Climate Change and Security Consultation
For more than a decade, concerns about the main risks posed by climate change in terms of fragility and conflict have haunted the international community. In the Middle East, political turmoil has overshadowed climate change threats; nonetheless, a careful scrutiny of the region easily reveals that many of the conflicts are directly related to competition over limited resources; a direct result of over population and rapid Climate Change.
In its attempt to map out the connection between climate change and its effect on fragile countries or contexts; the Great 7 Countries “G7” initiated a Large Project whereby the Consortium formed of “International Alert, adelphi and Wilson Center” is leading several consultations in the MENA region. These consultations target local communities, NGOs, donor agencies, governmental authorities and peace building organizations as contributing mediators in the analysis. The consultations aim at investigating the connections between climate change and social, economic, political landscape that result in political instability and risks to development progress. Furthermore, the resulting case studies and recommendations will be used by foreign policy makers to mitigate the effect of climate change and fragility on sovereign states as part of the post 2015 Development Agenda.
In the MENA region, Jordan has been one of the countries severely impacted by many factors. Not only is the Kingdom grappling with the problem of limited natural resources compounded by climate change, but its problems are exacerbated by a constant stream of refugee influx from neighboring countries. The problem of water is at the forefront. With its extended experience in regional Water conflict, Friends of the Earth Middle East “FoEME” contributed in the consultation meeting held on the 17th of August in Amman, by presenting its own experience in mitigating conflict over limited water resources and environmental peace building.
In his welcoming speech, FoEMEs Jordanian Director Mr. Munqeth Mehyar stated that conflict prompted by environmental degradation is rising drastically especially with regards to fresh water resources. He affirmed that environmental degradation poses a challenge to security, foreign policy and human development. He added that it can easily cause international tension since many of our water resources are shared by two or more sovereign states. A case in point is the degradation of the Jordan River that could impose a threat to fragile peace and instigate conflict if serious measures are not taken to properly manage its shared waters.
Ms. Nancy Haddaden, Jordanian Manager of the Good Water Neighbors and Sustainable Water Integrated Management projects at FoEME presented the organization’s successful experience through its GWN program in promoting environmental peacebuilding. The program that is implemented in the countries of Jordan, Palestine and Israel sets an unprecedented model to be emulated. It proved that the environment knows no borders, requires long term cooperation, and demands people to people interaction. In fact, it can succeed in advancing peace where politics fail by producing a feeling of a shared responsibility and creating a sense of a shared future.
The Consultation Meeting was organized by adelphi and International Alert in cooperation with FoEME and was attended by representatives from the Jordan valley Authority, UNDP, Jordan University of Science and Technology “JUST”, Jordan Environment Society “JES”, Save the Children International in addition to several international donors including SIDA and DFID. The discussion focused on the effects of the Syrian refugees on Jordan, clashing Water cultures and tension resulting between hosts and refugees. In this respect, Ms. Haddaden pointed out that tension could be resolved if the poverty pockets in Jordan are not neglected by the international society in favor of the refugees. In an earlier site visit led by Ms. Haddaden to the Jordan Valley, she illustrated to the Consortium the various challenges that inhabitants of the valley face on a daily basis. These challenges are related to water distribution, agriculture, and lack of sewage network. The resultant of the site visit was a case study formulated as part of the report prepared for the G7.
Moreover, Ms. Yana Abu Taleb; FoEMEs Deputy Director emphasized the need for a regional cooperation to solve environmental problems. In this regard, she elaborated on a FoEME proposal phase project related to developing a Water and Energy Nexus in the Levant countries as a resilience building measure for Climate Change, adaptation and mitigation.
The participants introduced other recommendations related to water governance, international binding laws and regulations, revision of agricultural policies, and governmental subsidies. They emphasized the need to encourage synergy and cooperation between Governmental bodies, civil societies and to properly leverage and direct funds.
It is declared in the IPCC Fifth assessment Report (IPCC, 2014) that the impact of climate change on human wellbeing, peace and security will worsen in time especially the poorest members of society. To prevent its added stresses from turning into armed conflicts in fragile regions, one must agree with Bell Gates that “Climate change is a terrible problem, and it absolutely needs to be solved. It deserves to be a huge priority.”