land reclamation and destruction of natural barriers such as mangroves and deforestation affect the vulnerability and severity of impact of climate-related events. At the same time, governance factors such as lack of transboundary water management systems, insufficient rule of law and military occupation affect a society’s ability to take resilience and adaptation measures.

Without effective measures, climate impacts will compound local vulnerabilities and have severe consequences for human lives, livelihoods, economies and security in the region. For example, in the absence of radical changes in water management and food production methods, competition among water users will grow and food security will diminish. While poorer and conflict-affected countries remain the most vulnerable, richer ones also face high risks.
Transition risks will be at least as important as physical climate risks for economies depending on oil and gas export revenues. The sensitivities of failing public services including water provision and electricity, combined with higher food prices and declining ability to pay for imports, could lead to political instability (as shown in Figure 3).

Cascading risk scenarios show how climate impacts in the MENA could affect EU interests, including the prospects for peace, development and business investments, expatriate workers, migration flows, human rights and the demand for international humanitarian aid. They also suggest how things might play out differently depending on national, regional and international factors, which will determine the ability to cope with and adapt to climate stresses. Three broad medium-term meta scenarios – stagnation, fragmentation and cooperation – suggest different outcomes (see Figure 4). The actions of major powers, including the EU, will strongly influence how these factors evolve. More concerted, thoughtful diplomacy is essential to reduce conflict and to address shared environmental issues.

Figure 4. Meta scenarios for 2025–2035 which would affect countries’ ability to respond and adapt to climate change

Cascading climate risks & options for resilience and adaptation in the MENA


In early 2022, the Sixth Assessment Report (AR6) of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) made clear that the window of opportunity for climate resilient development is closing and will require transformative adaptation measures. This report identifies urgent priorities for the MENA region in the areas of improving water management, regeneration of landscapes and infrastructure resilience. National stakeholders and their international partners cannot address these effectively without acting within the wider political and economic context to strengthen sustainable peace and good governance.

Firstly, climate resilience and adaptation projects must include co-benefits that meet immediate country needs and align with national aspirations.

Secondly, given the transboundary nature of many of the risks we discuss above, planners should consider how measures might promote greater cooperation. This could be through knowledge sharing and technical exchanges, infrastructure that benefits more than one country, cross-border community land restoration and joint early warning systems and DRR cooperation.

Thirdly, deepening engagement with local cultural and religious understandings will be important in fostering stronger, long-term public awareness and more equal partnerships for environmental resilience.

Exploring future scenarios can improve understanding of how climate impacts might interact with societal dynamics, and suggest how investments might foster better conditions for long-term adaptation. For example, a particular challenge noted by regional experts was the lack of enablement at municipal, civil society and micro- to-medium-sized enterprise levels. The immense human capacity of the region, fully inclusive of women and youth, will be essential to address climate and environmental challenges nimbly, and with greater co-benefits for societal well-being.

The report makes six recommendations for EU approaches in the region. The EU should:

  1. Take advantage of its role as a major trading partner of the region to push for regional peace and cooperation through alignment with its European Green Deal. The EU’s Agenda for the Mediterranean (AfM) , launched in 2021, aims to do just this. As cooperation and investment packages develop, careful thought should be given to creating policy coherence across the five key policy areas, and with member states.¹
  2. Provide climate change modelling tools to support national and local scenario building and assist with monitoring and early warning systems for climate-related hazards. Emerging and existing programmes such as Copernicus² and I-CISK³ could be usefully extended or deployed through partnerships to improve local knowledge production.
  3. Explore ways in which remedial and post-conflict rehabilitation work can help address humanitarian needs while fostering long-term environmental resilience. This could include assessing and supporting local action to remediate conflict-affected environments and encourage green infrastructure.
  4. Build climate resilience in cities and subnational areas of the MENA region by developing technical skills to address climate-related issues and manage the water–energy–food nexus. This would build on the ‘human-centred’ approach of the AfM, targeting solutions-oriented capacity building at the municipal and community levels.
  5. Pay close attention to the effectiveness of mechanisms to scale up sustainable finance and disburse funds, taking into account the respective capabilities of centralized bureaucracies versus local agencies and other actors in the area concerned. Greater inclusion of civil society, women, youth and vulnerable groups in consultation and decision- making can help improve accountability.
  6. Use financial instruments for climate resilience and adaptation to empower local actors and build better national to subnational linkages. EU partnerships could, for example, help to scale up projects initiated by civil society organizations that have proven successful by linking them up with the relevant government authorities and making follow-up funding conditional on co-created plans for implementation.


