5March
2024
Second Annual Conference:  On Conflict Climate Change and the Environment in the Middle East and North Africa Region

The conference agenda is available for download via this link

The discussion will be held in both Arabic and English, with interpretation available on Zoom only.

You can register to attend by following this link. You will receive a Zoom confirmation email should your registration be successful. Alternatively, you can watch the event live here on our Facebook page.

The MENA region continues to suffer from multiple armed conflicts that have led to major environmental damage and large-scale displacement. Yet, the impact of conflict on the environment (be it directly through the damage caused by attacks or indirectly through the weakening of governance and oversight) remains insufficiently measured and the perpetrators of environmental degradation are rarely if ever held to account locally or internationally.

This conference will focus on specific topics relevant to the intersection of conflict and environment, such as the role played by extractive industries in conflict induced pollution, the challenges faced by activists seeking to document the impact of conflict on the environment in MENA. It will also examine the existing legal frameworks – local and international – to qualify such environmental damage and what avenues are available to pursue accountability. Benefitting from the presence of a large and local humanitarian community in Amman, the conference will also seek to explore how humanitarian actors have sought to include environmental considerations in their support of displaced populations and how such considerations can be better integrated in addressing medium-term environmental challenges faced by the host communities.

Organised by the Arab Reform Initiative (ARI) and the Robert Bosch Stiftung (RBSG) and held on 5-6 March 2024, in the Landmark Amman Hotel & Conference Centre in Amman Jordan, this conference convenes activists, researchers, and practitioners working on the intersecting frontlines of conflict and environmental action in MENA. This conference will be hybrid, with both in person attendance and live stream on both Zoom and Facebook.

Day 1: Tuesday 5 March

9:00am - 9:15am Welcoming the Audience
9:15am - 9:30am Opening Remarks by ARI and RBSG
9:30am - 11:00am Session 1: Extractive industries and conflict in MENA region

Highly polluting extractive industries have acted as a catalyst and perpetuator of conflicts in the MENA region. This panel explores the ways in which extractive industries, especially oil and gas, have contributed to local conflicts in southern Iraq, North East Syria and Yemen. It will focus on how extractive industries have provided income to armed groups as well as their long-term impact on local communities through polluting soil and underground water. The panel will also explore the steps that can be taken by different local and international actors, and the private sector, to address this pollution and hold perpetrators accountable.

Moderator: Tobias Zumbraegel, Postdoctoral Researcher and Lecturer in the Department of Human Geography, Heidelberg University

Speakers:

  • Mawada Bahah, Syrian Freelance Journalist
  • Shukri Al-Hassan, Professor in Environmental Pollution, University of Basrah
  • Ahmad al Wadaey, Associate Professor of Agriculture, University of Sanaa
  • Wim Zwijnenburg, Humanitarian Disarmament Project Leader, PAX
  • Youness Abouyoub, Chief, Governance and State-Building, Governance and Conflict Prevention Division, United Nations.

11:00am - 11:30am Coffee Break

11:30am-1:00pm Session 2: Mainstreaming Climate Change in Responses to Displacement

Several displaced communities in the MENA region are subject to harsh environmental conditions with limited capacity to adapt to them. They often find themselves in emergency shelter with little protection from scorching heat or cold winters and regularly end up in areas with limited natural resources. This panel will explore how environmental concerns can be mainstreamed in responses to displacement. It will examine how environmental challenges can be addressed in often urgent situations, as well as how environmental issues can be integrated in the medium-term as time passes and local resources come under pressure for the displaced as well as the host communities. The panel will focus notably on lessons drawn from displacement in Syria, Iraq, Sudan, Yemen, Lebanon and Palestine, and will give a priority to local and regional organizations that are directly acting on the ground with displaced communities.

Moderator: Sarine Karajerjian, Director, Environmental Politics Program, Arab Reform Initiative

Speakers:

  • Abdalftah Hamed Ali, Junior Visiting Fellow, Middle East Council on Global Affairs
  • Musaed Aklan, Senior Researcher, Sana'a Center for Strategic Studies
  • Zeina Shahla, Environment editor and journalist, Raseef22
  • Mac Skelton, Director, American University of Iraq's Institute of Regional and International Studies
  • Georgi Stickels, Senior Environmental Manager, UNRWA

1:00pm-2:30pm: Lunch Break
2:30pm-4:00pm Session 3: Understanding the Environmental Damage in Gaza: How to measure it? How to quality it?

Israel’s attacks on Gaza have led to widespread damage to housing, critical infrastructure and farmland, disrupting water sources, sewage and waste systems. This results in water scarcity, land contamination, and severe environmental degradation rendering entire swaths of land uninhabitable for the foreseeable future, further complicating Gaza’s post war rehabilitation efforts. This panel will explore the impact of the current war on Gaza’s environment. In addition to discussing how to measure and evaluate the impact, it will also explore how to characterize and even legally qualify this destruction. This panel will aim to lay the grounds for a better grounded understanding of what environmental justice could mean in the context of Gaza.

Moderator: Hussam Hussein, Executive Director of Partnerships for Development, Royal Scientific Society (RSS) of Jordan

Speakers:

  • Lisa Shahin, Advocacy and Research Officer, Arab Group for the Protection of Nature
  • Munira Khayyat, Clinical Associate Professor of Anthropology, New York University Abu Dhabi (online)
  • Nidal Atallah, Program Coordinator, Heinrich Boell Stiftung
  • Abeer Butmeh, Coordinator, Palestinian Environmental NGO Network

Day 2: Wednesday 6 March

9:30am -11:00am Session 4: Environmental Activism in Times of Conflict: What spaces and what risks?
Environmental activists in the MENA region have consistently endeavoured to document and bring to light environmental violations occurring amidst the turmoil of armed conflicts, whether at the hands of armed groups or opportunistic individuals taking advantage of governance breakdowns for personal gain. This critical undertaking is perilous, as these activists often face targeted attacks that go largely unchecked and unprosecuted. The panel provides a platform for climate activists hailing from Iraq, Lebanon and Yemen to share insights into the challenges they face, the threats they endure, and the strategies they employ to navigate these circumstances.

Moderator: Safa’ Al Jayoussi, Climate Justice Advisor for the Middle East and North Africa, Oxfam International
Speakers:

11:00am-11:30pm Coffee Break
11:30pm -1:00pm Session 5: Litigating environmental damage: How can international and domestic law help prosecute the perpetrators of environmental crimes in times of conflict?
Environmental crimes in times of war have received comparatively little legal attention in MENA even when there is clear evidence that they are caused by deliberate and belligerent human action. This panel will explore how international laws and framework account for environmental damage caused by conflict, and how can adequate legal frameworks be created and/or adapted in MENA to hold perpetrators to account?

Moderator: Nadim Houry, Executive Director, Arab Reform Initiative
Speakers: