…Says MENA categorization makes it difficult to see Africa as one continent
A peacebuilding think tank in Nigeria on the aegis of ‘Foundation for Peace Professionals’ also known as PeacePro has urged global bodies, academic institutions and research groups to stop categorizing North African countries with the Middle East under the acronym of MENA Middle East and North Africa).
PeacePro noted that such conflicting categorization by global bodies such as the World Bank, World Health Organization and others was creating none existing barrier between North African countries and the rest of Africa, thereby making it difficult to see Africa as one and to create social, economic and psychological integration in the continent.
Executive Director of PeacePro, Mr Abdulrazaq Hamzat, who stated these while engaging Institute of Economics and Peace (IEP), the producer of global peace index on popular social media platform Twitter, questioned the rationale for using such categorization in the global peace index report.
Hamzat said; “Why is Africa usually divided into 2 on the global peace index report? This division has consistently raised questions in our sessions at Foundation for Peace Professionals (PeacePro)”.
The IEP ambassador also said that his organization is currently working on an African based enlightenment report, which is an extract from the global peace index, to create further awareness on GPI report and the extraction of North Africa to Middle East in the Global Peace Index report has been a major point of contention, making it difficult to visualize Africa as one continent, with its data scattered across different regions.
Responding to Hamzat’s inquiry on Twitter, IEP Global Peace Index noted that, for regional analysis, IEP splits Africa into sub-Saharan Africa and MENA, adding that it was consistent with the World Bank grouping.
However, Hamzat stressed that even though, it was consistent with other categorization including that of the World Bank, Peacepro was yet to understand the rationale for such categorization thus, open for enlightenment on the subject.
Hamzat further said that it was important to note that, in politics and academia, North African countries are commonly grouped with the Middle East under the umbrella of MENA, a development which has been questioned by many people, including in North Africa.
As a regional identifier, MENA is often used in academia, military planning, disaster relief, media planning (as a broadcast region) and business writing.
However, Hamzat noted that there was no MENA region amongst the United Nations Regional Groups, nor in the United Nations geoscheme used by the UNSD.
Today English is undoubtedly the language of communication and international exchange. The following might, for most, be taken for granted. It is about the Language of Communication and International Exchange of a maximum of people around the world today.
The above-featured image is for illustration and is of the English Channel / credit Journals of India.
It is an undeniable reality. The phenomenon is due to three essential factors: first, the relative simplicity of its grammar and spelling; second, the extent of its application corresponding to the immensity of the former British Empire and third, the US economic and military supremacy.
The English lingua took off after the Second World War with the American technological boom and its impact on aeronautics, automobiles, machinery, etc.
The American way of life was well exported and brought in a lot, and almost everyone wanted to adopt it. Add to all this the soft power, i.e. Hollywood cinema, the music of Elvis Presley and other amenities made in the USA, and you will understand the cause of the vertiginous expansion of William Chikh Zoubir’s alias Shakespeare language.
Each civilization at its peak had radiated on the world and transmitted its values to it. In Caesarean Numidia, the Berber princes sent their sons to Italy to immerse themselves in Roman culture. That said, French is still the most learned language in the world after English.
First, Locke, Newton and then Voltaire, Rousseau and Montesquieu, these actors of the Age of Enlightenment, were translated and read worldwide as avant-garde philosophers conveying the ideas of freedom and equality of peoples. These values made it possible to define new natural rights in England, France and the US.
In the eighteenth century, speaking the language of Molière in the royal or princely courts of Europe gave these monarchical circles a vernissage of distinction like Versailles of the Sun King. French also remains the reference in classical literature, poetry and belles lettres. English is a popular and straightforward language; French is academic and complicated. In the end, borrowing from the French half of its vocabulary, English now gives him a middle finger as a thank you and snubs him from the top of his globalized linguistic pedestal.
The quality of a language would be its ability to convey thoughts, ideas, and data, by voice or writing, as clearly and faithfully as possible. In short, it is the art of communicating with one’s neighbour. In light of these opinions, French has therefore sinned by its propensity to complicate grammar and spelling rules, making them almost inaccessible to the layman.
On the other hand, by its simplicity and widespread nature, English has found itself within everyone’s reach with the mini of means and time. Moreover, there are two types of language in this world, the beautiful and the good. (The bad ones are more a matter of psychology).
