Over the last few years, sustainable development has become an area of focus for developmental agencies around the globe. The plan for sustainable development is shielded by three pillars; economic, social, and environmental pillars. However, challenges emanating from the environmental viewpoint are threatening the realization of sustainable development. One way of combating these challenges is through collaborative efforts. This has led to the birth of MENA. The strategic environment conservation of MENA has been prudently developed.


The problem is that the implementation part of the plan is facing serious challenges that should be addressed to enhance the resilience of MENA toward environmental changes and climatic impact. There should be a policy recourse to address key strategic trends in MENA which comprise water scarcity, temperature rise and reduced precipitation, and rising sea levels. MENA governments should direct more efforts toward the implementation of the MENA strategic environment plan.


Key Judgments

  • Countries in the MENA region are facing similar environmental challenges. This has provided an opportunity for these countries to work collaboratively in combating the identified environmental challenges.
  • Also, it is important to note that these environmental challenges are likely to instigate resource-based conflicts in the region. MENA region is set to be hit by rising temperatures, reduced precipitation, and high seawater levels. 

  • Countries sharing resources are at more risk of sinking into resource-based conflicts which are likely to be perpetuated by the scarcity of water in the region and unstainable practices in the exploitation of natural resources in the area. 
  • In case of an outbreak of resource-based conflict, the process of containing the conflict might take a long time due to the lack of a task force in place to facilitate the required dialogue between groups or countries that might be embroiled in the conflict. 
  • MENA strategic environment plan is not being implemented appropriately due to the lack of a clear guideline for monitoring and evaluation. This has relegated well-thought climatic mitigation measures to mere summit talks.
  • The MENA region is currently constrained by water scarcity, quality of air, land for agricultural activities, food security, and biodiversity resources among other environment-related issues. 
  • Increased global efforts towards sustainable development particularly climate mitigation measures have inspired MENA plan for sustainable development as it has been able to prudently incorporate critical environmental concerns into its plan. 


One of the major concerns facing the world today is sustainable development. Development agencies such as governments and Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) have directed efforts towards the realization of development that is sustainable1. Sustainable development refers to a long-term solution that ensures that we carry out development activities without damaging the environment to ensure that future generations have a safe habitat and an environment that will enable them to meet their needs2.


Similarly, future generations will be required to take care of the environment in the same manner. Sustainable development plans are developed on three pillars; economic, environmental, and social pillars3 . However, in pursuit of sustainable development, most governments often have difficulties in finding a balance between opportunities for economic growth and managing environmental pressures. The United Nations (UN) identified 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in 2015 to act as a guide for government ment toward the realization of sustainable development4.


All these goals are interrelated, and the inability of governments to effectively address environmental challenges has resulted in a debilitating climatic impact. Due to the need for recourse of policies for sustainable development and particularly environmental conservation, governments are encouraged to form strong collaborative unions to address factors militating against the realization of sustainable development and to effectively combat climate change. An example of these unions is MENA. Therefore, this paper seeks to assess MENA’s strategic environment plan.


Strategic Environmental Plan for MENA

The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) is a regional union formed to collaboratively accelerate economic growth in this region5. This region comprises 19 countries that account for 6 percent of the world’s population as well as 45 percent and 60 percent of the world’s natural gas and oil reserves respectively. The statistics indicate that this region plays a critical role in the world’s economic stability. Despite the immense wealth, however, the region is still marred with a myriad of issues that are threatening the realization of sustainable development. Some of these issues include the persistent civil wars (in Libya, Iran, Syria, and Yemen) and environmental challenges. 


In attempts to counter these problems, MENA has adopted development plans with a focus on increasing respect for human rights, strengthening democracy, and bringing about sustainable development. Expected outcomes include enhanced freedom, peace, and stability within the region. One of the critical parts of this plan is the strategic focus on the environment. MENA’s plan for sustainable development seeks to promote environmental improvement, effective climate change, and natural disaster mitigation measures, and enhanced resilience to environmental impacts. 


A strategic environment plan stipulates that there is a need for improved cooperation in the sustainable management of natural resources shared amongst nation-states in the region. The region countries are encouraged to work closely with actors and institutions concerned with the environment and climate change. Environment conservation activities should be focused on food security and water resources6


The environment plan recognizes that the region is facing resource-based conflicts, particularly water. Therefore, countries sharing natural resources such as water are urged to embrace dialogue and constructive collaboration in resolving resource-based conflicts7. Consequently, since some natural resources such as water are used mostly by women in their domestic chores and agriculture, nations are encouraged to observe gender equality since both men and women are equal stakeholders. Additionally, due to water scarcity in the region, nations are reminded to be sensitive to the impact of water on other sectors.


The strategic plan also has taken note of the potential of renewable energy in the region and the role it can play towards environmental conservation. Governments have been asked to develop initiatives that promote the development, production, and use of renewable energy such as wind power and solar energy8. Renewable energy should be equally accessed by all members of society. This is to ensure that women and marginalized groups are economically empowered and their well-being is significantly enhanced. 


Effective environmental conservation requires developed capacity and innovation. Therefore, nation-states in the region have been urged to invest in research and look for international collaborations. This will contribute towards the formulation of efficacious solutions and enhanced technological adoption that will enhance food supply, the development of renewable energy hence making the region resilient through reduced environmental and climatic impact. 


