West Asia-North Africa is in a race against time. Within the next thirty years, increasing air pollution and climate change-induced heatwaves and droughts will push the region closer to uninhabitability, triggering unprecedented levels of human insecurity and large-scale displacement. In the face of rapid environmental degradation and intractable conflicts, the pursuit of a dignity-based approach to security becomes vital. Wilson Center President & CEO Ambassador Mark Green spoke with HRH Prince El Hassan bin Talal of Jordan about pressing climate change concerns in the region and need to implement a 'human dignity' approach to solutions.
HRH Prince El Hassan bin Talal
"There is nothing cultural about globalization that I can identify, so when we speak about globalization, I refer to the founder of the term geopolitics, Hofer John Mackinder."
“Sustainability does not have to come at the cost of social and economic progress. We have to talk about a developmental approach rather than a vulnerability approach.”
Climate Change in MENA
HRH Prince El Hassan bin Talal of Jordan detailed the prevailing issues facing the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, which are, unfortunately, exacerbated by climate change in many cases. “We continue to plunge from one humanitarian crisis [to another], man against man, man against nature, man-made disasters, armed conflict, especially because international cooperation is lacking.” The region, which has battled issues relating to displacement, armed conflict, and scarce food and water resources for the past decade, is expected to be hit hardest by the effects of climate change. Despite contributing to just 3 percent of total global CO2 emissions since 1850, it is estimated that by 2050, heatwaves and sandstorms will make the MENA region largely uninhabitable. In fact, “while over 20 million people a year are internally displaced by extreme weather disasters over the last ten years, 80 percent of those displaced live in my continent, in Asia.”
Adding on to the vast displacement that has resulted from climate change and armed conflict is the fundamental challenge of food and water insecurity. As the MENA population continues to grow, so does the strain on the region’s scarce water resources. HRH Prince Hassan believes that while international actors have developed various strategies to address this issue, which is becoming ever more significant as temperatures rise, many fail to consider local contexts and geopolitical tensions. “All of the agreements basically talk about a plethora of projects, but they don’t talk about a regional development to create the conditions suitable for peace and to involve and recruit and enable citizens to participate.”
A ”Human Dignity” Approach to Solutions
HRH Prince Hassan emphasized the need to implement a collaborative approach to address these converging crises. “The progress I seek in our conversation is to commit ourselves to move from humiliation to dignity, to human dignity, for a future of global solidarity.” When confronted with the realities of climate change, forcibly displaced populations, and unrelenting global armed conflicts, the necessity of joint action becomes increasingly apparent. He added, “Human security emphasizes the interconnectedness of threats,” as threats feed on each other and often spill over into neighboring countries, affecting the broader region. Taking this into account, we must begin to form communities, and through that, “citizens become water citizens, become food citizens, become agents for change.”
Whether a human dignity approach will lead to effective policies depends on moving beyond political gridlocks. The overriding factors are, HRH Prince Hassan noted, “the politics that are depriving regions in the world of the necessary support that they are expecting.” Once a genuine commitment to interconnectedness and understanding is formulated, all stakeholders can adopt a culture of preventative action. In the past few decades, politics have acted as a deterrent towards interconnectedness, so, “It won’t be sufficient to mend the multilateral system. It is necessary instead to envisage new principles for creating a global governance grid that serves the interests of human civilization and not the nation-states,” he stated.
Middle East Program
The Wilson Center’s Middle East Program serves as a crucial resource for the policymaking community and beyond, providing analyses and research that helps inform U.S. foreign policymaking, stimulates public debate, and expands knowledge about issues in the wider Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. Read more
Environmental Change and Security Program
The Environmental Change and Security Program (ECSP) explores the connections between environmental change, health, and population dynamics and their links to conflict, human insecurity, and foreign policy. Read more