The beautiful ones are spoken around the big blue on the Mediterranean north shore with Spanish, French, Italian, and Greek. As for the good ones, the rest of the world speaks them, following the example of Chinese, Indo-European (except Greco-Latin) and African idioms. Nevertheless, we must mention the two major and mythical languages that have modified the history of humanity to close this paragraph. I am thinking of Hebrew and Arabic.
Weak Governance in MENA Region Worsens Deepening Land Crisis
Weak governance exacerbates the deepening land crisis in the Middle East and North Africa region, according to a new World Bank report that urges broad reforms to improve land use and access amid increasing stress from climate change and population growth.
Titled “Land Matters: Can Better Governance and Management of Scarcity Prevent a Looming Crisis in the Middle East and North Africa?”, the report shows how continuing land deterioration in a region that is 84 percent desert worsens water scarcity issues that threaten food security and economic development.
“Now is the time to examine the impact of land issues that loom large in many public policy decisions but aren’t always explicitly acknowledged,” said Ferid Belhaj, the World Bank Vice President for the Middle East and North Africa. “Quite simply, land matters. MENA’s growing population and the impact of climate change add urgency to addressing the land crisis.”
The report uses satellite imagery data to show that cropland in MENA countries decreased by 2.4 percent over the 15-year period from 2003-2018, which was the world’s sharpest drop in a region that already had the lowest cropland per capita and little margin for agricultural expansion. During the same period, the MENA population increased by 35 percent and is estimated to expand by another 40 percent to 650 million people in 2050.
Comparing land cover data with statistics on wealth inequality and other indicators, the report shows a correlation between land degradation and poor governance. In addition, state ownership of land is highest in the MENA region, but governments fail to manage land assets in ways that generate public revenues, the report says, while access to land is a severe constraint for 23 percent of firms in the manufacturing and service sectors.
Also impeding land access are social norms and laws regarding property that are more unfavorable for women in the MENA region compared to other regions, according to the report. In particular, women in MENA countries come under strong social pressure to renounce their inheritance rights over property, often without fair compensation.
“You cannot achieve sustainable economic and social development if people and businesses lack proper access to land,” said Harris Selod, a World Bank senior economist and co-author of the report.
Reforms proposed by the report include establishing transparent market-driven processes to value and transfer land, as well as developing complete inventories of public land and improving the registration of land rights. These are necessary steps to support more efficient land use and land management decisions and to ensure that land serves social, economic and fiscal functions in a region where property taxes represent less than one percent of GDP.
Land policies can also help reduce gender inequalities. A tax on male beneficiaries when women renounce their inheritance rights to property could help reduce the gender gap, with the money collected funding initiatives promoting women’s empowerment, the report says.
“Increasing land scarcity leads to strategic trade-offs about the best use of land to meet competing economic, social, and sustainability objectives,” said Anna Corsi, a World Bank senior land administration specialist and co-author of the report. “However, the holistic approach needed to address core development issues of land policy is critically lacking in the MENA region.”
The report notes that land scarcity and governance issues vary throughout the region, with countries requiring approaches that are tailored to their unique challenges. For example, wealthy Gulf Cooperation Council countries face severe land scarcity but have better land administration, while the Maghreb countries as well as Iran, Iraq, and Syria are more seriously challenged by land governance issues with less severe land scarcity. A third group — Djibouti, Egypt, Yemen, and the West Bank and Gaza — faces serious challenges in both governance and scarcity of land.
In stressing that “land matters”, the report argues that urgently addressing the MENA land crisis now exacerbated by climate change and population growth is essential for the region’s sustainable economic and social development.
In their understanding of good governance and its role in sustainable development, Gulf Business addresses this theme only within the business world of the MENA region, specifically within the Gulf area countries. Let us see what it is all about.
Insights: Understanding good governance and its role in sustainable development
By Dr Ashraf Gamal Eldin
Good corporate governance fosters fair competition, enables efficient utilisation of resources, increases employment opportunities, and develops domestic and regional capital markets.
11 November 2022
Dr Ashraf Gamal Eldin
The term ‘governance’ refers to all forms of regulations, including that of institutions, procedures, and practices used to decide on and regulate matters of public concern. In its most basic sense, governance is about providing direction and ensuring that an institution operates efficiently.
