Efforts to curb carbon emissions are falling short. As climate change impacts become all too clear, geoengineering is again in the spotlight. Some see it as a last-resort option to fight climate change. Detractors highlight the risks and uncertainties. Will governments end up ‘tinkering with Earth’s thermostat’?
In the summer of 2018, a succession of heatwaves struck the EU. Record-breaking temperatures were reported, and wildfires ravaged the continent. Sweden suffered the worst forest fires in modern history. In Greece, blazes swept through Attica and left 102 dead. For many citizens, wildfires threw the reality of climate change into sharp relief.
Under the Paris Agreement, nearly 200 countries pledged to keep global warming well below 2°C. But progress in curbing carbon emissions is not on track. If the current trend is not reversed, extreme weather events like the 2018 heatwave will become more and more frequent.
Geoengineering refers to large-scale interventions in the global climate system, intended to counteract climate change. In 2008, the UN Convention on Biological Diversity called for a moratorium on geoengineering ‘until there is an adequate scientific basis on which to justify such activities’. Only a decade later, scientists and policy-makers are again looking for last-ditch solutions to buy some extra time. Geoengineering is again in the spotlight.
Potential impacts and developments
Geoengineering includes a number of techniques of varying complexity, risk, and cost. In policy-making, the debate revolves almost entirely around ‘solar geoengineering‘. This describes a set of methods aimed at cooling the planet by reflecting a portion of solar energy back into space, or increasing the amount of solar radiation that escapes the Earth.
Cirrus clouds are known to have a warming effect on Earth. Seeding the atmosphere with innocuous Sahara dust would prevent the formation of cirrus clouds, and reduce global temperatures. Stratospheric aerosol injection entails creating an artificial sunshade by injecting reflective particles in the stratosphere. Its working principle is based in nature. The eruption of Mount Pinatubo in 1991 pumped around 15 million tons of sulphur dioxide into the stratosphere; in the two years that followed, global temperatures decreased by about 1°C.
But there is no simple solution. For a start, solar geoengineering does not target the root of the problem; it only mitigates its effects. Solar geoengineering has never been tried before. If done incorrectly, it could cause even more global warming; and there could be other unintended consequences. The real challenge, however, may not be technological but rather one of governance. Climate politics is slow and complex; agreeing on using untested technology on a planetary scale could prove impossible. Who decides to use solar geoengineering? Who benefits from it? Who is affected?
Solar geoengineering is a geopolitical issue. The atmosphere has no borders, and the actions of some countries could affect the climate of others. To make matters worse, the science is not always conclusive. Some climate models suggest that almost every region in the world would benefit from solar geoengineering. Other scientists claim that since heat-trapping gases would still operate, temperatures would be more evenly distributed. This would reduce precipitation. Such a geoengineered world would be cooler, but also drier.
Many stakeholders see a moral hazard in solar geoengineering. All efforts are now focused on reducing emissions. With new tools in their climatic toolbox, governments could become complacent. Scientists insist that geoengineering is a supplement and not a substitute for mitigation. For example, solar geoengineering will not solve ocean acidification, and its impact on the water cycle is uncertain. Eventually, part or all the carbon released into the atmosphere will need to be recaptured, regardless of whether geoengineering is used or not.
To some citizens, meddling with the climate may sound like playing god. But across the world, about 40 % of the population live within 100 kilometres of the coast. Rising sea levels will threaten these coastal communities. Many regions will see more intense and frequent summer droughts, extreme weather events, and heavy rainfall. This could strain the fragile agricultural systems in the global South, sparking an exodus of climate refugees. As the consequences of climate change accumulate, the public’s opinion on solar geoengineering could shift rapidly.
Perceptions could be as important as the science. In 1962, the US started a programme to weaken hurricanes through seeding. In 1963, Hurricane Flora caused thousands of deaths in Cuba. The Cuban government accused the US of waging weather warfare. Similarly, any country suffering from extreme weather could blame geoengineers. In addition, geoengineering would be deployed progressively. Its effects would be initially difficult to decouple from natural fluctuations and climate change. Detractors would be quick to discard it as a failed idea.