  1. These are: 1) Human development, good governance and the rule of law; 2) Strengthen resilience, build prosperity and seize the digital transition; 3) Peace and security; 4) Migration and mobility; and 5) Green transition: climate resilience, energy, and environment.
  2. Copernicus is the European Union’s Earth Observation Programme.
  3. Innovating Climate services through Integrating Scientific and local Knowledge (I-CISK) is an EU-funded project running from 2021 to 2025.



Cascading Climate Effects in the Middle East and North Africa

Cascading Climate Effects in the Middle East and North Africa

Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in the nowadays prevailing cascading Climate Effects in the Middle East and North Africa recommends amongst other measures, adapting through Inclusive Governance as a must.

Cascading Climate Effects in the Middle East and North Africa: Adapting Through Inclusive Governance


24 February 2022

Summary:  Climate change is affecting the Middle East in far-reaching ways. To better prepare their societies to withstand its shocks, policymakers need to depart from top-down paradigms and involve a broader swath of their citizenry in climate adaptation.

Long downplayed or ignored by elites and governments in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), climate change will affect the region in dire and far-reaching ways, amplifying long-standing problems of governance and sharpening socioeconomic inequalities while also creating new disruptions. For countries already grappling with the fallout from the pandemic, civil wars and conflict-induced displacement, population growth, and a long-term decline in global demand for the oil upon which many MENA economies rely, the cascading effects of climate change add to a daunting array of challenges.

Water scarcity has been the most headline-grabbing effect of climate change in the MENA area: the region has been consistently described by experts as “the world’s most water-stressed.” Rising temperatures and their pernicious effects on health and productivity, desertification, population movements (both within the region and from elsewhere), and food insecurity are other climate effects projected to impact MENA inhabitants, especially those in rural areas and urban peripheries, migrants and refugees, informal sector workers, and other vulnerable communities. 

The likelihood of new violent conflict directly triggered or aggravated by climate change in the MENA region is an oft-cited and oft-sensationalized effect. Yet the reality is more complex than the dark prognostications of some so-called climate determinists. In cases of previous wars and political unrest in the MENA region, most scholars find that climate change is at most one variable among a multitude of more directly contributing factors, including endemic corruption, authoritarianism, economic exclusion, demographic pressures, and other governance maladies.

Given the pressing risks of climate effects in the region, a number of MENA governments have made pledges to mitigate global warming through a transition to renewable energy and green technologies, and some have already taken steps in that direction. But there is much more that they can do at home. Most critically, policymakers in the MENA region need to bolster the ability of their societies to withstand and adapt to climatic stresses through greater political and economic inclusion and by prioritizing policies that protect the most vulnerable sectors of their citizenry.


Worryingly, the MENA region is projected to be among the first in the world to “effectively run out of water,” as water resources are being used faster than they’re being replenished by precipitation. Climate change adds to the existing pressures on water demand placed by an expanding population, and will likely continue to diminish water availability, both total and per capita, to critically low amounts in an already water-scarce region. This is especially true in countries like Iraq where the irrigated agricultural sector is significant. This, combined with poor governance, has led to countries overdrawing water from rivers and aquifers and thus degrading already scarce water resource bases.

The Mediterranean is an especially at-risk region. Dubbed a major “climate change hot spot” in several modeling predictions, the region has experienced consistent drying in the last twenty years, largely due to anthropogenic (human-made) greenhouse gases. The Levant in particular is projected to be one of the areas in the MENA region most affected by droughts and reduced precipitation; rainfall in Jordan, for example, is forecasted to decrease by 30 percent by the end of the current century.