Good governance, however, adds a normative or evaluative attribute to this process. In simple terms, good governance refers to the institutional and political outcomes necessary to achieve developmental objectives. The concept has become increasingly important in recent years, emerging as one of the essential components for growth and sustainable development. The key measure of good governance is the extent to which it upholds human rights, including civil, cultural, economic, political, and social indicators. As a result, it is important to understand good governance and its significance in sustainable development.
Good governance reassures stakeholders that an organisation fulfills its obligations to all of its stakeholders, it treats everyone with respect and dignity, by being transparent about its operations, finances, and conduct. In fact, a major indicator of an institution’s quality and excellence is how committed it is to adopt the principles of good governance in all facets of its operations and decision-making. This is even more important, as it significantly supports sustainable development in institutions. It is widely observed that the inability to uphold these principles can have negative effects on welfare, efficiency, and operational excellence, thereby affecting the long-term success of organisations.
The private sector is growing rapidly in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. Despite the fact that every country is unique, forward-thinking companies throughout the region see better corporate governance as a competitive advantage in their quest for growth and profitability. Consequently, countries in the MENA region are at various stages of developing unique corporate governance frameworks. This could be further driven by making strenuous efforts to create a national environment that supports and encourages corporate governance in the region. The UAE ranked first in the Middle East and 24th globally on the Good Governance Index 2022, which was released by the Chandler Institute for Governance, a non-profit organisation that works with governments to strengthen their capabilities.
Sustainable development argues that the current use of resources should minimize the level of harm to the future generations’ share of resources. ‘Good Governance’ is capable of common sense and the versatile planning that is required for sustainable development.
A good corporate governance system fosters fair competition, enables more efficient utilisation of resources, increases employment opportunities, and the development of domestic and regional capital markets. With governance playing a crucial role in driving efforts to meet institutional goals, it has been referred to as the fourth pillar of sustainable development alongside social, environmental, and economic factors. As there is a strong emphasis on minimising future harm from the current use of resources, governance will certainly aid in shaping versatile strategies that ensure sustainable development across organisations.
Good governance is not a luxury, it creates a competitive edge for companies and economies.
Dr Ashraf Gamal Eldin is the CEO of Hawkamah Institute for Corporate Governance
We tend to surf on how and why disputes arise between countries because each has interests to preserve. Notably, the advanced countries have the most to lose, and the developing ones are convinced they have too little to wait for. Despite that, at COP27, the authors found three reasons rich countries can no longer ignore calls to pay the developing world for climate havoc.
The enormous global paradox is that progress and development are the natural causes of planetary embarrassment and which, combined with the misdeeds of nature, pose a problem.
Payments from high-emitting countries to mitigate the harm that climate change has caused in the most vulnerable parts of the world is finally on the agenda for discussion at a global climate change summit, more than 30 years after the idea was first articulated by delegates from small island developing states.
Loss and damage is the term used by the UN to describe these impacts of climate change that cannot be prevented and to which people cannot adapt. These include lives that have been and will be lost, communities displaced by rising seas, extreme weather and famine, livelihoods and cultural heritage destroyed and ecosystems damaged beyond repair because of a failure to arrest greenhouse gas emissions, and so, global temperature rise.
The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reported that approximately 3.3 to 3.6 billion people are highly vulnerable to climate change. Many of them live in west, central and east Africa, south Asia, central and South America, as well as in small island developing states, such as Vanuatu in the Pacific, and in the Arctic.
As countries in these regions divert more of their wealth towards preparing for and recovering from storms, spreading deserts and melting glaciers, they are left with less money to cut their emissions and contribute to meeting the 1.5°C goal agreed at the negotiations in Paris in 2015. Rich countries, who are responsible for most emissions, promised US$100 billion (£87.2 billion) a year in aid in 2015.
But a recent UN report found that international finance to help the most vulnerable countries adapt to climate change (with bigger sea walls, for instance) has amounted to less than one-tenth of what is needed, and the gap between the two is widening. The US, UK, Canada and Australia are among the biggest laggards when their historical responsibility for climate change is taken into account. There has been no separate funding to address the damage already caused by warming.
At COP26 in 2021, developing countries proposed a loss and damage finance facility to help communities recovering from disasters and compensate them for what they have lost already. The EU and US resisted this in the final days of talks.