There is a bigger problem, however. Once started, solar geoengineering cannot be stopped. Assuming that carbon emissions continued, the artificial sunshade would mask increasing amounts of extra warming. If geoengineering ceased abruptly – due to sabotage, technical, or political reasons – temperatures would shoot up rapidly. This termination shock would be catastrophic for humans and ecosystems.
Solar geoengineering should only be considered as a last-resort solution. There is ample consensus that cutting emissions is the safest, most economical route to tackling climate change. The world needs a climate champion to accelerate these efforts, and the EU could lead the way.
Ultimately, the debate surrounding solar geoengineering could come down to balancing the risks and benefits. Solar geoengineering is not without risks. However, failing to mitigate climate change will also bring major new risks, disrupt ecosystems across the world, and hit the most vulnerable regions particularly hard.
Ironically, one reason that solar geoengineering may become necessary is the slow pace of international climate negotiations. Yet discussions on geoengineering are following the same path. Should solar geoengineering become necessary, governments need to be ready. The EU could help advance preparedness in this area; for example, by throwing its diplomatic weight behind multilateral initiatives moving in this direction.
The EU and its partners could promote an international governance framework for solar geoengineering. However, all parties must be on board. There are real risks that some of the countries worst affected by climate change could act unilaterally. Even if well-intentioned, this could create geopolitical tension. An international regulation system would ensure that no country ‘goes rogue’, and that geoengineering is not done for some at the expense of others.
The EU could also support research on solar geoengineering. Studies and trials may have been hampered by fears of promoting a quick ‘technofix’. But if geoengineering became necessary to avert disaster, its full effects must be known. Current techniques are criticised for posing a risk to biodiversity, precipitation patterns, and the ozone layer. A better understanding of these problems is the first step towards tackling them. Research could also help governance. For example, counter-geoengineering tools could serve as a deterrent against unilateral action.
As the world struggles with COVID-19, the challenges of climate change and wider environmental problems loom large. It is clear that the economic response to the impact of COVID-19 must benefit the environment while plans to address climate change and environmental issues must benefit the economy and society. The only way these twin imperatives can be met is through a green revolution that transcends our economy and society.
This was our task when we both chaired the first Intelligent Planning Consultative Forum that was established by Environment Minister Aaron Farrugia. The aim of the forum was to bring together all stakeholders involved in the planning and construction sectors to start coming up with ways in which we can transform and transition planning and construction which is smart, green and sustainable.
The result of this forum and the discussions we led is the green policy document on green walls and roofs together with the recently-launched scheme by the government to incentivise such improvements.
This incentive scheme should be seen as the first step towards having greener and more sustainable buildings. The benefits of such interventions are major given that they result in low energy consumption and decreased carbon emissions while mitigating the effects of roof flooding. This happens as the green infrastructure, walls or roofs, acts as a protective layer for buildings, absorbing heat and excess water.
Additionally, the utilisation of local fauna in such projects would create various pollination havens across the island, helping to restore natural biodiversity – a key aim of the EU’s 2030 biodiversity strategy. The utilisation of Maltese fauna could have the additional benefit of requiring minimal maintenance and reduce the consumption of water.
Such initiatives also have macro effects including the creation of additional value-adding activities and green jobs. Together with other initiatives and incentives, the demand for such products could even help kickstart a whole new industry focused on green construction.One of Malta’s biggest opportunities in the Green Deal is greening the construction sector
In fact, one of Malta’s biggest opportunities in the Green Deal is greening the construction sector which remains a significant contributor to economic growth. The EU recently launched the New European Bauhaus and, in a statement, European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said that “the New European Bauhaus is about how we live better together after the pandemic while respecting the planet and protecting our environment. It is about empowering those who have the solutions to the climate crisis, matching sustainability with style”.
This is something we believe can truly support the country in its next phase of design, planning and construction. Malta and Europe have a number of common challenges. Whereas the original Bauhaus was focused on new designs, the biggest challenge we face is of renovation, regeneration and retrofitting.
We are surrounded by buildings and infrastructures, home to both embodied carbon and embedded histories. A design and architecture for this problem requires a quite different sensibility. It implies a refining in place, understanding repair and retrofit cultures and developing new logics predicated on care and maintenance.
These approaches, in line with the EU Recovery Strategy, necessitate new ways of unleashing the societal value latent in people and place. Producing anew in this way is far more challenging than simply making new things –although new things will emerge.
