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The Deployment of Climate Change and Control over Natural Resources in Current Radical Islamic Theory and Practice – Dr. Moshe Terdiman

October 16, 2014


The Deployment of Climate Change and Control over Natural Resources in Current Radical Islamic Theory and Practice

by Moshe Terdiman

RIMA Climate Change and Conflict Papers, volume 1 (2014), Number 1 (October 2014) 



During the last decade or so, radical Islamic organizations — Hizb al-Tahrir, Hizbullah, al-Qaeda, the Islamic State, Jabhat al-Nusra, al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, al-Shabaab, al-Qaeda Organization in the Islamic Maghreb, Ansar Dine, Boko Haram, Ansar al-Shari’ah, etc. — have been deploying climate change, competition and control over natural resources, and attacks against energy infrastructures in their fight against the local Muslim regimes across the Middle East, North Africa, the Sahel and the Horn of Africa as well as against Israel and the West. In addition, control over natural resources has proved to be a major source of income for some radical Islamic organizations. Moreover, radical Islamic organizations have been recruiting people who have been suffering from the loss of their livelihoods as a result of climate change effects.[1]

This article will give a short survey of this new phenomenon. It will be followed by a series of articles looking at each of the main radical Islamic organizations active in Africa and at their use of the environment in order to promote their aims.

The Ideological Level

On the ideological level, Hizb ut-Tahrir Denmark published a booklet in 2009 titled “The Environmental Problem: Its Causes and Islam’s Solutions”. Hizb ut-Tahrir is a pan-Islamic organization which was established in 1953 in Jerusalem and its goal is to unify all Muslim countries under a caliphate which will be ruled by Shari’ah law. Therefore, it is not surprising that in the framework of this booklet, Hizb ut-Tahrir blames the Western culture and its capitalist economic system for the ongoing environmental crisis and says that Islam is the only solution for this crisis. According to this booklet, the environmental crisis can be checked only under Islamic shari’ah rule, which will take care of the environment.[2]

Also Osama bin Laden, the late al-Qaeda leader, blamed the US and other industrial economies for climate change on an audiotape released on January 29, 2010. He said that “speaking about climate change is not a matter of intellectual luxury – the phenomenon is an actual fact”. He added that “all the industrial states are to blame for climate change, yet the majority of those states have signed the Kyoto Protocol and agreed to curb the emission of harmful gases. However, George Bush junior, preceded by [the US] congress, dismissed the agreement to placate giant corporations. And they are themselves standing behind speculation, monopoly and soaring living costs. They are also behind ‘globalization and its tragic implications’. And whenever the perpetrators are found guilty, the heads of state rush to rescue them using public money”.[3]

The Practical Level

Moving from ideology to practice, radical Islamic organizations are making use of climate change impacts in order to recruit people to their ranks as well as to convert people to their cause. For example, on February 24, 2010, Africa Review reported that many Boko Haram foot soldiers happen to be people displaced by severe drought and food shortages in neighboring Niger and Chad. Some 200,000 farmers and herdsmen had lost their livelihoods and, facing starvation, crossed the border to Nigeria, where some of them have been lured by the Boko Haram, which supplied them with salaries and food.[4]

Boko Haram is not the only radical Islamic organization which succeeds in luring people affected by climate change to its cause. Other radical Islamic organizations active in the Sahel – such as: al-Qaeda Organization in the Islamic Maghreb, Ansar Dine, and others – are doing the same. In June 2014, the new UN Special Envoy for the Sahel, Hiroute Guebre Sellassie, used her first briefing to the Security Council to stress the connection between the “extremely fragile” humanitarian situation” and the worsening regional security. She said that “unemployed youth are particularly vulnerable to religious radicalization, while extremist groups are increasingly investing in the development of violent indoctrination. Extremist and radical ideologies continue to spread in the Sahel region and are driving many young men and women into violence”.[5]

From these two examples, one is able to see that the causes for the eruption of conflicts in Mali and Nigeria and for the rise of radical Islamic organizations in the Sahel are not only political, social, religious and ethnic, but also environmental, having to do with the decrease of agricultural yields, the expansion of the desert into pastoral and agricultural areas, and water shortages caused by climate change.

Radical Islamic organizations are also using the environment and its control over natural resources (such as: water, land, oil, etc.) as a means to make profit and finance its activities. Al-Shabaab has been financing its activities partly from elephant poaching and the trafficking of ivory, which funds “up to 40 per cent of the cost [of al-Shabaab’s] army of 5,000 people”, according to Andrea Crosta, a director of EAL and co-author of a 2011 report into the links between poaching and terror groups.[6] Al-Shabaab has another important source of funding, which is the charcoal industry. It is estimated that al-Shabaab exports charcoal worth $500,000 per month to the Gulf states. Yet, the booming trade in charcoal with the Gulf states has been affecting the environment since nowadays there is vast deforestation in the areas under al-Shabaab’s control in south Somalia.[7] Another example in point is the Islamic State, which took control over oil fields in Syria and Iraq. These oil fields serve as a very important source of income for its activities and make it the richest radical Islamic organization in the world. Thus, its oil income can be between $1 million to $3 million a day.[8]

In addition, radical Islamic organizations are also using the environment and natural resources as a weapon in their fight against local opposition groups. For example, the Islamic State has been increasingly using its control of water facilities, including four dams along the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, as a weapon to displace communities or cut them off supplies. At the same time, they have been pressing to expand their control over Iraq’s water infrastructure, and especially, Iraq’s largest dams – Mosul and Haditha.[9]

Finally, radical Islamic organizations have launched attacks against energy infrastructures as part of their war against the local regimes and the West. The first radical Islamic organization to launch such an attack was al-Qaeda. As part of its war against local Arab regimes and the West, al-Qaeda launched a suicide attack against the MV Limburg, a French 157,000-ton crude oil tanker, in the Arabian Sea on October 6, 2002. On February 24, 2006, it launched an attack against Saudi Arabia’s giant oil processing facility at Abqaiq, which failed. This was the first direct attack by al-Qaeda on a Saudi oil installation.[10]

Other radical Islamic organizations which launched attacks against energy infrastructures include  the Abdullah Azzam Brigade, which in July 2010 launched a suicide attack against the Japanese oil tanker MV M. Star in the Strait of Hormuz, injuring a crew member.[11] Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula has been launching attacks against oil fields and pipelines in Yemen since oil is one of the main sources of income for the Yemenite government.[12] As of 2011, as part of its fight against Israel and the Egyptian regime, Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis, which is active in the Sinai Peninsula, launched repeated attacks on the gas pipeline supplying gas to Israel.[13]On January 16, 2013, Katibat al-Mulathamin (the Masked Brigade), which is a splinter group of the al-Qaeda Organization in the Islamic Maghreb under the command of Mokhtar Belmokhtar, launched an attack against the Tigantourine gas facility, which supplies 10 per cent of Algeria’s natural gas production.[14]


All these above mentioned instances show that in the last decade or so, the radical Islamic organizations have “discovered” the environmental factor and have been using it to promote its aims both in the ideological level and in the practical level. Not only they have joined the global environmental discourse concerning climate change and regarded it as yet another opportunity to blame the West for global injustices while stressing the role that an Islamic state ruled by the Shari’ah may play in checking the crisis, but they have also taken advantage of the impacts of climate change and its control over natural resources as both a source of income and recruitment of people for its cause as well as a weapon vis-à-vis the local population, the local Muslims regimes and the West.

Thus, it is very important to understand that the rise of radical Islamic organizations and the eruption of the conflicts in the Middle East, Africa, and elsewhere during the last decade or so have been driven and caused not only by political, economic, social, religious and ethnic tensions but also by the environmental factor.