Instead, the Glasgow Dialogue was established: a series of discussions about how to arrange funding to help countries bearing the brunt of climate change. Delegates from developing country were sorely disappointed. Instead of material support, they got another talking shop.
But many of these same negotiators are heading into COP27 with new resolve. Here are three reasons why loss and damage is becoming harder for rich countries to ignore.
1. The latest science
Attribution science, which clarifies the links between extreme weather events and emissions, has taken great leaps forward in recent years. Across more than 400 studies, scientists have examined wildfires in the US, heatwaves in India and Pakistan, typhoons in Asia and record-breaking rainfall in the UK.
Broadly, this research shows the poorest and most vulnerable are bearing the heaviest burden despite having contributed the least to the problem. This growing evidence base bolsters the case for reparations.
2. Climate impacts are escalating
The deadly floods in Pakistan in August are the latest in a series of disasters to push loss and damage up the global agenda. According to a recent study, as much as 50% of the rainfall would not have happened without climate change.
Pakistan’s leaders have said that wealthy countries must help pay the bill. After all, it is the latter’s actions that precipitated the disaster. Pakistan’s historically low emissions mean its own contribution to climate change is negligible.
From droughts in Somalia to floods in Nigeria, extreme weather during 2022 has also heaped suffering on African countries with little culpability for climate change. Given that COP27 will be held in Egypt and has been dubbed “the African COP”, these arguments will be brought to the fore.
3. Growing momentum outside of the UN process
The increasing number and importance of lawsuits brought against countries and companies failing to reduce their emissions highlights growing frustration with negotiations under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). As long as rich countries continue to evade the loss and damage issue, vulnerable countries and communities – and their lawyers – will search for alternative solutions.
That is not to say they haven’t had some notable recent successes. The UN Human Rights Committee (UNHRC) decided in September that the Australian government is failing to protect the Torres Strait Islanders from the effects of climate change. This sets a precedent in international human rights law which could one day extend to governments and institutions which have affected people further afield.
But, outside the UN, poorer countries are organising to explore ever more sophisticated diplomatic and legal ways of applying pressure on rich countries. At COP26, the prime ministers of Antigua and Barbuda and Tuvalu launched a commission to explore the kinds of compensation small island states might seek under international law. A group of countries led by Vanuatu is heading for the International Court of Justice.
Since high levels of debt hinder their ability to recover from the ravages of climate change, African and small island leaders are demanding debtors (including development banks and rich countries) write off, suspend or reschedule payments so that vulnerable nations can spend more on cutting emissions and adapting to climate change. These proposals have been called “debt for climate swaps”.
The International Monetary Fund recently announced a resilience and sustainability trust to help shield the finances of vulnerable countries from climate disasters, suggesting development policy is slowly shifting. This followed campaigning by Mia Mottley, the prime minister of Barbados.
Some rich countries are now taking action, suggesting a growing acknowledgement that this funding cannot be delayed forever. In September, Denmark was the first UN party to pledge finance – about US$13 million – to address loss and damage. The G7, under the leadership of the German presidency, has launched an initiative to expand access to financial aid in the immediate aftermath of climate disasters through improvements to existing insurance and social security schemes.
Because these initiatives have come outside of the UNFCCC negotiations, donor countries are free to dictate the terms of their support, sidestepping a process that should be about meeting the needs of vulnerable communities. Much of their funding will go into insurance schemes. Many of the insurance firms that would benefit are based in Europe and the US.
Insurance payouts may be a lifeline for drought-scarred small farmers and flooded homeowners. But some risks are uninsurable, especially those with a slow onset, such as those resulting from sea-level rise. Then there are less tangible harms, such as lost livelihoods, illness and biodiversity loss. Insurance against cyclones won’t compensate fishers in Tuvalu who stand to lose their coastal fisheries as coral reefs succumb to warming.
The next front in the loss and damage debate will involve exploring whether providing finance as a form of solidarity (rather than compensation) is more palatable for rich countries. If that money is wrapped up in insurance schemes, designed to enrich consultants, it won’t really help poor countries. Progress at COP27 will be determined by whether these nations feel the UNFCCC is even capable of helping them.
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Earth has been used as a building material for at least the last 12,000 years. Ethnographic research into earth being used as an element of Aboriginal architecture in Australia suggests its use probably goes back much further.
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