2023Civil Society Organizations and Just Transition in the Middle East and North Africa: Challenges and Opportunities
The conference agenda is available for download via this link
Just Transition is the idea that sustainable development and a green transition must also take into account intersectional socio-economic imperatives in order to bring forth a future that is both fair and sustainable. The ongoing climate, political, economic and social crises across the Middle East and North Africa have made such a process an absolute necessity. Indeed salient topics such as water security, food sovereignty, energy transition, and solid waste management have all become dangerously compromised at the detriment of the human population, the fauna and the flora, whereas many governments in those regions have largely neglected their duties towards their populations and environments.
Hence, Civil Society Organizations have oftentimes found themselves filling in a gap left by those governments who have lacked the capacity and willingness to address crucial environmental issues and to push for a better future. Yet, civil society organizations have also faced several challenges of a political, security and financial nature, as they have to grapple with hostile political forces that seek to relegate the climate movement to the backseat. Hence the need to ask ourselves the following questions, what exactly constitutes just transition in the Middle East and North Africa, and how can CSO’s mobilize and work towards its achievement? How can the international community support environmental CSO’s in the MENA? How can there be collaboration with journalists to push for an increase in public awareness of those matters? What role do gender issues play in processes of Just Transition? How can Just Transition bring forth food and water security and sovereignty?
Organized by the Arab Reform Initiative, Alternative Policy Solution (APS) at the American University of Cairo (AUC), and the Moroccan Institute for Policy Analysis (MIPA), and funded by the European Commission, this conference will bring together leading experts, activists, and policymakers, in six panels, to explore the critical issues facing the region in the context of climate change and social justice. Our diverse group of panelists will discuss topics such as climate finance, youth movements, gender and social justice, community resilience, and more. The conference aims to foster dialogue, build partnerships, and inspire action towards a more just and sustainable future for the Middle East and North Africa.
You can register to attend online by following this link. You will receive a Zoom confirmation email should your registration be successful.
You can register to attend in-person by following this link.
Alternatively, you can watch the event live on our Facebook page.
Simultaneous interpretation between Arabic and English will be available both in-person and via Zoom.
The ongoing climate, political, economic, and social crises across the Middle East and North Africa have made engaging in a collective process of transition to a more just and sustainable economic and environmental model an absolute necessity. In order to build such a future, there is a need to address key topics such as water access, food security and sovereignty, and energy transition through a multifaceted perspective combining ecological, social, economic, and political lenses. Hence the notion of "just transition", which has been taken up by some governments, civil society actors, and even some private entities, although they seldom agree on what constitutes such a transition or how it can be implemented in the Middle East and North Africa. Ongoing international events and processes have also affected perspectives on just transition, though the region and its priorities often seem marginalized in such conversations.
This conference seeks to address the questions of what exactly would constitute a just transition in the Middle East and North Africa (notably when it comes to access to food and water justice) given the myriad of challenges and the restrictive spaces for mobilization, notably for marginalized communities. In addition, it will explore who decides and sets the agenda for just transition in the region and how civil society organizations (CSOs) can mobilize and work with local communities towards the achievement of a more inclusive process. The dynamics between local and international actors will be explored, notably the question of how the international community can support environmental CSOs in developing a home-grown agenda that is responsive to local needs. Finally, the issue of reframing the narrative around the needed changes for a sustainable future in the region will be explored through the lens of strengthening collaborations with journalists to push for an increase in public awareness of those matters.
Organized by the Arab Reform Initiative, the Alternative Policy Solution at the American University of Cairo, and the Moroccan Institute for Policy Analysis and funded by the European Commission, this conference is part of the Just Transition Green Bridge project, a three-year project that aims to empower CSOs and locally led initiatives in Tunisia, Egypt, Morocco, Lebanon, Palestine, Algeria, and Jordan. This conference will hence bring together leading experts, activists, and policymakers in six panels to explore the critical issues facing the region in the context of climate change and social justice. Our diverse group of panelists will discuss topics such as climate ﬁnance, the energy transition, gender and social justice, community resilience, and more. The conference aims to foster dialogue, build partnerships, and inspire action towards a more just and sustainable future for the Middle East and North Africa.
