DIRAIA, ‘Knowledge’ in Arabic, short for "Developing Inclusive Research through Activism and Informed Advocacy," is a comprehensive initiative addressing the knowledge gap on environmental activism in the MENA region. Focusing on Morocco, Tunisia, Lebanon, and Iraq, DIRAIA explores the dynamics, strategies, and resilience of environmental mobilization within the context of social justice and governance challenges.
DIRAIA's rationale stems from the region's vulnerability to climate change despite being a "climate change hotspot." It critiques the limited state response and emphasises the disconnect between state initiatives and citizen involvement. Gender considerations are integrated, recognizing the gendered impacts of the climate crisis and exploring women's roles in environmental mobilisation.
Employing an action-oriented research design involving interviews, fieldwork, and case analysis, DIRAIA aims to provide practical insights for practitioners, policymakers, and researchers. The study emphasises collaboration and transnational peer learning among activists and researchers in the selected countries, addressing the critical lack of understanding regarding how environmental activism intersects with socio-economic disparities, governance structures, and ongoing conflicts in the MENA region.
- Analyze and document the organizational modes of actors engaged in climate change efforts. This entails studying the complex contexts they navigate and the adaptive strategies they devise to claim and open new spaces for action.
- Highlight effective strategies and tactics utilized by civil society actors and social movements in the MENA region to influence climate policies and action. Particular emphasis will be placed on initiatives that adopt a just transition framework and promote a greater degree of gender equality and social inclusion.
- Document key factors that contribute to the successful formation of alliances between environmental defenders, other movements, and actors within the MENA region. This exploration will be undertaken within the context of the narrowing civic spaces and associated threats that are prevalent in the region as well as the need for the region’s movements to be more effective in global fora on climate change.
Research and Policy Questions:
- What are the driving forces behind threats and challenges to climate and environmental defenders, organizations, and affected communities, and how do they intertwine with broader threats to civic space? Who are these environmental actors and what shapes of organizing and engagement have they adopted? Under what circumstances do environmental grievances escalate into contentious politics on a national scale, and when do they remain localized?
- Which effective strategies do climate defenders and communities employ to counter direct threats and defend their rights? How successful have the new environmental movements been in including marginalized groups and communities? How has the environmental movement succeeded in pursuing its demands amidst the politically and security-challenging landscape in the region's countries?
- What strategies and tactics have environmental movements adopted to influence decision-making, shape policy processes (from discourse to actual policies), and how successful were they? Did these strategies advocate for a just transition that would also include enhanced gender equality and more social inclusion in climate policies? At what level of intervention (local, national or international) were these actions? What is the role of international financial institutions (World Bank, UN agencies, donor community etc.) in shaping the environmental ecosystem? How can they become “green allies”?
- Did the climate defenders and environmental movements build bridges with other social movements (from feminist networks to labor movements to human rights groups) to advocate for more inclusive climate action, counteract shrinking civic spaces, and work alongside communities most affected by the environmental crisis?
DIRAIA builds on past experiences of ARI and MIPA, incorporating multi-country research projects, policy dialogues, nurturing an ecosystem of knowledge-producing institutions, and training and mentoring initiatives. The methodology involves two key components over a 36-month timeline: Research and Mapping of Environmental Activism and Building Communities of Practice/Alliances.
Collaboration and Consortium:
Collaboration is central to the project, with ARI and MIPA forming a strategic alliance and mobilising a consortium of research institutions and NGOs in the MENA region.
Project Scope and impact:
Covering Iraq, Lebanon, Morocco, and Tunisia, DIRAIA allows for comparative research on common threats posed by climate change and the role of extractive industries. The diverse political contexts in these countries will be examined to understand their impact on environmental activism. The project aims to contribute valuable insights to support environmental movements in the region, facilitate connections among activists and researchers, and influence policymaking processes.
This project is implemented by the Arab Reform Initiative and the Moroccan Institute for Policy Analysis (MIPA).
DIRAIA is funded by the International Development Research Centre (IDRC).
This project is part of IDRC’s efforts to support research on protecting climate activists and environmental defenders. It is part of a CAD6.8 million investment that supports eight research projects centred on the experiences of climate and environmental human rights defenders across the Global South.