The role played by the environmental factor in exacerbating existing problems to a boiling point is not new, especially within pastoralist societies in the Middle East and Africa who throughout history used to compete with agricultural societies and with rival groups over the control of and access to natural resources, such as water and land. Yet, nowadays, the importance of the environmental factor in the process of eruption of current conflicts and the rise of radical Islamic organizations has increased tremendously, especially since it is coupled with huge population growth and, as a result, with rising population stress over dwindling basic natural resources in levels unsurpassed ever before.  Furthermore, the inability of the states in Africa and the Middle East to address the impacts of climate change in particular and environmental issues in general has also turned the populations against their governments and helped radical Islamic organizations to convert some of them to their cause.

To sum up, although military intervention and the very difficult task of addressing the core political, ethnic, religious, economic and social issues may restore stability in Africa and the Middle East and may curb radical Islamic organizations in the short term, climate change will continue to play a major role and increase instability among these countries’ poor, especially the agricultural and pastoralist societies. As a result, there is also a need to focus on environment and resource dimensions of actual and potential conflict situations as a resource in helping stabilize these countries and curb radical Islamic organizations in the long term.






[1] This is an introductory article to the subject of radical Islam and its use of the environment in order to promote its aims. I have also started to work on a book on this subject, which will cover all the radical Islamic groups throughout the world which have been using the environment in order to promote their aims.

[2] See on-line at:

[3] See on-line at:

[4] See on-line at:

[5] See on-line at:

[6] See on-line at:

[7] See on-line at:

[8] See on-line at:

[9] See on-line at:

[10] See on-line at:

[11] See on-line at:

[12] See on-line at:

[13] See on-line at:

[14] See on-line at:

Climate Change in Tunisia’s Constitution: A Model for African and Middle Eastern Countries – Dr. Moshe Terdiman

April 16, 2014

Climate Change in Tunisia’s Constitution: A Model for African and Middle Eastern Countries

By Moshe Terdiman

RIMA Environmental Papers, Volume 1 (2014), Number 1 (April 2014)

Introduction – Environmental Clauses in Tunisia’s New Constitution

On January 26, 2014, the Tunisian National Constituent Assembly passed the new constitution, which took more than two years to draft, by a 200-12 vote with four abstentions. Tunisian President, Moncef Marzouki, and the outgoing Tunisian National Constituent Assembly President, Mustapha Ben Ja’far, signed the document on January 27, 2014, bringing it into effect.[1]

The constitution, praised as one of the most progressive in the region, especially for its provisions on health care, women’s rights and gender equality, also obliges the state, under the opening preamble, to “contribute to a secure climate and the protection of the environment to ensure the sustainability of our natural resources and the sustainability of safe life for future generations”. Moreover, under Article 45 the new constitution obliges the state to guarantee “a sound climate and the right to a sound and balanced environment”, and “provide the necessary means to eliminate environmental pollution”.[2]

Furthermore, the new constitution includes articles dealing specifically with natural resources, sustainable development, and water. Thus, under Article 12, “the state shall seek to achieve sound use of natural resources, balance between regions, social justice and sustainable development, with reference to development indicators and in accordance with the principle of positive discrimination”. Article 13 specifies that “natural resources are the property of the Tunisian people, and the state exercises sovereignty over them on their behalf. Investment contracts related to these resources shall be submitted to the competent committee of the Chamber of the People’s Deputies. Agreements ratified in relation to these resources shall be submitted to the Chamber for approval”. According to Article 44, “the right to water shall be guaranteed. Conservation and the rational use of water shall be a duty of the state and society”.[3]

In order to make sure that it meets its obligations, the National Constituent Assembly created the Committee for Sustainable Development and the Rights of Future Generations. According to Article 129 in the new constitution, “the Committee for Sustainable Development and the Rights of Future Generations shall be consulted on draft laws related to economic, social and environmental issues and on development planning. The committee shall give its opinion on issues related to its specializations. The committee shall be composed of members possessing competence and integrity. They undertake their functions for one six-year period”[4].

Climate Change Embedded in Tunisia’s New Constitution

The climate clause was proposed and authored by Dr. Dhamir Mannai, who serves as a member of the Tunisian National Constituent Assembly as well as of the NGO Climate Parliament[5]. He authored it with the help of the Climate Parliament and the United Nations Development Programme. The climate clause passed with near-unanimous support from the Assembly: 144 votes to 0, with 4 abstentions.[6]

Following the passage of the new constitution, Dr. Dhamir Mannai said on January 27, 2014, that “this opens the door for legislation for both the environment and climate protection. As MPs we wanted to tackle the issue head on, and then tackle it through climate legislation, and hopefully put us in a position where we can demand the other countries to do the same”.[7] He explained that his initiative was based on the observation that climate warming has been for years affecting snowfall levels in the northwest as well as the pace of encroachment by the desert in the south. He said that “the purpose is to anchor a new vision of sustainable development that is inclusive of all parts of the country and of the needs of future generations”.[8]

In addition, he linked the successful revolution against the autocratic rule of Zayn al-Abidine Ben Ali to the Tunisians’ need to face the challenge of climate change. He said that “the passage of our new constitution is a cause for celebration for many reasons. Having successfully challenged an autocratic regime, Tunisia is now ready to face up to a different kind of challenge: that of climate change. The work of the Climate Parliament and the UNDP has been vital in raising awareness amongst Tunisian legislators of the severity of future energy and climate issues, and Article 45 will now help ensure that our country shows the same fortitude in combating the climate threat as it displayed in overcoming oppression”.[9]

Ms. Hasna Marsit, a fellow member of the Tunisian National Constituent Assembly who helped draft the climate clause, added that “as the first such initiative after the Arab Spring, it represents a break from the inadequate policies of the past regarding sustainable development, and the first step towards building an effective climate policy which combines long term vision with a comprehensive and regionally-blind approach to sustainable development”.[10] She further said that “the new constitution recognizes that Tunisia is particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change. The predicted northward expansion of the Sahara desert over the course of the 21st century could pose an existential threat to the Tunisian people, who live mostly in a narrow strip of fertile land to the north of the desert”.[11]

The Climate Parliament’s Chairman, Sir Graham Watson, said that “Tunisia’s struggle for freedom and justice has already provided an inspiring example to millions across the Middle East. With the passage of the new constitution, the country now leads the Arab world again, this time on the vital issue of climate change. The commitment and vision displayed by Tunisian legislators in addressing future climate threats cannot fail to set another heartening precedent for governments and legislators around the world”.[12]

Indeed, Tunisia has become the third country in the world — after Ecuador and the Dominican Republic which had included climate change in their constitutions in 2008 and 2010 respectively — and the first country outside of Latin America to embed the importance of addressing climate change into its constitution.[13]


But the question remains whether constitutionally recognizing the threat of climate change is enough of a step to help tackle it.

On the one hand, climate change and its impact are among the most significant problems faced by Tunisia. A March 2013 World Bank report titled “Tunisia in A Changing Climate: Assessment and Actions for Increased Resilience and Development” said that “Tunisia is and will continue to be impacted by climate variability and change mainly through the adverse effects resulting from increasing temperatures, reduced and variable precipitation, and sea level rise… Climate change impacts are projected to increase water scarcity, the frequency of droughts and flooding. These impacts in turn negatively affect livelihoods and human well-being especially of vulnerable people and sectors, and Tunisia’s arid and coastal areas in particular”. Therefore, the same report stressed that “without meaningful action, climate change will deepen the already significant poverty and unemployment in the country and may unravel the development gains made in recent decades contributing to food insecurity and political instability”.[14]

Additionally, in their February 2013 report titled “The Arab Spring and Climate Change”, Caitlin E. Werrell and Francesco Femia emphasized that “in the Arab world, climate change has acted as a threat multiplier, exacerbating environmental, social, economic, and political drivers of unrest, including drought, water scarcity, food security, and migration, and it will likely continue to do so as the countries of the Middle East and North Africa region transition and change. In this context, addressing the effects of climate change in the Arab world will be critical for ensuring the longer term stability of the region and legitimacy of its respective governments. As Arab publics demand voice and representation, they will also demand that their governments provide them with the resources necessary not just for protection and survival but also for growth and prosperity. If mitigating climate change and adapting to its effects is not integrated into the policies and plans of new and existing governments, and if the international community does not assist in this endeavor, the social contract between citizen and government in the Arab world will likely not improve, and the stability and prosperity of the region may erode”.[15]

On the other hand, climate change will most likely be down the list of immediate priorities for the Tunisian government, with unsolved issues such as unemployment, rising prices and the need to reassure foreign investors and allies competing for their attention making the top of this list.