Day 1: Monday, May 29th
9:30 am–9:45 am: Welcome and registration
9:45 am–10am: Opening session (welcoming remarks and introduction) delivered together by ARI, MIPA, and AUC
10am-11:30am Panel 1: What constitutes environmental justice and just transition in the Middle East and North Africa?
While multiple schools of thought have emerged with different perspectives on what would be required in order for a just and sustainable transition to be achieved in the Middle East and North Africa, they all agree on the need to push for a fairer and more sustainable mode of production that centers communities and the environment. This panel thus explores what would constitute environmental justice and just transition in the MENA, the different perspectives on just transition, who is currently setting the agenda and priority areas and who is excluded, and the political obstacles for the adoption of a just transition agenda for the region. The panel will include a discussion of the role of international donors in the context of a just transition in the MENA region.
Moderator: Sarine Karajerjian, Director of the Environmental Politics Program at the Arab Reform Initiative
Shady Khalil, Co-Founder, Greenish and Regional Campaign Lead, Greenpeace MENA
Saker el Nour, sociologist and independent consultant, co-founder of RÉSEAU-TANMO.
Lisa Shahin, Advocacy and Research Coordinator, the Arab Group for the Protection of Nature
Rayan Kassem, Engagement Manager on Food and Agriculture Transformation, World Benchmarking Alliance
11:30am–12pm: Coffee Break
12pm–1:30pm: Panel 2: The coming environmental changes and vulnerable communities: who is most impacted and who is being left out?
Food, water, and energy are crucial to human existence, and how they are governed affects outcomes in terms of social equality and socio-economic resilience. Available evidence shows that access to these resources is not neutral to gender, race, or class. Indeed, gender inequality, socio-economic vulnerability, and cultural norms contribute to women’s susceptibility to the impact of climate change and limit their capacity to respond effectively to climate risks, and disadvantaged socio-economic classes and minorities have faced challenges of their own when dealing with the impact of climate change and environmental degradation. This panel seeks to tackle gender, race, and class issues related to water, energy, and food and shed light on the importance of integrating or mainstreaming such dimensions in environmental actions in the MENA region. The panel will also address issues related to the role that CSOs can play to improve equality in access to natural resources and promote the participation of marginalized groups in decision-making processes.
Moderator: Lamia Bulbul, Lead Consultant and Researcher, Alternative Policy Solution at the American University in Cairo
Ouafa Haddioui, North Africa Program Assistant, Transnational Institute
Layla Riahi, member of the Tunisian Platform for Alternatives and the Working Group for Food Sovereignty
Imène Louati, Program Manager, Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung
Safaa al Jayoussi, Climate Justice Advisor for the Middle East and North Africa, Oxfam International
Melissa Pawson, Engagement Editor, Beyond Trafﬁcking and Slavery, and Freelance Journalist
Samah Hadid, Head of Advocacy in Media and Communications for the Middle East and North Africa, Norwegian Refugee Council
1:30pm until 2:30pm: Lunch Break
2:30pm–4pm: Panel 3: The intersections between water and food sovereignty and security?
The interlinked subjects of food and water sovereignty occupy a key space within the debate on just transition, as they are widely considered urgent topics with an immediate impact on the everyday lives of millions. Civil society organizations have taken a keen interest in working to alleviate food and water scarcity and in pushing for food and water security and sovereignty as one of the core tenets of a just and sustainable transition. This panel will explore the role CSOs play in advocating and pushing for food and water sovereignty in the Middle East and North Africa and the ways in which food and water security and sovereignty can be achieved as part of a process of just transition. How have the climate and environmental crises shown the need to transform our current food and water systems? What food and water systems should we be switching to, and how will the switch be just?
Moderator: Julia Choucair Vizoso, Non-Resident Senior Fellow at the Arab Reform Initiative
Natasha Carmi, Lead Water Specialist, Geneva Water Hub
Mourad Zenasni, Professor of Economics, Universite Mohammed Premier
Kanj Hamade, Co-founder, Economic Development Solutions
4pm–5pm: Keynote talk
Head of Cooperation, European Union Delegation to Lebanon
Executive Director, Arab Reform Initiative
Day 2: Tuesday, 30th of May
10am–11:30am: Panel 4: What energy transition? Between the appetite for oil and gas and the appeal of green energy made for export,
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has sent Europe looking for alternative sources of oil and gas in the MENA region. Meanwhile, investments in green energy production in the MENA region have tended to favor big production facilities geared towards exporting clean energy, which often fail to beneﬁt neighboring communities in the countries of production. How can the shift to renewable energy lead to a reassessment of relations between energy-producing and energy-consuming countries? How can environmental priorities be best integrated into an energy transition process? How can the transition to renewable sources of energy affect the political economy in energy-producing countries where oil and gas have historically favored clientelist networks dominated by autocratic power structures? What roles can the international community play in supporting the energy transition in the Middle East and North Africa?
Moderator: Malek Lakhal, Research Fellow, Arab Reform Initiative
Clementine Lienard, Climate Security Analyst at the Brussels International Center
Jina Talj, Founder and Director, Diaries of the Ocean, and National Coordinator, Coalition for Energy Governance
Zeina Abla, Co-Founder, Ebla Research Collective
Omer Badokhon, Founder and President, Solutions for Sustainable Society
Ruba Ajjour, Manager of the Climate Change Studies Division, Royal Scientiﬁc Society
11:30am until 12pm: Coffee Break
12pm-1:30pm: Panel 5: Financing Just Transition: Climate Finance, Reparations, Loss and Damage, and Civil Society Organizations
Climate ﬁnance is at the heart of international negotiations on the environment. Each Conference of Parties brings forth increasingly ambitious pledges that oftentimes fall short of what would actually be needed to adequately ﬁnance adaptation and mitigation efforts. Climate ﬁnance has also been criticized for its insufﬁciently transparent procedures and its reliance on loans and private sector investments. In contrast with this approach, can climate ﬁnance be instead directly delivered to civil society organizations and to NGOs focusing on just transition, and would this lead to a larger impact? This panel will seek to explore how climate ﬁnance can be leveraged to help environmental CSOs, the case for redirecting some climate ﬁnance from government and the private sector to CSOs, and how this could lead to a paradigm shift with regards to how climate ﬁnance is perceived.
Moderator: Youness Lebtar, Executive Director, Moroccan Institute for Policy Analysis
Amjad Bani Issa, Project Coordinator, Green Generation Foundation
Ahmed el Droubi, International Campaigns Manager, Climate Action Network-International
Sara Hess, Associate Economic Affairs Ofﬁcer, United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA)
Salma Kadry, Climate, Peace, and Security Specialist, Consultative Group for International Agricultural Research
1:30pm–3pm: Lunch Break
3pm-4:30pm: Panel 6: On Narratives and Public Opinion: The Role of Media
The media can play a key role in pushing for environmental consciousness amongst the general population, and it can also be central to introducing the central tenets of just transition and, notably, how environmental issues are tied to social, political, and economic choices. In parallel, environmental journalists in the Middle East and North Africa have recently faced increased restrictions from states, and there has been a generalized closing of civic spaces, which has limited journalists' ability to work. This panel will convene 5 journalists to discuss how they cover environmental transition and environmental organizations and how journalists can collaborate with environmental activists. How can journalists use international platforms to advocate for a just transition in the Middle East and North Africa?
Moderator: Mónica Carrión Otero, Project Manager, Moroccan Institute for Policy Analysis
Safaa Khalaf, an Iraqi journalist and researcher in sociology and politics
Zeina Shahla, Environment Editor, Raseef 22
Sahar Mohammad, Project Assistant, Internews
Amine Derkaoui, Communication and Intelligence Manager, Climate Change Competence Centre Maroc
Peter Schwartzstein, Environmental Journalist, Global Fellow, Wilson Center, Fellow, Center for Climate and Security