Major environmental trends currently facing the MENA region are significant temperature rise and reduced precipitation and rising sea levels9. These trends are poised to continue due to climate change hence predisposing the region to the risk of further heightened fragility and instability in both economic and political spheres. Nations in this region are sharing similar climatic impacts and therefore, combating environmental challenges provides an opportunity for the region to work collaboratively


However, there are a couple of notable strategic issues in MENA’s strategic plan for environmental protection. First, the plan does not stipulate how corporates should contribute to the conservation of the environment10. Study shows that corporates are key drivers of climatic change due to their unsustainable business practices. Consequently, research has found that corporate environmental disclosure is relatively low within the MENA region.

Therefore, the failure of the plan to compel corporates to take an active role in conserving the environment is an issue of concern. The plan lacks a concrete monitoring and evaluation framework to ensure that the plan is adequately implemented by nation-states. This has led to laxity amongst governments in the region. Collaboration in tackling environmental issues has been limited to summit talks with minimal efforts to make a follow-up of the implementation process. 

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Strategic Environmental Assessment of MENA

Governments and developmental agencies around the world are increasingly acknowledging that sustainable development will be driven by environmental sustainability11. Therefore, this implies that for sustainable development to be achieved the focus should be on the enactment of effective policies and proper implementation. However, a strategic environmental assessment is key before policy implementation. 


Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) refers to the process of evaluating proposed policies, programs, and plans to determine whether environmental considerations have been fully taken into account concerning social, cultural, natural resources, and economic conditions in which the decisions are made. SEA is simply an analysis of environmental policies12. Therefore, this section of the report will analyze MENA’s strategic plan for the environment and identify indicators that could be used to monitor strategic trends and other key issues in the future. 


Countries in the MENA region are faced with similar environmental challenges. But most importantly, these countries have continued to enjoy natural resources that stretch across borders. Therefore the plan recognizes the need for collaborative sustainable management of these resources as well as the involvement of other relevant stakeholders such as those concerned with the environment and climate change. The plan is also specific on the primary focus of environmental conservation activities; water resources and food security. However, the plan should go further to map out countries sharing water resources and provide a sharing formula taking into account aspects that are unique to each country such as population, economic activities, and other socio-economic, and cultural activities. 


Research indicates that the MENA region is susceptible to resource-based conflicts, particularly concerning water13. The region is experiencing reduced precipitation and rising temperatures. This trend will accelerate water scarcity in the region. The plan has considered this impending threat and has proposed a dialogue approach in solving resource-based conflicts. Countries are encouraged to equally share water resources not only at the country level but also within gender lines. This will contribute towards the achievement of the UN’s sustainable goals, particularly goal number five which addresses gender equality.


The MENA plan clearly shows that it has been aligned with the goals of the international development agenda. However, it could have been important if the plan proposed the formation of a task force for solving resource-based conflicts in the region. This will ensure that resource-based conflicts are solved quickly before they escalate further. Without a task force in place, it may consume a significant amount of time while forming a conflict resolution while affected groups such as women and children continue to suffer. 


The plan also requires countries to link their water resource portfolio to other sectors influencing economic growth. This is of great essence as it compels countries to assess how water scarcity will impact these sectors as well as how various activities within these sectors are contributing to water scarcity. The assessment will inform environment and climate mitigation measures that are specific hence effectively combating environmental challenges. 


Lastly, the potential of the MENA region for the development and utilization of renewable energy has been envisioned in the plan. Renewable energy is critical in environmental protection. Nations are encouraged to take advantage of this potential and accelerate their economic growth by empowering marginalized groups and women in the region. Consequently, the plan acknowledges that renewable energy will be developed through technological innovation. Therefore, in this plan countries are urged to invest more in research and technology adoption to enhance the development of renewable energy. Additionally, developed renewable energy should be accessible by all social groups to promote development parity.

Monitoring Performance in the Environment 

It is important to identify key indicators that will be used to monitor performance in the environment concerning MENA’s strategic plan. Environmental indicators refer to quantitative measures that are used to elucidate what is going on in the environment14. Also, while developing indicators the aspect of simplicity should be considered. The following are the key indicators:

  • Water Consumption 

This indicator can be used in each country, particularly for countries with transboundary water resources. It can be used to predict or prevent water-based conflicts. For example, excess consumption of water in one country is likely to create water scarcity in another hence creating a conflict. Therefore, monitoring water consumption is key. This can be done by measuring the volume of water consumed per individual or household per month or day. 

  • Metal and Organic Compound Emission

Another key indicator is the amount of metal and organic compound emissions leading to the pollution which will adversely impact the environment. This is because the MENA region is greatly endowed with natural gas and petroleum reserves and there is massive exploitation of these resources that is going on using heavy machines and industries. This indicator will reveal the level of heavy metal and organic compound concentration in the environment and inform mitigation measures. 

  • Food  Security

MENA region is facing challenges of food security. This implies that there should be more efforts directed towards agricultural revitalization as well as cushioning the region from the earth and soil degradation. Nation-states should encourage environmentally-friendly agricultural practices. The key indicator here is head cattle per unit area, the degree, and type of soil erosion, the erosion index, and the surface area affected by desertification. These indicators will inform soil conservation measures which will boost food security in the region. 


The MENA region is highly endowed with natural resources, making the region critical to global economic stability. However, the MENA region is facing grave environmental challenges that are uniform across all the countries. This has prompted the development of a strategic environmental plan that considers all the countries in the region.


Given that most countries are sharing natural resources, there is a need for collaborative efforts to combat these challenges. Weaknesses among governments have, however, interfered with the implementation of the plan. Nation-states should, thus, come up with an implementation formula to enhance the region’s resilience to environmental challenges and climatic impact.

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