According to Wassim Chabaane, the president and founder of the “Association Tuniso-Méditerranéenne de l’Environement” and a technical coordinator at GIZ/Sweep-net, climate change is a lower priority in Tunisia also compared to the more immediate environmental challenges of bin sorting, industrial and marine pollution, and water scarcity.[16]

To sum up, In order to keep political stability, the Tunisian authorities will have to improve the Tunisian’s quality of life. Rises in taxes, poor infrastructure and health services, high unemployment, increasing food prices, budget deficit and corruption – all these can trigger unrest and lead to another revolution. Nevertheless, if the current Prime Minister, Mehdi Jomaa, and the technocrat government succeed in creating opportunities for economic growth, poverty alleviation, tensions alleviation, and improvement of the socio-economic situation in Tunisia, using also, among other strategies, policy options that address climate change mitigation and adaptation, it might be able to create the so-called Tunisian m

[1] See on-line at:

[2] See on-line at:

[3] See on-line at:

[4] See on-line at:

[5] The Climate Parliament is an international network of legislators “dedicated to preventing climate change and promoting renewable energy”. For more details see its website:

[6] See on-line at:;

[7] See on-line at:

[8] See on-line at:

[9] See on-line at:

[10] See on-line at:

[11] See on-line at:

[12] See on-line at:

[13] See on-line at:;

[14] See on-line at:

[15] See on-line at:

[16] See on-line at:

Creation of Environmental Governmental Organs in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia – Dr. Moshe Terdiman

September 15, 2013

Creation of Environmental Governmental Organs in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia

By Moshe Terdiman

Until a year ago, all Gulf countries, besides Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, had ministries of environment, which have been tasked with the formulation of environmental policy and strategy for the country and with the implementation of environmental laws promulgated by the parliament. The Ministries of Environment in the Gulf countries have different names: the Ministry of Environment & Climate Affairs in Oman, the Ministry of Water and Environment in Yemen, the Ministry of Environment in Qatar, the Ministry of Environment and Water in the UAE, the Environment Public Authority in Kuwait, the Ministry of Environment in Iraq, and the Department of Environment in Iran.

In December 2012, the Supreme Council for the Environment was established in Bahrain by a royal decree, which was approved by parliament and later endorsed by the Shura Council on March 26, 2013. It replaced the Public Commission for the Protection of Marine Resources, Environment and Wildlife. The head of this Council is the king’s second son, Sheikh Abdullah bin Hamad bin Issa al-Khalifa. It consists of six ministers, who bring with them an expertise in industry, trade, health, municipal affairs, social development, electricity, water, the oil and gas sectors, etc. The Council’s declared aim is to protect Bahrain’s natural environment and to monitor potentially harmful industrial activity. However, it is also in a good position, due to the comprehensive knowledge and expertise which is brought to the table by its members, to oversee all services linked to the environment as well as to formulate environmental policy and strategy for the country and to enact environmental legislation and implement environmental laws promulgated by the parliament whose aim is the protection of the environment.[1]

The Supreme Council for the Environment was established as a result of a few main factors. First of all, in recent years, Bahrain, just as the rest of the Gulf countries, has been witnessing a sharpened increase in various environmental pressures. These pressures include rapid population growth, urbanization and continued construction despite limited land space. All these pressures have resulted in increased land reclamation and pollution. Secondly, Bahrain has experienced increasing sea contamination as a result of waste from ships, factories and even humans. Thirdly, a key problem in Bahrain is the depletion of fish stocks, especially since fishermen and their families comprise a large segment of the Bahraini citizens, as a result of unchecked urbanization, the creation of artificial islands and maritime border agreements with neighboring countries.[2]

In light of these factors and challenges facing Bahrain, the most important issues that the Council has to deal with are: protecting marine life from urban sprawl and pollution; protecting the rights of Bahraini fishermen; and creating a balance between infrastructure growth and safeguarding natural resources by resorting to sustainable development.[3]

Indeed, as from the end of March 2013 until today, the Council announced the creation of Hayrrat, Bahrain’s largest marine life reserve which is located off the north coast of Bahrain and which will cover an area of around 1,350 sq m, for the protection of the pearls’ environment. It will also serve as a cultural and environmental heritage site.[4] The Council also gave directives to establish a national center for the prevention of nuclear radiation[5], and it organized a national training course on how to cope with radioactivity in the work place.[6]

In addition, the Council is also responsible for the formulation of Bahrain’s 2020 environmental strategy. In this capacity, it directed the executive authorities to draw up a roadmap towards this aim. The Council itself is supposed to be transformed from an executive agency into a regulatory body.[7]

Thus, as of today, Saudi Arabia is the only Gulf country without a ministry of environment or a centralized governmental organ dealing with environmental issues. In Saudi Arabia, many governmental ministries and agencies, such as the Ministry of Agriculture, the Ministry of Municipal and Rural Affairs, the Wildlife Protection Agency, and the Presidency of Meteorology and Environmental Protection (PME), are tasked with dealing with environmental issues.[8]

Some experts urged the Saudi government to establish a separate Ministry of the Environment which will be able to deal with the challenges of the ever-growing population and the need to supply its ever-increasing needs, the rising industrial activity, the overlapping efforts of government environmental agencies to prevent pollution, and the protection of the environment. According to these experts, the Ministry of the Environment will also be tasked with the formulation of a national strategy for the protection of the environment and sustainable development in Saudi Arabia.[9] But, to no avail.

At the end of the day, in my point of view, the Saudi government will have to create a separate Ministry of the Environment, or an environmental governmental organ modeled on Bahrain’s example, due to the ever increasing environmental challenges facing its population and environment and due to its need to formulate a unified environmental strategy to face these challenges.


[1] See on-line at:;

[2] See on-line at:

[3] See on-line at:;

[4] See on-line at:

[5] See on-line at:

[6] See on-line at:

[7] See on-line at:

[8] See on-line at:

[9] See on-line at:

This article was first published as Issue No. 1 of The Persian Gulf Observer: Perspectives on Iran and the Persian Gulf in the Framework of the Ezri Center for Iran & Persian Gulf Studies at the University of Haifa. The link to the original article is:

Environmental Protests throughout the Middle East: A New Phenomenon Not to be Ignored

June 11, 2013

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Environmental Protests throughout the Middle East: A New Phenomenon Not to be Ignored[1]

by Moshe Terdiman

June 2013

During the last six years, the words energy security, water security, and food security could be found a lot in the Arab media. Since most of the Arab media is controlled by the Arab regimes, the appearance of these items shows that the environmental awareness of the Arab regimes has been on the rise.

Indeed, as a result of climate change and global warming the Middle East has been facing five major environmental security challenges: water security, food security, energy security, desertification, and land degradation. These issues have been further aggravated by other socio-economic processes, which characterize the Middle East and include: the huge population growth, the rapid urbanization process and the development of mega-cities on the expense of rural areas.

The urban infrastructures, such as sewage and waste disposal, which have been inadequate anyway and are in dire need for modernization, could not stand the ever-growing human pressure and in a few cities, some of them have totally collapsed. Moreover, the natural resources, such as water and food, which were just sufficient for the cities’ residents, have been stressed to the limit due to the huge population density within the cities. In addition, green spaces within the cities have given place to gray buildings which have been built whenever possible in order to supply the lodging needs of the incessant stream of new immigrants and local citizens.  

