2023Conference: Rethinking the Nexus between Conflict, Climate Change and Environment in West Asia and North Africa
The conference agenda is available for download via this link.
Conflicts are triggered by environmental issues and are also a source of environmental degradation. Over the past 60 years, multiple conflicts that have ravaged West Asia and North Africa(WANA) have been linked to environmental factors. At the same time, several of the largest recent environmental disasters have been caused and aggravated by armed conflict. This raises several questions on how to understand, conceptualize and rationalize this relationship. How can we better document the relationship between conflict and the environment? What impact has conflict had on pressing issues of food and water security? What role can international organizations play in ensuring environmental priorities are taken into account in post-conflict planning and peacebuilding? How can we build post-conflict institutions that can better handle environmental issues? What role can journalists play in documenting the impact of conflicts on the environment?
Organized by the Arab Reform Initiative (ARI), the Robert Bosch Stiftung (RBS), and Orient Matters (OM), this conference convenes activists, researchers, and practitioners on the frontlines of environmental and climate action in WANA to discuss the complex and multifaceted nexuses and intersections between conflicts and the environment.
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.
Day 1 – 31 January, 2023
9:00-9:15: Welcome and registration
9:15-9:30: Opening session (welcoming remarks and introduction) delivered together by Nadim Houry.
9:30-11:00 | Panel 1: Re-Thinking the Environment during Conflict: From Afterthought to Central Concern
The panel will explore the need to better document environmental damage and its long-lasting impact on soil, water, food, and ultimately on societies, for example, in places such as Syria, Iraq and Yemen. .This panel will also seek to emphasize the importance of adressing environmental issues in peacebuilding and reconstruction policies. How can we re-center the environment, and environmental damage when thinking about armed conflicts in the region? How are vital natural resources affected by conflict? How can modern imaging software be used to visualize this damage? How can and should humanitarian actors take into account environmental factors in their work?
Moderator: Sarine Karajerjian, Director of the Environmental Politics Program at the Arab Reform Initiative
- Alex Simon, Co-Founder and Syria Director at Synaps
- Omer Badokhon, Founder and President at Solutions for Sustainable Society, Yemen
- Wim Zwijnenburg, Project Leader in Humanitarian Disarmament, PAX- Netherlands
- Loulouwa Al Rachid, Senior Political Advisor at the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue in Geneva
- Basant Abdel-Meguid, Legal Adviser at the Regional International Humanitarian Law Department for Arabic-speaking countries at the International Committee of the Red Cross, Egypt
11:00-11:30 | BREAK
11:30-13:00 | Panel 2: Better Understanding the Nexus between Conflict, Climate Change and the Environment on Food Security
As the specter of food insecurity grows across the world, particularly in a region that is heavily dependent on food imports like WANA, the impact of conflict and climate change on food systems is becoming increasingly evident. How and why does conflict affect food security in the short and long term? How can food insecurity itself lead to and prolong conflict? For example, explosive remnants can prevent access to agricultural fields and fighting and bombardments often destroy irrigation networks and damage soil fertility. Conflicts can lead to a lack of energy to pump water, an overexploitation of underground water (in the absence of state policing), soil erosion, the disappearance of “grain banks” and financing of farmers, etc. The panel will explore some of the ways the impact has manifested itself in the region, and what is being done in response.
Moderator: Farah Al Shami, Research Fellow at the Arab Reform Initiative
- Younes Abouyoub, Director of the Governance and State-Building Division for the MENA Region at the United Nations (ESCWA)
- Hania Chahal, Agri-Food Marketing Economist in Lebanon
- Saad Dagher, Freelance Agronomist Agro-ecologist, and Co-founder of the Palestinian Agro-Ecological Forum
- Aline Yacoubian, Emergency Food Security and Vulnerable Livelihoods Policy Officer at Oxfam Syria
13:00-14:30 | LUNCH BREAK
14:30-16:00 | Panel 3: Water Wars? Rethinking the Nexus of Conflict and Water from the Regional to the Local
The “water wars” rhetoric has long dominated headlines, especially in coverage of the Middle East and North Africa, regions often considered the most susceptible to water wars. As climate change and contamination strain fresh water supplies, conflict within and across national boundaries can seem inevitable. Yet this narrative also risks ignoring evidence of trans-boundary and local cooperation over water, obscuring other causes of conflicts, or diverting attention from existing water inequalities. How can we best situate, understand, and respond to the real current and future challenges with access to fresh water? How might thinking about water and conflict also lead to more sustainable and equitable practices?