Malta has a unique potential in this and, if leveraged properly, we can truly kick-start a green revolution in our planning and building industries. We are confident that the new phase of the Intelligent Planning Consultative Forum will look into this and, together with the environment minister, a new era of Malta’s planning and construction industry can commence, one that is smart, green and sustainable.
The green wall and roof initiative and support scheme is a step in the right direction.
Cyrus Engerer is a Labour MEP and Stephanie Fabri is an economist and a lecturer at the University of Malta.
It is bound to reforms of diversifying its economy and modernising its business environment.
A visit of Johannes Hahn, Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations in Alger, Algeria today and tomorrow is notably to reiterate the EU support to the country in differentiating its economy. This is in a way to acknowledge that Algeria to fully play a major role in the region, it is bound to reform.
So as per the European Commission, ahead of the mission, Commissioner Hahn said: “The European Union will continue to support Algeria in its efforts to diversify its economy and modernise its business environment. The EU-Algeria Partnership Priorities adopted earlier this year put a strong emphasis on economic matters. It is now time to translate these priorities into concrete actions and reforms“.
Taking up the ideas made at my Conference at the European Parliament on “the Maghreb facing geostrategic challenges” and after some concern about Algeria breaking off the agreement with the European Union, Algerian officials were clear. These have reiterated that there is no question of that happening but it is rather negotiating for a win-win partnership.
Cooperation for shared prosperity
At different visits both in Algiers and in Brussels, the Algerian and European parties reaffirmed the common determination to enhance relations proclaimed ambitions. The will would be to “densify” this cooperation, according to the Algerian Minister of Foreign Affairs, for whom “assessment called for by the Algeria does not call into question the agreement, but try to fully use it in a more positive interpretation sense of its provisions allowing a re-balancing of the cooperation links.
As per the European Union side’s ‘constructive’ discussions, I received an official invitation from the EU’s Ambassador of the European Union to Algiers to join in as an independent international expert for a working dinner on the occasion of the 3 day visit (July 19 through 21, 2017) of the European Commissioner in charge of the European neighbourhood policy and the enlargement negotiations, Johannes HAHN.
Thankful but sadly unable to honour this invitation for personal reasons, I nonetheless received from friends in Brussels a copy of the EU proposals to the Algerian Government. The terms of the Association Agreement stipulate that “the will to intensify political dialogue of high level, in a context of revitalisation of relations of cooperation, through the joint assessment of the implementation of the association agreement and the definition of the priorities of the partnership, adopted during last March 13 Association Council on the revised European neighbourhood policy.”
My view has as always been that Algeria and the EU have for objective to consider ways and means of implementing all conclusions of the joint assessment of the agreement including diversification of the Algerian economy and promotion of exports of nonhydrocarbon and productive investments.
According to the EU side, promising bilateral relationship in the field of energy, in business and trade activity, has an unexplored, even if potentially encumbered by red tape and persistent political decisions. However, the situation in the country remains dependent on the evolution of the oil markets and oil exports related revenues, recalling that energy cooperation, based on a specific Protocol, would be at the center of the cooperation with the EU.
It is as such, that the Council of Ministers as of October 6, 2015 considered necessary to reassess both economic and commercial aspects of the Association Agreement with the EU that have not achieved the expected objectives of the European investment in Algeria.
While article 54 of the Agreement for the promotion and protection of investments stipulates that cooperation is the creation of a favourable climate to investment flows and is realized through the establishment of harmonized and simplified procedures of the mechanisms of co-investment (especially between small and medium-sized enterprises) as well as devices for identification and information on investment opportunities favourable to investment flows and establishing a legal framework promoting investment, its protection, avoid double taxation and promote technical assistance actions of promotion and guarantee of domestic and foreign investment.
Algéria with Europe Trade
The official 2016 exports balance sheet show a decline to $28.88 billion in 2016 against $34,66 billion in 2015, or a fall of 16.7 percent. Non-oil, marginal exports fell to $2.063 billion in 2016 against $2.582 billion in 2015 (-20,1%); over 50% of these being made up of derivatives of hydrocarbons.
As far as imports are concerned, these also declined but at a lower rate to $46.72 billion in 2016 against $51.7 billion in 2015, down 9.62% giving a trade balance deficit of about $18 billion before adding all services and legal transfers of capital.