While the natural resources in the urban areas have been stressed to the limit, the situation in the rural areas has not been much better. The people in the rural areas have been suffering from desertification, the expansion of desert areas, and, as a result, from the degradation of the land and the lack of natural resources to sustain themselves, which has forced them to move to the urban areas in search of a better future. In addition, due to the rapid urbanization process and the influx of more and more people to the urban areas, the rural areas have been diminishing in a very rapid pace.

Most Middle Eastern regimes have not been able to deal with the situation. That is why, in recent years, environmental issues have come to the fore in the region. Whereas until recent years environmental issues were often viewed as secondary in the political agenda, now they have become central within political debates concerning representation, accountability and social justice.

The people have resented the inability of the governments in the region to deal with their urgent needs. Even more so, they have resented the fact that the governments have ignored them and their rights to use and enjoy access to basic natural resources as well as to health and other essential services and goods. This feeling of resentment felt by many people has just added fuel to an ongoing fire, which was initially fed by other resentments, such as political and ethnic discrimination, socio-economical hardships, political oppression, lack of basic freedoms (freedom of speech), and so on.

Thus, in recent years, the region has witnessed an ever-increased environmental activism and mass environmental protest movements whose aims have been to alter the policies of the governments so that they will take more care of the people’s needs as well as to protect the environment and to ensure that the people will enjoy access to basic natural resources, health and other services. Indeed, protests about environmental issues are also political and social claims about rights, access, livelihoods, and power, as can be seen very clearly in the current protest taking place in Turkey these days as well as in protests elsewhere. Mass environmental protest movements in the local and national level have been organized all over the region, from Morocco and Mauritania to Iran and from Turkey to Somalia.

Not all mass environmental protest movements have proven themselves to be successful. Its success has often depended on the ability of its organizers to mobilize the media, some of the politicians, and the civil society. When one or more of these players has not been present, it has usually meant failure to achieve the goals.

It should be mentioned that these environmental protest movements have served not only as a proof to the rise of environmental activism in the Middle East but also as a proof for the rise of civil society within the region.

To sum up, especially following the revolutionary wave of demonstrations, protests, riots and civil war in the Middle East, nicknamed the “Arab Spring”, which was originated and triggered, at least partly, by environmental issues, the environmental mass protest movements throughout the Middle East, including the current one in Turkey, should be taken very seriously. For the first time in the history of the Middle East, the people feel powerful and feel that they have the power to influence policies and to topple long-ruling dictators. They want that the governments in the region will hear them and take note of their demands and needs. In case the governments will not do so, the people have the power to replace or topple the current regimes.

Thus, for example, in the case of Turkey, even if the current mass environmental protest movement does not achieve its aims in the short run, it might still have the power to ignite a chain of reactions which will cause the downfall of Erdogan’s government in the long run.


[1] This short article opens a series of articles on environmental protests in relevant countries in the Arab and Muslim world.

Development of Organic Farming in Syria

February 12, 2012

Development of Organic Farming in Syria

                               Development of Organic Farming in Syria

Moshe Terdiman

February 2012


On January 22, 2012, President Bashar Assad issued Legislative Decree No. 12 for 2012 related to organic farming in Syria. The decree aims at laying the foundation for developing organic production and the marketing of organic products in Syria.[1] This Legislative Decree followed a Syrian cabinet decision taken on November 22, 2011 to pass a bill on developing organic farming. This bill was prepared in cooperation with the Food and Agriculture Organization. According to the Syrian Minister of Agriculture and Agrarian Reform, Riyad Hijab, the bill “comes as a result of the growing demand on organic products, adding that it will help protect consumers and increase production.[2]

According to the definition of the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM), an international umbrella organization for organic farming organizations established in 1972, “organic farming is a production system that sustains the health of soils, ecosystems and people. It relies on ecological processes, biodiversity and cycles adapted to local conditions, rather than the use of inputs with adverse effects. Organic agriculture combines tradition, innovation and science to benefit the shared environment and promote fair relationships and a good quality of life for all involved”.[3]

Indeed, organic farming is the form of agriculture that relies on techniques such as crop rotation, green manure, compost and biological pest control. Organic farming uses fertilizers and pesticides but excludes or strictly limits the use of manufactured fertilizers, pesticides, plant growth regulators such as hormones, livestock antibiotics, food additives, genetically modified organisms, human sewage sludge, and nanomaterials.

Interest in organic products is increasing throughout the world, particularly in industrialized economies.  As of 2008, organic farming extended over almost 30.4 million ha, in 138 countries with the highest growth in the USA, Argentina and Canada. The worldwide market was quantified in 2006 at about 38.6 billion US dollars. The biggest market is Europe (52%), followed by North America (45%).[4]

The aim of this article is to describe the development of the organic farming sector in Syria.


Challenges Facing Organic Farmers in Syria

Syria has a good potential for organic farming because of its weather and because a significant percentage of its farmers attempt to preserve their ancestors’ traditions, which are already close to organic farming. Thus, chemical pesticides or other artificial farming methods are not used and the fields are irrigated with rain water.  Instead, Syrian farmers prefer natural insect traps, many of which are available locally. So, in order to qualify as an organic farm, the Syrian farmers will only have to introduce crop rotation in their fields, which would prevent depletion of soil nutrients and improve soil structure and fertility. Furthermore, there are many virgin fields in Syria that could be easily converted to organic fields and many products, like olive oil, for example, that don’t require pesticides. The Syrian Ministry of Agriculture and Agrarian Reform has already been using chemical-free pesticides in citrus, cotton and vegetables.[5]  

Syrian farmers, especially in the southern regions, started to practice organic farming in the mid-1980s. They first learned about it from expatriate engineers and investors. One of the first organic farmers is Ahmad al-Masalmeh, who has been producing organic olives and grapes in his organic farm, which is located in the Dar’a Governorate, south of Damascus. He started his farm in 1985 after he found out that in organic farming there is no need for expensive chemical fertilizers and pesticides and it is enough to make organic insect traps and raise farm animals to use their compost as fertilizers, what makes it a healthy, cheap and profitable endeavor.[6]

Yet, practicing organic farming in Syria has turned out to be very costly. Two main challenges have been facing the organic farmers. First of all, there is no local market for organic products as few Syrians are aware of their importance. Secondly, there is no organic certification body in Syria. Therefore, the organic farmers who wish to apply for accreditation, need to turn to an international body and pay high registration fees as well as the full cost of an inspector’s trip. The price of the accreditation varies according to the size of the farm. Few Syrian organic farmers can afford these high costs and, as a result, they do not apply for accreditation and sale their produce as regular, non organic food.[7]   

Despite these challenges, Syria is producing organic crops and products, chief among them is cotton. According to Industry Research House Organic Exchange, Syria was the world’s third-largest producer of organic cotton in 2009. According to Souhel Makhoul, director of the Horticulture Research Administration at the General Commission for Scientific Agricultural Research, organic cotton was produced on only 373 hectares just in 2005, but that has increased to around 28,000 hectares in 2010. A growing number of Syrian textile companies are also moving to make use of the organic cotton. Syria also produces organic olive oil, laurel soap, medical herbs and grapes which are generally exported to the EU. However, it is hard to know the exact quantity of the organic exports since organic products have not been issued with a separate customs number and as such are simply recorded as agricultural exports.[8]

In order to face all these challenges, the ever-increasing organic farming sector in Syria needs serious government support as well as the establishment of a local certifying body to make the accreditation costs lower.    

The Institutional Development of Organic Agriculture in Syria (IDOAS)

The Syrian government stood up to the challenge and on September 4, 2005, Syria signed an agreement with the Food and Agriculture Organization for the development of organic farming in Syria from scientific and institutional points of view in order to increase its production while contributing to a better environment. This agreement was valued at 1 million USD, which was granted by the Italian government.[9]

As a result of this agreement, the Institutional Development of Organic Agriculture in Syria (IODAS) was launched in 2006. This project was implemented by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN in partnership with the Syrian government, represented by the General Commission for Agricultural Scientific Research (GCSAR) of the Ministry of Agriculture and Agrarian Reform. Its aim was to prepare the grounds for the establishment of legal, institutional and scientific platforms for organic agriculture in Syria.[10]  

The project’s first part, which lasted until 2010, focused on training farmers all over the Syrian provinces on organic farming methods and interesting perspectives on the market for organic products and for this purpose, more than twenty training workshops were organized throughout the country. Yet, its main achievement was drafting a law to govern and promote organic farming in Syria, which was issued as Legislative Decree No. 12 for 2012 related to organic farming in Syria by President Bashar Assad on January 22, 2012. [11]

The second step of the project, which started at the beginning of 2010 and is supposed to be completed in 2012, involves the creation of infrastructures to support the launch of new productions from both traditional crops, such as pistachios, olives, tomatoes and cotton, and new crops, such as cherries, citrus fruits and several vegetables. Moreover, it aims to establish an organic farming department within the Syrian Ministry of Agriculture and Agrarian Reform to be responsible for the organic farming sector in Syria. Furthermore, it compiles market research on potential local, regional and international markets. One such market research, which was conducted in Damascus, Aleppo, Homs, and Lattakia, found that more Syrians were willing to pay more to eat organic food. It also continues to organize more workshops in order to train farmers on organic farming methods.[12]

Another aim of this project is to consider the possibility of the establishment of a non-profit organic farmers association, which will unite organic farmers and will be able to better defend their interests and seek governmental, NGOs’ and international organizations’ support. This kind of association might also be able to attract more farmers and to lower the cost of production.[13]  

Factors Driving the Syrian Government towards Organic Farming

The question asked in this context is what has driven the Syrian government to encourage organic farming.

First of all, the Institutional Development of Organic Agriculture in Syria (IODAS) was launched following the Venice Meeting of the Ministers of Agriculture of all Mediterranean countries in 2003, which declared that organic farming is a priority and that all efforts should be spent for its development.[14] Also, the EU looked for more potential markets, from which to import organic foods and products in relatively cheap prices. Syria, which is located close to Europe and where the force labor is cheap, answered all these criterions.

Secondly, the conventional agri-food system is becoming less sustainable from an ecological, economic and socio-ecological point of view. The Syrian government has been supporting some unsustainable agricultural conventional systems with subsidized seeds, fertilizers, pesticides, irrigation plants, fuel. The prices of raw commodities have been kept artificially high, and the prices at consumption are kept artificially low, but all these subsidies cannot last forever, because their financial weight is becoming unbearable. Still, the average agricultural incomes remain low and the rural exodus is strong.[15]

In addition, conventional agriculture requires water and competition over the use of water has been growing everywhere in Syria. Moreover, trees and shrubs have been cut down in order to facilitate the mechanization, but it also increased wind and rain erosion, causing the loss of millions of tons of fertile topsoil every year. Rotations and mixed farming have been abandoned, while overgrazing is menacing the pastures. Nitrates and fine chemicals, as well as heavy metals, antibiotics and animal wastes are flowing into the aquifers, whose waters are now dangerous for all forms of life.[16]    


To sum up, the deteriorating ecological conditions and the ever-increasing population pressure over dwindling natural resources, such as water and grazing land, together with the desire of the EU to create a new organic market from which it will be able to import organic products in relatively cheap prices, brought about the development of organic farming in Syria and the adoption of a more sustainable approach to agriculture. In that respect, the conversion from conventional agriculture to an organic one might be a key factor for improving both Syrian food security and the food trade balance.

Yet, it should be mentioned that despite the huge environmental step taken by Bashar Assad in relation to organic farming, most of the organic farms are located in southern Syria, where one of the rebels’ stronghold against Bashar Assad’s regime is located. So, it is very hard to know if the organic farms are functioning nowadays.    

Last but not least, the development of organic farming in Syria is not unique in the Arab world. Nowadays, all Arab countries are developing the organic farming sector as a means to improve their food security, to develop a more sustainable kind of agriculture, and to import less food products from abroad. Therefore, the organic farming sector is expected to develop very fast throughout the Arab world.



[1] See on-line at:  

[2] See on-line at:

[3] See on-line at:

[4] See on-line at:  

[5] See on-line at:

[6] See on-line at:

[7] See on-line at:

[8]  See on-line at:

[9] See on-line at:

[10] See on-line at:;;

[11] See on-line at:;;


[12] See on-line at:;;

[13] See on-line at:

[14] See on-line at:  

[15] See on-line at:

[16] See on-line at:

The Environmental Message of Hizbullah

January 25, 2012

                                           The Environmental Message of Hizbullah

by Moshe Terdiman

January 2012


On October 9, 2010, Hizbullah’s Secretary General, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, briefly came out of hiding to mark the end of Hizbullah’s campaign to plant million trees in Lebanon to restore the country’s forests. This campaign was organized by Jihad al-Binaa, Hizbullah’s reconstruction arm, and sponsored by the Lebanese Minister of Agriculture, Hussein Hajj Hassan. With a shovel on his hand, Hassan Nasrallah was shown on Hizbullah’s al-Manar television station digging a hole, planting and watering a small tree outside his home, which was destroyed by air raids during the July 2006 War. Hassan Nasrallah, who had been last seen in public in July 2008, was accompanied by the Lebanese Minister of Agriculture for the ceremony.[1]

Nasrallah gave a speech at the event in which he praised Jihad al-Binaa for its role in organizing this campaign. He said that “this is an ancient Jihad for Jihad Al Binaa. However and praise be to Allah Al Mighty it was an ascending jihad. Perhaps the only period of time in which the agricultural and tree-planting side retreated was in 2006 when Jihad Al Binaa was occupied with a greater priority – namely facing the repercussions of July War in 2006. This year the effort was advanced and made greater through the advertisement and the execution of the million tree campaign”.[2]

However, Nasrallah said that planting trees should not be organized and implemented only by Jihad al-Binaa, but “we must deal with it as an important great national issue which needs mustering all efforts. Hence was the cooperation between the Ministry of Agriculture in Lebanon, the various municipalities, the youths’ societies and others”.[3]

He added that “We, Lebanese. Always extol the green Lebanon. Of course this will soon be a thing of the past”. According to Nasrallah, green Lebanon is not going to last much longer due to desertification, rampant building and environmental neglect.[4]

Another reason for that, according to Nasrallah’s speech, is that the trees have a very significant role as one of Lebanon’s natural defensive characteristic. In this context, he blamed Israel for setting trees on fire, shelling and destroying trees within the territories occupied by her in south Lebanon and the Biqa’ between the years 1982 – 2000. Also during the July 2006 War, Israel shelled many forests without any reason other than destroying one of Lebanon’s natural defensive characteristics.[5]  

Therefore, Nasrallah urged all Lebanese to follow his example and plant trees outside their homes. Nasrallah gave religious justifications to his plea by citing Islamic traditions and hadiths. He said that “afforestation is part of Lebanese national security”, since “Lebanon Protects the tree so that it will protect Lebanon”.[6]

The Planting Activities of Jihad al-Binaa

This ceremony marked the end of Jihad al-Binaa’s campaign to plant one million trees throughout Lebanon during the year 2010. The campaign would not be possible without the help of Syria. Its Ministry of Agriculture donated more than 800,000 trees for the project. The campaign focused on reforesting green areas burned during the July 2006 War. About 290,000 of the trees were planted in south Lebanon.[7] 