Some models predict that climate change and decreased precipitation will reduce internal renewable water, which refers to rivers and aquifers replenished by precipitation, in the MENA region by around 4 percent by 2050. Between 80 and 90 million of the region’s inhabitants are set to suffer from some form of water stress by 2025; protests over water shortages have already occurred in Iran. The growing need for water resources is spurring governments to pursue expensive desalinization projects or to shift much-needed water resources away from agriculture, both of which could worsen existing economic inequalities and widen the urban-rural gap. For example, privileged citizens in Middle Eastern cities are already prioritized for water procurement and reallocation initiatives, with poorer and more marginalized citizens often paying for water from private providers at inflated rates.

Water scarcity has also been weaponized in times of war in the Middle East by armed actors. In Libya, for example, local militias have used water infrastructure, especially the Great Man-Made River, as a source of leverage against rivals or the central government. In the capital of Tripoli, residents were forced to dig through paved concrete for water after a militia turned off the flow to pressure a rival militia into releasing an imprisoned leader. Climate change effects could make these sub-state conflict dynamics more acute.

The MENA region is also one of the most vulnerable regions to rising sea levels caused by climate change; according to some studies, the mean global sea level is set to rise 30–122 centimeters (1 to 4 feet) by the end of the century. The consequences are manifold. When sea levels rise, seawater can intrude into coastal aquifers and wells, thus salinizing the water there and devastating littoral agricultural communities. The inundation of coastal areas could also make some waterfront cities and towns in the MENA region uninhabitable, adding to economic and migration-related stresses on already beleaguered governments. Here, the countries of North Africa are especially at risk, in terms of total population threatened by sea level rise; the cities of Algiers, Benghazi, and Alexandria in particular will be exposed to even modest increases in sea level by 2050.


Even if global warming is limited to a 2°C increase, the MENA region is set to experience temperatures well beyond this projection. Indeed, much of the region will experience global warming at a more severe rate because of the desert warming amplification phenomenon, in which drying soil prevents natural cooling effects and creates a feedback loop that further intensifies heat. Temperatures are set to rise in the region by at least 4°C by 2050—that is, if greenhouse gases continue to increase at the current rate—and heat waves are set to be experienced ten times more frequently by the same year. Future temperatures in the region are projected to exceed a threshold for human adaptability, leading to higher mortality rates for children and the elderly.

Similar to other climate change phenomena, moreover, global warming and its felt impact continue to increase socioeconomic inequalities and further endanger marginalized groups across the region. In Kuwait, for example, wealthy citizens and residents are often able to avoid the effects of rising temperatures through air-conditioning and summer vacations to Europe, while non-Kuwaiti laborers from developing countries work outdoors—making them up to three times more likely to die on extremely hot days.


Rising temperatures and decreasing water resources will accelerate the rate of desertification in the region, even though climate change by itself is not the sole driver for this and other forms of soil degradation and ecological depletion, which have been features of the MENA region since well before the industrial age. In addition to increased water scarcity, climate change will produce increased aridity in parts of the MENA region in the next century, thus shrinking arable lands and disrupting agricultural patterns. Moreover, already dry soil is set to become drier, and desert dust will increasingly accumulate in the atmosphere and create more sandstorms, especially in Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and Syria. In Western Iraq, for example, there was a significant increase in sandstorms, and by extension desertification, in the last two decades.

Desertification poses a range of deleterious effects on air quality, human health, land productivity, and ecosystem dynamics. In response, governments, corporations, and multilateral organizations have undertaken a range of measures in the region, such as reforestation, afforestation, and new agriculture projects, to both curb desertification and reduce carbon levels in the atmosphere. But these actions have elicited skepticism from some scholars who consider them counterproductive and ecologically damaging.