Trade recorded during the first quarter of 2017, $15.42 billion in total imports and $11.92 billion in exports, an increase of 36.94% compared to the same period in 2016.
From geographical distribution point of view, the members of the EU are the major trading partners of Algeria that imports for 49.21% of its products and exports 68.28% mainly hydrocarbons.
In 2016, according to the Algerian Customs, China in 2016 was the leading trading partner of Algeria, with a market share of close to 18%. France came second with a share of 10.15%, followed by Italy with 9.93%. Spain and Germany were respectively in the 4th and 5th position in this ranking.
For 2016, Algeria’s customers were Italy with a market share of 16.55% of the exports and Spain coming second followed by the United States and France.
During the first four months of 2017, Italy was the main customer with a share of 18.01% followed by the 12.02% of Spain and France’s 10.89%.
China, which is the main supplier, has shipped 20.47 percent of imports, followed by France with 8.49% and Italy with 7.02%. If China is the big beneficiary of Algerian imports, the deficit in trade between the two countries is huge between 2007 and 2016 while official reviews were always headed towards Europe.
Deepen the reforms
In order for Algeria to negotiate, it implies some change in the prevailing bureaucratic tendencies of the Algerian State that are incongruous today in the 21st century. It is no more the State’s role to invest but rather to play a role of regulator like reconciling economic efficiency with a deep social justice; the economic operators being driven by the logic of profit.
The concerns being certainly legitimate because tariff cuts produced a drop in the short-term depending on sources of between $1.5 and 2 billion a year as a result of the EU’s tariff relief.
The situation of Algeria as mono exporter does not help, so are the majority of the OPEC countries; these are members of the WTO. The great challenge for Algeria would definitely be to accelerate the overall reform so as to allow it pull some comparative advantages of its insertion in the internationally institutionalised division of labour.
To benefit from the positive effects of the agreement with Europe towards a possible WTO membership, there is need to first tidy up the Algerian economy but for that, there are obstacles to a fully comprehensive reform of all its segments.
Any operational analysis should connect the progress or the refusal to the reforms by analyzing strategies of the social presence of each tendency; the Government’s policy forces happen to be lying fluttered between two conflicting social forces. On the one hand, partisans of the logic of rentier as supported by proponents of import and on the other, those of the informal sphere that is unfortunately dominant and with a minority entrepreneurial logic.
This might explain how Algeria finds itself in this interminable transition, neither in competitive social market economy nor in an administered economy; progress of reforms being inversely pro portional to the oil price and the value of the Dollar and reforms being tentatively made with inconsistency when the oil price drops. This explains also that despite successive devaluation of the Dinar, to meet the reality of deficit budget and boosting inflation imported, 5 dinars in 1974 a Dollar to 120 Dinars a Dollar in 2017, it has been impossible to boost non-oil exports showing that blocking is systemic.
GDP growth rate is directly and indirectly at 80% through the building and infrastructure development sectors and so is the employment rate, all as pulled by public expenditure through the oil and gas exports revenues which gives wealth creation companies of public or private wealth (often in debt with respect to public banks) a negligible part. Infrastructure being only a means towards an end, the recent experience of Spain that bet on this segment must be carefully meditated by the Algerian authorities. So, in order to attract any investment, the Algerian Government should implement regulatory mechanisms to attract promising investors and avoid for as much as possible any changes in the legal frameworks and any bureaucratic administrative actions that are not only not transparent but source of demobilization and potentially scaring investors whether they are local or international.
Without chauvinism, Algeria has potential options for moving on and unlike some pessimistic forecasts predicting a worst-case scenario for year 2020, it, subject to good governance and a reorientation of its economic policy, has the ambition of its choice.
It can become a player in determining the stability of the Mediterranean region and Africa, conditioned by its economic and social development within regional spaces, analysis supported in my international interviews including Radio France International (RFI) of 27/02/2016 and by the American Herald Tribune of December 28, 2016 and Radio International Mediterranean Midi1 of January 14, 2017.
Successful structural reforms allowing Algerian recovery is possible, but for this, a reform of all structures must be intended to encourage value-added creation investment from the overhaul of all land and property estates, finance, customs, tax, administration and a renewed social welfare regulation systems. There is urgency to specific objectives and a new institutional organization in order to give greater coherence to the management.