Jihad al-Binaa’s General Manager, Architect Muhammad Hajj, said a few days before the end of the campaign that “throughout 18 years, we have planted around 7,300,000 trees. The average increases yearly”. He stressed that during the past few years, Jihad al-Binaa had been successfully planting one million trees every year and the “one million tree campaign” in 2010 just emphasized this frame of work. According to him, in 2010, the tree plantings involved cooperation with around 4,700 groups throughout Lebanon including community groups, municipalities, organizations, farmers, associations and scout groups. This campaign is expected to continue to be conducted on a yearly basis, while each year a certain region will be prioritized.[8]

Architect Muhammad Hajj further said that the aims of the 2010 one million tree campaign are manifold: “its major aim is to enhance the environment and fight desertification, which has become a phenomenon in Lebanon due to the fires, cutting trees and other reasons. Therefore, this campaign pours into recovering Lebanon’s green cover”. However, this project had also other aims including education of the people concerning the importance of the land, of reconstruction, of recovering greenery and of resistance. Architect Muhammad Hajj mentioned that “the Holy Qur’an focused on the importance of reconstruction and agricultural works”.  But, according to him, the most important thing is the resistance aspect of the trees, since they have served as shelter for thousands of Hizbullah fighters.[9]

Architect Muhammad Hajj added that there have been efforts to make the Dahiyah quarter in Beirut green along with the process of its continued reconstruction following the damages that it suffered during the July 2006 War. These efforts are managed by Jihad al-Binaa in cooperation with the municipalities. He said that “the municipalities own few lands in the suburbs, and these are rather used for public services like building schools and organizations. Therefore, they work on planting small fields instead, and plant greenery on the sides of the highways, roads, and sidewalks. Due to that, one of the ideas the municipalities consider is to plant green field on the buildings’ roofs as well”.[10]  

Jihad al-Binaa’s Environmental Activities

Nasrallah’s speech as well as the interview conducted with Jihad al-Binaa’s General Manager, Architect Muhammad Hajj, shed light on the environmental activities of Jihad al-Binaa, which began already in the late 1980s and have been going on uninterruptedly ever since, except for the July 2006 War.

Jihad al-Binaa (Holy Reconstruction Organ) is an organ within Hizbullah which   provides support services to its members, new recruits, and supporters. These services range from medical care to financial aid, housing, and public utilities. It is divided into 8 committees. Three of these committees are engaged in environmental or environmental-related issues. The Water and Power Resources Committees has fixed over one hundred water and power stations from the Biqa’ to the South. The Environmental Committee has been active in studying and surveying polluted areas, while the Agricultural Committee has established agricultural cooperatives selling insecticides, seeds, and fertilizers to farmers at prices lower than the market price. The work of all committees is supervised by a technical and administrative committee, which is part of Jihad al-Binaa, whose main aim is to study and provide help for impoverished regions of Lebanon.[11]

Jihad al-Binaa’s environmental activity began in the late 1980s, when Hizbullah seized control of the Shi’ite Dahiyah quarter in Beirut after defeating the Amal faction. Then, the Hizbullah leaders found themselves responsible for finding immediate solutions for the social service crisis faced by about half million inhabitants of the quarter which was about to exacerbate even more because many families, who were displaced by the fierce fighting between the Shi’ite factions in the south, continued to find refuge there. During that period, which overlapped General Michel Aoun’s administration (1988 – 1990), the Dahiyah was almost completely cut off from water and electricity services due to neglect and fighting. As a result, about 40 percent of the water from Ayn al-Dilbin, the Dahiyah’s major source of drinking water, had been lost and its purity had been gravely compromised. In an attempt to supply the ever-growing populace, water authorities dug artesian wells but this ultimately resulted in contamination of the whole water network.[12]

On this background, Hezbollah decided to first deal with the severe public health hazards threatening the Dahiyah, i.e., the piling garbage and the short water and electricity supply, especially in the absence of any other effective local or central authorities. Already in 1988, it started to build daily garbage collection service to remove the mountains of waste that had built up over the years. This mechanism replaced a basic governmental function in several municipalities. This service operated five years until the Lebanese Sanitation Department started to get back on its feet. Yet, Hizbullah is still operating its daily garbage collection service and treats it with insecticides to supplement the government’s service.[13]

In addition, Jihad al-Binaa was engaged in the installation of drinking fountains and decent toilets at public school in the Dahiyah as well as in supplying its inhabitants with emergency water delivery and electricity. With help from the Iranian government, Jihad al-Binaa constructed public water containers, provided cisterns and employed several drivers to transport water to the suburbs from nearby sources, in addition to extending the water network by some 15,000 meters of water pipes. It built 4,000-litre water reservoirs in each district of the southern suburbs and filling each of them five times a day from continuously circulating tanker trucks. Generators mounted on trucks also made regular rounds from building to building to provide electricity to pump water from private cisterns. For that aim, Jihad al-Binaa has been purchasing the portable water from the Beirut Water Board on a daily basis and the cistern fills up from the main reservoir of Bourj Abi Haidar in Beirut. To this date, the inhabitants of the Dahiyah are still dependent on Hizbullah to provide them with drinking water.[14]

In order to solve the problem of regular supply of water for the residents of the Dahiyah, Jihad al-Binaa presented at the beginning of the 2000s a construction plan to build the Bisri Dam project on the Awali River, which would have the capacity of collecting 600,000 cubic meters of water, from which it would draw 120,000 cubic meters for the regular water supply of the Dahiyah’s residents.[15] The construction of the dam has not been finalized yet. On April 24, 2010, the Lebanese cabinet finally tasked the Council for Development and Reconstruction with completing the Bisri Dam Project despite its location near a major seismic fault line.[16]

Jihad al-Binaa has also been engaged in environmental activities in rural areas in south Lebanon and in the Biqa’. In these areas, Jihad al-Binaa has been focused on agricultural projects including training, laboratories and forestation projects. Indeed, already in 1992, Jihad al-Binaa started the “Good Tree” Project, which has been conducted annually since then. The project has involved planting trees in the different Lebanese regions.[17] As of 2003, Jihad al-Binaa was planting some 40,000 trees annually in each reforestation campaign.[18]

It developed an agricultural project in the Biqa’, which emphasized farming as a religious duty that met the needs of the Muslim people. Between 1998 and 2002, Jihad al-Binaa built or renovated seven agricultural center cooperatives.[19]As of 2004, Jihad al-Binaa served about 5,000 farmers across Lebanon, offering pesticides and fertilizers at cost as well as a free extension service. Its veterinarians held yearly vaccinations for cows, goats and sheep, and keep tabs on fish as well. Jihad al-Binaa is also engaged with organic farming to reduce environmental stress and help meet a new domestic demand for healthy food. It used to distribute every year about half a million forest and fruit-bearing seedlings in order to help combat desertification and prevent erosion.[20]


From the late 1980s, Hizbullah has shown itself to be really engaged in environmental activities in the Dahiyah, south Lebanon and the Biqa’, regions populated heavily by Shi’ites, and also elsewhere throughout Lebanon. These environmental activities have included public health, agriculture, and organic farming.

In the absence of governmental, regional or local and municipal authorities, Hizbullah had first conducted these environmental activities without any competition and, thus, succeeded to win the Shi’ite Lebanese allegiance and loyalty, which later on would be translated into political power in the Lebanese parliament.   

Alongside the abovementioned environmental activities, Hizbullah has also been engaged in planting trees. Indeed, trees are very important to the Lebanese. Trees, and especially cedar trees,  have been connected with Lebanon from ancient times. The cedar tree is the symbol of modern Lebanon and is shown on its flag. Lebanon without trees will not be the same country anymore. Hizbullah, as a Lebanese Islamic organization, has really worked hard on reforestation of the parts of Lebanon which have suffered deforestation and combating desertification is one of the stated goals of Jihad al-Binaa.