Agriculture is the largest water-consuming sector in the Middle East, so desertification is expected to intensify food insecurity in the region. Half of the land around the Mediterranean, for example, is primarily used for agriculture, consuming 60 to 80 percent of water supply. Production of wheat, an important food staple in the Middle East, is already being negatively impacted by increasing heat waves and droughts—a trend that threatens to apply to other crops and food sources. 

Warmer and drier climates produced by climate change are set to significantly impact agricultural patterns, and by extension, food sources, as lower rainfall and higher temperatures are forecasted to shorten growing periods, decrease crop yields and crop productivity, and adversely influence livestock production through changes in the length of the grazing season and reduced drinking water. Herders in northeastern Syria, for example, lost 80 to 85 percent of their livestock because of recurring droughts between 2005 and 2010. Ultimately, climate change will decrease food production, increase food prices, and aggravate food insecurity, which in turn will lead to an increase in child malnutrition and a drastic reduction in calorie consumption.


Migration is another frequently mentioned effect of climate change and one that is often securitized. Here again it is important to take a nuanced view; migration has long been an adaptive mechanism for populations in the MENA region, both during times of drought and war and seasonally, for laborers, herders, and nomads. The direct impact of climate change on migration will vary depending on the severities and types of climatic events, as well as the resources available to affected populations.

As climate change causes droughts to become more common, severe, and sustained, in-migration within rural areas and especially to cities will likely increase and could become more permanent. Gender parity will be adversely affected by this mostly male outflow of labor in rural areas; women will be left to shoulder more burdens of local work and the household economy, depriving them of access to education and job training. Aside from this labor dynamic, women are further endangered by migration-inducing climate events and their knock-on effects—women and girls, for example, become more vulnerable to human trafficking and exploitation in the immediate aftermath of a flood, drought, or famine as their local safety nets are uprooted and they are forced to live in insecure conditions. Rising sea levels and declining water availability will also affect the livelihoods of coastal dwellers who are involved in agriculture and the tourism industry; the coastal areas of Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, and the Nile Delta are particularly at risk. On top of this, migration into North Africa, as both a destination and a transit zone, is expected to increase as climate effects are felt in the Sahel and sub-Saharan Africa, exacerbating already acute food insecurity

The towns and cities in the MENA region that have historically been zones of refuge for past waves of conflict or seasonal migration may themselves be overwhelmed already by climate stresses on service provision or, in the case of some urban areas along the Mediterranean and Persian Gulf, no longer inhabitable. The resulting competition for resources could have grave consequences for migrants and refugees, aggravating their already poor access to sanitation, health, and housing. Their plight could be further worsened as regimes adopt securitized, scapegoating approaches to migration rather than focusing on governance improvements.


The prospect of violent conflict in the MENA region triggered by climate change remains the subject of much alarmism and debate. Yet the preponderance of studies, drawing from recent wars in the region, shows that “the extent and strength of this relationship remains inconclusive.” Any causal line from climate change to open conflict, they find, can be offset by a number of intervening factors—specifically, a country’s social and governance structures.

The case study of Syria and its post-2011 civil war remains the most frequently contested regarding a climate-conflict nexus. While some studies argued that migration resulting from a climate change-induced drought contributed to civil unrest and the consequent civil war in Syria, they have been critiqued for ignoring already present sociopolitical factors in Syria and for overstating both the contribution of so-called climate migrants to the protests and the scale of the drought itself, as well as its anthropogenic nature. A more rigorous analysis of past conflicts, drawing from Syria but also Yemen and Sudan, frames security and climate change as an interrelationship where conflict increases social and political vulnerabilities, which then raises the likelihood that climate change will worsen a conflict.