In summary, Algeria for the United States of America and for Europe is politically a major player in the region’s stability whereas economically although it holds significant potential, it realistically has little export options outside its hydrocarbon resources to both Europe and Africa in the light of the embryonic state of the productive sector?
Let’s avoid rushing to conclusions by giving a total of $7 billion accumulated losses over several years and thus mislead the public opinion. Customs duties shortfalls as a result of the Association agreement with the EU (with the Dinar being devalued by 20% in 2017) were accounted to be $1.27 billion in 2015 and 1.09 billion in 2016.
Contradictory debates in association with all components of society, tolerating the different sensitivities and the need for social cohesion seem to be the only way to overcome the present multidimensional crisis, because the social adjustments could eventually be painful. The macroeconomic framework seeming to be relatively stabilized in Algeria could be fleeting without deep structural reforms, the decline in the price of hydrocarbons and the risk after the exhaustion of the Reserves Fund that of foreign exchange reserves between 2019 and 2020.
The two countries confronted to their specific challenges ought to have a common vision in order to contribute to a prosperous future as based on genuine co-development and not on obscuring the memory of a shared past for long lasting relationships. The recent France’s presidential elections impacting Algeria, are looked at here as positively as they could be in so many years.
The 187 odd years of very close relationship between the two countries will certainly be in the agendas of each as the renewed French leadership confronted to challenges from all around is settling down shortly for business anew.
It is about preparing the future through mutual respect; a point that I always made during my various meetings with political and economic personalities, and maintained that Algeria should not be considered as a market only. It is in this context that a co-partnership between Algeria and France, far from prejudice and spirit of domination must be inscribed.
We must be aware that the new international relations are no more based on relationships between heads of State, but on custom networks and on decentralized organizations through the involvement of notably business and civil society cooperation, dialogue of cultures, tolerance and the symbiosis of the contributions of the East and the West.
Because it might be unproductive to be and remain locked in distant positions as the latest events should rather make us think of to how avoid antagonising each other beliefs be it religious. After all Islam, Christianity or Judaism did contribute to the development of civilization.
Future relations between Algeria and France must also concern the Maghreb-Europe space and more generally the Mediterranean-Europe area. Our two countries can be dynamic agents, because southern Europe and the Maghreb cannot escape adaptation to the current global changes (the present crisis already causing upheaval in both socio-economic and geo-strategic) and more generally throughout the Mediterranean region.
Because it is necessary to go beyond narrow chauvinist nationalism insofar as real nationalism will be defined in the future as the ability to together expand the standard of living of our people by our contribution to the global value.
Today’s world is characterized by interdependence. This does not mean the end of the role of the State but a separation of politics and economics which cannot be the vagaries of the economic climate, the State dedicated to its natural role as regulator of macroeconomic and macro-social life. I firmly believe and after analysis that the intensification of the cooperation between Algeria and France not forgetting all other cooperation between Algeria and the USA, all emerging countries such as China, Japan, India, the Brazil, Turkey, South Korea and Russia etc…
And in a more comprehensive way between the Maghreb and Europe as based on a genuine co-development, partnership, the introduction of direct investment would upset the bureaucratic behaviour conservative annuitants and enrol them in a dynamic perspective that is beneficial to the peoples of the region thus helping to turn the Mediterranean into a lake of peace and prosperity. The Mediterranean can be that place of rational networking to communicate with distant cultures, encouraging the symbiosis of contributions of the East and the West.
This network should facilitate communication links, freedom insofar as the excesses of the collective voluntarism inhibit any spirit of creativity. It is that the Maghreb and Europe are two geographic areas with an opening on the Latinity millennial experience and the Arab world with natural links and overall culture and Anglo-Saxon influences…
It is essential that Europe developed all actions that can be implemented to achieve a desirable balance within this set. In fact the formation of weak regional economic areas is a step of structural adjustment within the globalized economy with for a goal to promote political democracy, – a humanized, competitive market economy – promotion of ideas through social and cultural debates so as to combat extremism and racism – the implementation of common business whilst never forgetting that these are driven by the logic of profit and not emotions.