Yet, according to Hizbullah’s ideology, the greening of Lebanon has not been done for the sake of fighting desertification and afforestation of the country alone, but mainly as means of fighting against Israel. The trees are a main strategic natural element in the struggle of Hizbullah against Israel. The trees have been serving as a place of refuge and hiding for Hizbullah’s fighters. The forests’ canopy used to hide ammunition, rocket launchers and other fighting means of Hizbullah. Thus, the trees have been an inseparable part of the strategy of Hizbullah’s ongoing struggle against Israel.

Therefore, from Hizbullah point of view, planting millions of trees in Lebanon is not only important from an environmental point of view, but it is also important for ensuring its present and future role, as it used to be in the past, as a vital strategic natural asset in the struggle against Israel. Thus, the current plantation of trees and reforestation of south Lebanon, among other regions, might also serve from Hizbullah point of view as a preparation for the next cycle of fighting against Israel, when, as Nasrallah put it, “Lebanon protects the tree so that it will protect Lebanon”.  


[1] See on-line at:;;

[2] See on-line at:

[3] See on-line at:

[4] See on-line at:;;



[6] See on-line at:

[7] See on-line at:

[8] See on-line at:


[9] See on-line at:

[10] See on-line at:

[11] See on-line at:  

[12] See in Judith Palmer Harik, Hezbollah: The Changing Face of Terrorism, London: I.B.Tauris & Co. Ltd., 2005, page 83. See on-line at:,+agriculture&source=bl&ots=rKXGwjN4WZ&sig=QJkg_z31rxDVr1cjr53TqioA6rQ&hl=en#v=onepage&q=jihad%20al-binaa%2C%20agriculture&f=false

[13] See in Judith Palmer Harik, Hezbollah: The Changing Face of Terrorism, London: I.B.Tauris & Co. Ltd., 2005, page 83. See on-line at:,+agriculture&source=bl&ots=rKXGwjN4WZ&sig=QJkg_z31rxDVr1cjr53TqioA6rQ&hl=en#v=onepage&q=jihad%20al-binaa%2C%20agriculture&f=false

[14] See in Judith Palmer Harik, Hezbollah: The Changing Face of Terrorism, London: I.B.Tauris & Co. Ltd., 2005, pp. 84-85. See on-line at:,+agriculture&source=bl&ots=rKXGwjN4WZ&sig=QJkg_z31rxDVr1cjr53TqioA6rQ&hl=en#v=onepage&q=jihad%20al-binaa%2C%20agriculture&f=false;  

[15] See on-line at:

[16] See on-line at:

[17] See on-line at:

[18] See on-line at:

[19] See on-line at: 

[20] See on-line at:


The Launch of the Green Economy Initiative in the UAE

January 15, 2012

By Moshe Terdiman

January 2012



On January 15, 2012, Sheikh Muhammad bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, announced the launch of a long-term national initiative to build green economy in the UAE under the slogan “A green economy for sustainable development”.

This initiative’s aims are threefold: to make the UAE one of the global pioneers in green economy, a hub for exporting and re-exporting green products and technologies, and a country preserving a sustainable environment that supports long-term economic growth. Sheikh Al Maktoum said that “our goal from this national initiative is clear, that is, to build an economy that protects the environment as well as an environment that supports the growth of the economy. We in the UAE, within the vision 2021, are striving to build a diversified economy based on knowledge and innovation, through which we can provide excellent employment opportunities to our citizens. Through this, we can protect our natural and environmental resources, and strengthen our competitive position in global markets, especially in the areas of renewable energy products and technologies on the green economy.” He added that “we are serious about the transformation of our development process to reach the first position on the global level. During the next nine years and up to the year 2021 we will launch a range of initiatives and projects in all areas to achieve our goal”.[1]

According to Sheikh Al Maktoum, the announcement coincides with the launch of the World Future Energy Summit in Abu Dhabi, which will begin on January 18, 2012, in order to “reaffirm our commitments to the world of our serious endeavor to diversify energy sources and preserve the environment, as well as to become a model for all countries that want to strive to achieve the same goal”.[2] 

The green economy initiative consists of various programs, projects, legislation, and policies in six major fields, including: promoting the production and use of renewable energy and developing standards for energy consumption in the public and private sectors; encouraging investments in green economy and facilitating the production, import, export and re-export of green products and technologies; planning of green cities, green building, and environmental-friendly transportation; reducing carbon emissions from industrial and commercial sites, promoting organic agriculture, and maintaining biodiversity and the ecological balance in the UAE;  regulating the use of water resources, electricity, and natural resources, recycling water and promoting environmental education; and developing green technology, while its first phase includes carbon capture and conversion of water into energy.[3]  

UAE’s Vision 2021

The Green Economy initiative falls under the UAE’s Vision 2021 document, which was released by the UAE cabinet on February 7, 2010.[4] This document outlines the future challenges facing the UAE and how to best deal with them until the year 2021, when the UAE will celebrate its golden jubilee.

The UAE Vision 2021 specifically mentions the need to develop and promote renewable energy sources as one of the challenges facing the UAE. It says that “we want the UAE to sustain its drive toward economic diversification, as this is the nation’s surest path to sustainable development in a future that is less reliant on oil. This means expanding new strategic sectors to channel our energies into industries and services where we can build a long-term competitive advantage. Balanced growth must be fuelled by a sustainable range of energy sources, within which the UAE will ensure an important role for alternative and renewable options such as nuclear power”.[5]

Facing climate change and its effects on current and future generations as well as the need to protect and preserve the environment are central challenges which face the UAE, according to Vision 2021. It says that “in the face of humanity’s shared ecological challenges, we want the UAE to vigorously support international initiatives to protect the environment in full consciousness of its worldwide responsibility. As a global nation, the UAE is committed to playing its part in developing and implementing innovative solutions to protect and sustain the environment. New, energy-efficient technologies will harness the UAE’s pioneering role in the green revolution and reduce its carbon footprint. The government will act decisively to reduce the nation’s ecological deficit, promoting environmental awareness and responsible behavior among Emiratis. The UAE will mitigate the effects of climate change in order to safeguard its environment for current and future generations. The nation’s rich natural environment will be shielded from human-induced threats – both global and local – by preventive measures such as reducing carbon dioxide emissions, and regulations to defend fragile ecosystems from urban development. The Federation will safeguard Emiratis from harm in the event of large-scale natural or man-made environmental emergencies, guarantee the rights of present and future generations to clean air and water, and protect citizens from environmental health hazards. Anticipating the problems of tomorrow is the only reasonable way to preserve and enhance our way of life, acting with initiative in full awareness of our collective responsibility”.[6]

The Arab Green Economy Initiative

The Green Economy Initiative in the UAE has also been influenced by the Arab Green Economy Initiative, which was presented for the first time by Najib Sa’ab, the Secretary General of the Arab Forum for Environment and Development (AFED), at a special session held during the Global Ministerial Environment Forum, which convened in Nairobi on February 21-24, 2011. According to Najib Sa’ab, the Arab Green Economy Initiative aims at “transitioning from virtual economy based on real estate and financial speculation and depletion of resources, to the real economy based on sustainable growth combined with productive investment which creates new job opportunities”. Najib Sa’ab said that the Arab development agendas are facing demanding challenges, as populations grow fast and rapid economic growth strain institutional capacities and natural resources, such as water. He added that “Arab economies are requested to provide gainful employment to tens of millions over the next 10 years, alleviate poverty, address food and water security risks, drive economic growth, and adapt to climate change”. Sa’ab emphasized that these challenges demand strong action by Arab governments guided by a bold vision and concluded that a shift to a green economy can bolster the region’s economic competitiveness and diversify national incomes, while maintaining social stability, cultural identity, and environmental sustainability.[7]

The AFED is regarded throughout the Arab world as the leading and the most influential and important regional environmental organization that has become the main source of credible information on the state of Arab environment and policy options. According to its website, the “Arab Forum for Environment and Development (AFED) is a not-for-profit regional non-governmental organization, grouping experts together with civil society, business community and media, to promote prudent environmental policies and programmes across the Arab region”. The AFED was officially established in Beirut on June 17, 2006, at the conclusion of a regional conference on Public Opinion and the Environment, organized by the Environment and Development magazine on the occasion of its tenth anniversary. The AFED is based in Beirut and has been endorsed by the Arab League and the UNEP.[8]  

The Arab Green Economy Initiative has won the backing of the Council of Arab Ministers Responsible for the Environment (CAMRE) as well as other regional bodies, who have cooperated with the AFED to develop a joint Arab vision for green economy, which will be presented at Rio+20 Summit that will be held in Rio de Janeiro in June 2012.