Beyond conflicts within countries, some scholars have predicted that climate change could increase the likelihood that transboundary water competition between states in the MENA region could erupt into direct or proxy conflict. The most commonly cited case here is the tension between Egypt and Ethiopia over the Nile River Basin and specifically the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), which the Egyptian government has often argued poses an existential threat to the Egyptian population. Though some analysts point to the dispute pushing both countries toward war, others see it as an opportunity for bilateral cooperation and diplomacy. Moreover, a comprehensive survey noted no recorded instances of recent wars resulting from river disputes. Resource competition can also spur changes in domestic water management: Egypt, for example, has undertaken projects to improve irrigation and wastewater reuse, as well as desalination initiatives, in light of the uncertainties brought about by the GERD. As is the case for other climate effects, then, conflict over water scarcity between states is far from predetermined even as risks are still present from political rivalries and the absence of resource sharing frameworks.


Given the reliance of many MENA countries on extractive fossil fuel wealth, whether they are directly producing and exporting it themselves or receiving it as financial aid or remittances from partners, the region’s long-standing economic model has contributed to climate change by expanding the global carbon footprintOver the decades, it has also been used by the region’s elites to entrench authoritarianism, sustain bloated public sectors, and perpetuate deep inequalities among citizens and between regions, all of which, when combined with geography and environmental fragility, have left the MENA region especially vulnerable to the effects of climate change.

Home to the world’s leading petroleum exporters, including Bahrain, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Qatar, the Middle East represents about 31.3 percent of global oil production. Saudi Arabia’s state-owned oil company Aramco is responsible for the most greenhouse gas release of any company in the world. Additionally, many societies across the region are heavily dependent on fossil fuel consumption, particularly for transport and electricity, which in turn further increases the region’s contributions to global greenhouse gas emissions. For example, the MENA region accounted for 9.4 percent of global oil consumption in 2021 while comprising little over 6 percent of the global population. This is partly due to extensive subsidization by governments in Gulf countries: the MENA region has the highest share of pre-tax energy subsidies globally. High consumption also stems from carbon-intensive, deteriorating, or deprioritized infrastructure, such as public transportation, in other MENA countries. Further, the region contains some of the world’s largest per capita carbon dioxide emitters, with Qatar leading.

A number of major oil producers in the Gulf have pledged to meet climate targets: Saudi Arabia, for example, said it would aim for net-zero emissions by 2060, although this excludes emissions from exports. In tandem, Riyadh has introduced reforms on energy subsidies—historically a pillar of autocratic rentier states—mostly driven by economic considerations but also linked to multilateral climate commitments. The UAE, for its part, is targeting net-zero emissions by 2050. Others have indicated tentative moves toward future emissions reduction: in January 2022, Kuwait’s cabinet directed a review of ways to lower the country’s production of greenhouse gases, following an earlier pledge to trim emissions by a modest 7.4 percent by 2035. Still other states beyond the Gulf have garnered praise for innovative climate actions—Morocco, for example, has become a leader on solar energy. Egypt, meanwhile, is slated to host the next United Nations Climate Change Conference, COP27, in November 2022, while the UAE will convene COP28 in 2023.

Despite these projects, pledges, and fora, it remains to be seen whether policymakers in the MENA region, as well as those across the globe, will mobilize on climate change in a manner substantial enough to forestall its most severe effects. Faced with these looming risks, elites in the region will need to prioritize policies that will help insulate vulnerable segments of their population from climate shocks, including migrants and refugees; lower-income citizens, especially women; workers in the informal and tourism sectors; and the inhabitants of both rural interior and coastal regions.

Ultimately, though, regimes in the MENA region must integrate progress toward renewable energy, green technologies, regulatory improvements, and other mitigation actions into a more inclusive process of political and socioeconomic reform that will better position their societies to withstand the interlinked and systemic impacts of climate change. For such a holistic approach to succeed, it must depart from current top-down paradigms to involve a broader swath of citizenry and local institutions—an unfettered civil society, including women-led initiatives; empowered municipal governments; and an open media, to name but a few—on climate adaptation and on governance more broadly.

Frederic Wehrey is a senior fellow in the Middle East Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, where his research focuses on governance, conflict, and security in Libya, North Africa, and the Persian Gulf.

Ninar Fawal is a James C. Gaither Junior Fellow in the Carnegie Middle East Program.

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