Moderator: Julia Choucair Vizoso, Non-resident Senior Fellow at the Arab Reform Initiative
- Muna Dajani, Researcher on water and environmental politics
- Sammy Kayed, Co-founder and Managing Director of the Environment Academy in Lebanon
- Ahmad al Wadaey, Associate Professor at the Water and Environment Department, Faculty of Agriculture, Sanaa University
- Hussam Hussein, Executive Director of Partnerships for Development of the Royal Scientific Society (RSS) of Jordan
16:00-17:00 | Keynote talk with Lebanese Minister of Environment, Dr. Nasser Yassin, and Arab Reform Initiative’s Executive Director, Nadim Houry.
Day 2 – 1 February, 2023
9:30-11:00 | Panel 4: The Role of the International Community and Global Actors in Post-Conflict Planning. How can Environmental Priorities be Integrated in Peace Building?
Much has been written about peacebuilding and transitional justice but little has been said about how to integrate environmental priorities as part of these frameworks. Indeed, the desire to achieve environmental justice and stability can be a central pillar of peace negotiations, and international organizations have a chance to play a critical role in such processes. What role can international organizations play to push for the integration of environmental dynamics in peacebuilding? How can such projects be sustainably and transparently funded? How can sustainable reconstruction practices in post-conflict urban areas be a factor in peacebuilding?
Moderator: Atje Drexler, Senior Vice President International Cooperation and Understanding at the Robert Bosch Stiftung
- Natasha Hall, Senior Fellow with the Middle East Program, Centre for Strategic and International Studies
- Hiba Bou Akar, Assistant Professor in the Urban Planning Program at Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation
- Salim Rouhana, Program Leader for Sustainable Development Sectors covering MENA Mashreq Countries at the World Bank Group
- Khalil Dinguizli, Head of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development Operations in Lebanon.
11:00-11:30 | BREAK
11:30-13:00 | Panel 5: Post-Conflict Governance: How to Build Strong Post-Conflict Institutions that Can Adapt/Mitigate Environmental Impacts
Bad governance is one of the issues that mark post-conflict situations; it tends to spread throughout state administrations including in the management of environmental issues. Weak governance means that the impact of conflict on the environment can endure for decades after the conflict ends. Lebanon, Iraq, and Syria are all concrete examples. For instance, Lebanon and Iraq’s water resource institutions never recovered from the damage inflicted during active conflict, with the same likely to happen in Syria and Yemen. How to address these issues? Notably, how to build strong post-conflict institutions that can tackle the long-term planning needed for environmental issues?
Moderator: Angela Laudenbacher, Consultant at Orient Matters
- Carol Chouchani Cherfane, Leader of the Climate Change and Natural Resource Sustainability Cluster at the United Nations- ESCWA
- Shivan Fazil Sabr, Researcher with the Middle East and North Africa Programme at Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.
- Tarek Alkhoury, Regional Coordinator for Climate Change at United Nations Environment Program's West Asia Office
- Asma Khalifa, Co-Founder of the Khalifa Ihler Institute, and a Doctoral Researcher at the German Institute for Global and Area Studies.
13:00-14:30 | LUNCH BREAK
14:30-17:00 | Panel 6: Roundtable Discussion with International, Regional and Local Journalists
How can we build strong coalitions with journalists to cover conflict-related climate change and environmental impacts? Five journalists (from local, regional and international outlets) will convene to share their own stories on covering conflict and its impacts on the region. The issue of media coverage is essential to push environmental issues more as a policy priority in the region.
Moderator: Maya Gebeily, Reuters Bureau Chief for Lebanon, Syria and Jordan
Participating journalists :
- Yara El Murr, Documentary Filmmaker and Journalist at The Public Source
- Alya Ibrahim, Co-founder and CEO of Daraj.com
- Annia Ciezadlo, Journalist at the Public Source
- Habib Maalouf, Journalist at Al Akhbar and Professor of Philosophy at the Lebanese University