In the meantime, in October 2011, the Arab Forum for Environment and Development conducted its fourth annual conference on Green Economy in a Changing Arab World, held in Habtoor Grand Hotel, Beirut. The conference called on Arab governments to allocate a higher priority to agricultural rural development; to introduce a policy shift towards water demand management and fair water tariffs; to adopt national and regional strategies for energy efficiency, demand-side management, cleaner energy, and renewable energy;  to introduce municipal zoning regulations; to develop a national industrial policy that provides appropriate and favorable institutional and regulatory framework for low-carbon industries and research and development (R&D) capabilities; to make use of green solutions in buildings; to make sustained investments in mass public transportation in Arab cities; to adopt a resource management approach to municipal solid waste; to promote investments in converting organic food waste into compost and biogas, as well as waste-to-energy strategies; to develop a package of policy instruments to implement sustainable tourism practices in travel, hospitality, and recreational services, as well as community-based cultural tourism; to help in nature conservation and to support local economies. The conference also called on regional organizations and governments to activate the Arab Environment Facility and establish regional green economy initiatives, covering: research and development, renewable energy solutions, sustainable communities, cleaner production, sustainable agriculture, and regional transport networks.[9]


The UAE is the first Arab country to launch the green economy initiative. This initiative, which falls under the UAE Vision 2021 and under the Arab Green Economy Initiative, seems to be a natural continuity to the recent green economy initiatives in the UAE, such as the building of the Masdar City, the first green city in the world; the investment in the creation of renewable energy sources, including nuclear energy; and the development of greenhouse and organic agriculture. The UAE has also become the center of green building in the Arab world. Therefore, it has been only natural for the UAE to launch the green economy initiative.

Hopefully, more Arab countries will soon join the UAE in launching the green economy initiative, which has a good potential in some countries to boost even more socio-economic and environmental progress while in other countries it has a good potential to solve many acute and difficult socio-economical and environmental security challenges facing the Arab world.

Thus, future possible implementation of the green economy initiative in more Arab countries might shift the whole regional economy throughout the Middle East and North Africa into a green economy, which is much more sustainable than the current economy.

The City Of Boughzoul – Algerian Model Low-Carbon City

April 28, 2011

Writtn by Moshe Terdiman

On December 7, 2010, the Global Environment Facility (GEF), the leading public environment fund dedicated to developing countries, unveiled a groundbreaking project in the planned city of Boughzoul in Algeria that will be built with an innovative clean energy focus designed to integrate climate change responses into urban development plans.[1]

The aim of the new city Boughzoul is not only to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but also to use that model for all future city developments in Algeria. Boughzoul aims to be a low-carbon city that doesn’t contribute to overall greenhouse gas emissions. In order to achieve these aims, the GEF, together with the UNEP, are going to invest $8.2 million, with another $22 million added from other sources to help introduce best practices on renewable energy, clean transportation and energy efficiency during the construction of the city. These will include the construction of zero-carbon buildings, streetlights using LED and photovoltaic systems, solar water heating systems, and a Center of Excellence for Technology Transfer. When construction of Boughzoul is completed, the cumulative net greenhouse gas emissions will be reduced by 3.4 million tons. When completed, Boughzoul will be an administrative and business center with a population of over 400,000 and its own airport.[2]

Apparently, Boughzoul was chosen as the site for the Algerian model low-carbon city because of its strategic location. It is located 200 km inland south of the capital city of Algiers, and it is linking northern Algeria to southern Algeria. It is also considered as a passageway to the eastern and western parts of the country. Moreover, already integrated inside the city are construction, agriculture, industry, and renewable energy projects, what makes it a suitable city to serve as the alternative economic capital of the country instead of Algiers. In addition, already in the 1970s, Houari Boumédienne, the then Algerian President (1965 – 1978), announced his wish to make Boughzoul the capital of Algeria instead of Algiers, but nothing has come out of it.[3] 

The construction of the new city Boughzoul is part of the Algerian government’s attempt to confront the challenge of urbanization while being aware of the need to build cities with the smallest energy and emissions footprints possible. Indeed, according to the CIA World Factbook, in 2010, the urban population in Algeria constituted 66% of a total population of 34,994,937 inhabitants and the rate of urbanization was 2.3%.[4]

It should be mentioned that Boughzoul is not the only initiative aimed at developing low-carbon cities in the Arab world. The first initiative is Masdar City in the United Arab Emirates. This project was initiated in 2006 and its first phase will be habitable by 2015. It is also a home to Masdar Institute of Science and Technology, which was opened in 2009 and focuses on research on clean energy.    

The Algerian government not only hopes that other new cities in Algeria will follow Boughzoul’s footsteps to low-carbon development but also that other countries throughout the developing world, and especially in Africa, will adopt this model.

Somali Environment Protection Alliance Network (SEPAN) – About

April 7, 2011

The mission of SEPAN is to advocate, and preserve the few  Trees left in the Horn of Africa, particularly in all inhabited Somali Ethnic populations. To teach others how to sustain the earth’s natural resources, and protect the environment.  To confront illegal loggers and the countries, such Saudi Arabia and United Arab  Emirates that import Somali Charcoal for local consumption.

This piece is taken from the website of the Somali Environment Protection Alliance Network (SEPAN).

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Somali Environmental Protection and Anti-Desertification Organization (SEPADO)

April 7, 2011

P.O.BOX 27750, Abu Dhabi
United Arab Emirates (UAE)
Tel: +971 -2 – 787 442
Fax: +971- 187-02215 243


Somalia Environmental Protection and Anti-desertification Organisation (SEPADO) is legally constituted and registered as voluntary Non-governmental Organisation, formed during the summer of 1996 to combat environmental problems of the war-torn Somalia.

Due to the lack of central government in Somalia during the last 6 years is causing the environment of Somalia to suffer greatly as a result of human destruction. The environmental condition of Somalia is catastrophic and deteriorating day after day. Following are major threats facing the environment in Somalia:

1. Burning of the forests and uprooting of all big trees for charcoal which is exported to Foreign countries for hard currency
2. Due to lack of appropriate maintenance and fuel for the major water rig points that are almost idle, nomads crowd the areas that have water wells & bore holes etc., This causes severe land degradation in those areas.
3. Lack of proper covered roads causes lorries and other automobiles to drive on a wide area of land. The consequence of this is hundreds of kilometres of dead, dust and useless lands. Also this contributes to the creation of dry rivers, canyons that spoil pasture land.
4. Wildlife is poached without any mercy
5. Lack of renewable energy sources results in heavy dependency on wood/charcoal for cooking
6. Heavy cutting of trees by nomads for sheltering livestock. Given the fact that 70% of Somalis are nomads who constantly move from one place to another depending on where the rain falls. These constant movements increase the need for more shelters for both human and livestock which means more trees to cut
7. Foreign fishing vessels with sea sweeping nets
8. Latest and perhaps one of the most serious environmental threats to Somalia are nuclear and waste dumping from abroad
9. Lack of environmental awareness within the Somali society

This piece is taken from the website of the Somali Environmental Protection and Anti-Desertification Organization.

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