Thus, it is necessary to pay special attention to the educational action because human thinking and creation should in the future be the beneficiary and the leading actor in the development process. That’s why I would advocate the creation of a Euro-Maghrebine University as a cultural center as well as a central Euro Mediterranean bank as a facilitator for all Exchange.
It is in this context that a realistic approach must be apprehended so as to the co-partnership between Algeria and France taking into account all potentialities. At the global level, we are witnessing the evolution of a built-up passed based on a purely material vision, characterized by hierarchical rigid organizations, to a new mode of accumulation based on the mastery of knowledge, of new technologies and flexible organizations as networking around the world, with globally segmented supply chains of production where investment in comparative advantages takes place in sub-segments of these channels.
As rightly noted by Jean-Louis Guigou, President of IPEMED (Institute of Prospective Economic of the Mediterranean world, in Paris), it should be that, in the interest of both of the Algerians and of the French, and more generally of the Maghreb and the Europeans as well as all South-Mediterranean populations, the boundaries of the common market of the future, the borders of Schengen in the future, the borders of social protection in the future the borders of the environmental requirements of tomorrow, must be South of the Morocco, the Tunisia and Algeria, South and East of the Lebanon, Syria, of the Jordan and the Turkey, through a lasting peace in the Middle East, Arab and Jewish populations with a thousand-year history of peaceful coexistence.
Specifically, Algeria and France have economically other strengths and potential for the promotion of diverse activities and this experience can be an example of this global partnership becoming the privileged axis of the re-balancing of the South of Europe by amplification and the tightening of links and exchanges in different forms. Per the official foreign trade balance of Algeria in 2016, the countries of the European Union are still its main partners, with the respective proportions of 47.47% and 57.95% of exports and imports. Italy is the main customer and France the main supplier.
Between France and Algeria, trade can be intensified in all areas, i.e.: agriculture, industry, services, tourism, education, not to mention cooperation in the military field, where Algeria can be an active player, as shown by its efforts to bring stability to the region.
Also, let’s not forget the diaspora with residents of Algerian origin in France that would exceed 4 million, including more than 2 million bi-nationals. This regardless of the numbers is an essential element of reconciliation between Algeria and France, because it holds significant intellectual, economic and financial potential. The promotion of the relations between Algeria and its emigrant community should be mobilized in various stages of intervention initiatives of all the parties concerned, namely the Government, diplomatic missions, universities, entrepreneurs and civil society.
Hence, any intensification of this cooperation won’t possible – whilst not forgetting the duty of memory – if Algeria and France have a realistic approach to the co-partnership for a win-win partnership away from any mercantilism and spirit of domination. The two countries must have a common vision of their future.
Algeria can overcome its current difficulties but the success of national and international industrial partnerships is not feasible without a total renovation of all central and local governance systems with a coherent vision based on both political, social, economic structural reforms including financial market, land and property market, labour and especially reform of the socio-educational system, at the dawn of the fourth technological revolution.
The objective for Algeria is to commit for structural reform, whilst assuming a broad internal mobilization of the social front, tolerating the different sensitivities, in the face of the many challenges in order to allow Algeria to emerge, in the medium and long term. For this, the dominance of the bureaucratic approach must give way to economic operational approach, with positive social and economic impacts. Also, in the face of the new global changes, Algeria undergoing this transition towards a productive economy closely tied to its energy transition, needs an accumulation of technological and management expertise with assistance from its foreign partners.
In short, Algeria and France are key actors for the stability of the region, and that any destabilization of Algeria would have negative geo-strategic repercussions throughout the Mediterranean and African region, as I pointed out in my interview on December 28, 2016, the American Herald Tribune (3).
And of course, subject to Algeria furthering into the rule of law, democratization of society and that it’s reorienting its economic policy in order to achieve sustainable development. The current tensions between Algeria and France are only temporary, as per information gathered with friends of mine in France.
It is only in this context that cooperation must return for a win-win partnership far from all prejudice and in mutual respect.
Notes : See recent contributions and international interviews of Professor Abderrahmane Mebtoul
-«Wahl in Algerien Der Graben ist tief – wer stimmt ab?» – www.tagesschau.de–ARD- 04/05/2017
-« Après Glavany et Macron… « Dépassionner les relations entre l’Algérie et la France » quotidien financier français la Tribune .Fr 19 février 2017 – (“After Glavany and Macron…» “Take the heat out the relationship between Algeria and France” by French financial daily la Tribune.fr 19 February 2017)
Europe – North Africa Cooperation in High Education comes in as education in the MENA generally and more specifically in its western half of North Africa has been for some time prioritised with various efforts being made to improve it through notably innovation with a view to creating job opportunities for the youth.
Illiteracy however remained and is still rampant although varying from country to country and from cities to rural areas within each country.
Historically, education systems of the Maghreb countries having within the last 50 years undergone since independence, reform processes whose main objectives was to prepare for the nationalization take over through European inspired education curriculums while stressing the need to respond as closely as possible to the aspirations of the indigenous cultures by providing teachers in re replacement of the predominantly European body of educators.
The situation nowadays is best described by an article on University World News Issue No. 456 of April 21, 2017 by Wagdy Sawahel who elaborated on Europe and North African higher education cooperation plans for the future.
It is well known to all around the Mediterranean basin that education and innovation are mechanisms of progress in the 21st century, whilst all ideas related to that goal resonate as being somewhat impossible to attain in most capital cities across North Africa without as it were, a hand from Europe.
In efforts to promote cooperation in science, technology, innovation and higher education, five countries of the Arab Maghreb Union and five European countries have approved a two-year cooperation plan aimed at stimulating economic growth, job creation and social cohesion in the Western Mediterranean region.
The 10 countries are known as member states of the “5+5 Dialogue initiative: A sub-regional forum for dialogue”.
The five Maghreb countries involved are Algeria, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco and Tunisia. The five European countries include Western Mediterranean nations, namely, France, Italy, Malta, Portugal and Spain.
The new two year plan (2017-18) was announced at the third conference of the ministers of research, innovation and higher education of the member countries of the forum for the dialogue in the Western Mediterranean, held under the theme “Promotion of Higher Education, Research and Innovation to Achieve Social Stability and Economic Development”, in Tunis, Tunisia from 30-31 March.
According to a dedicated website for the 5+5 Dialogue initiative launched in Tunis, the plan encompasses several initiatives and projects, including the setting up of a network of higher education institutions, the formation of teams of researchers and engineers around joint projects, the development of a rectors’ network, along with the promotion of exchanges of best practices in quality assurance and governance.
The network of higher education institutions within the Dialogue 5+5 will focus on encouraging cooperation between higher education institutions in the Western Mediterranean Basin.
Based in Tunisia, the regional network will focus on strengthening existing university linkages and developing newer partnerships around novel cooperative projects.
The network will participate in the construction of ‘Mediterranean spaces’ dedicated to research, innovation and higher education approved and outlined in the 2013 Rabat Declaration and endorsed at the first conference of ministers of research and higher education of the 5+5 Dialogue states, held in Morocco.
Mediterranean spaces will be based on the principle of free movement of researchers between the two western shores of the Mediterranean and on a connection to regional and global scientific networks to facilitate the exchange of scientific data and development of skills.
It will also focus on intellectual property, patenting and exchange of students, academics and research between countries.
The network will also support initiatives that promote institutional partnerships, including scientific networks, the mobility of students, faculty and administrators, multi-diploma or thesis co-supervision, and the development of online training and research
Collaboration with researchers in the region will be enhanced under the Horizon 2020 programme known as PRIMA – Partnership for Research and Innovation in the Mediterranean Area – that will help bridge the gap and regulate the brain drain through the creation of poles of excellence in member countries.
The proposed Dialogue 5+5 rectors’ network will focus on specific initiatives including organising regular encounters between rectors and presidents from all Dialogue 5+5 countries, with visits to universities and polytechnic institutes as well as international meetings of students and researchers, and the holding of conferences and seminars on mobility and academic interchanges.
Besides sharing quality assurance practices, the plan will enhance exchanges on governance with a focus on the organisation of teaching, research and innovation in order to improve the management, efficiency and financial autonomy of institutions.
At the opening of the conference, Tunisian Prime Minister Youssef Chahed said that a national conference on higher education reform will take place in Tunis in the period from 30 June-1 July to present a higher education reform plan that will focus on five major axes, including university training, employment, human resources, governance and innovation, according to a local press report.
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