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Conflict, Climate and Crisis

Addressing the Challenges in the Middle East for Sustainability
12:00 AM May 07, 2024 IST | SUHAIL BASHIR
conflict  climate and crisis
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All countries across the world face numerous challenges daily from economic fluctuations and political dynamics to environmental concerns and beyond. Middle Eastern countries, in particular, confront these issues at a notably significant level.

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From navigating economic uncertainties to addressing political complexities and environmental issues, the countries in this region grapple with a unique array of obstacles that shape their daily realities.

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Middle east countries are referred to as the cradle of civilization with immense cultural, religious and ethnic diversity. The region is home to major religions such as Islam, Judaism and Christianity and significantly holds sacred sites revered by millions worldwide. Additionally, the region is rich in natural resources, including oil and gas, which have shaped global economies and geopolitical strategies.

In recent years, the Middle East, particularly nations like Syria and Palestine, has grappled with significant social, political, economic and environmental challenges. Palestine, located in the eastern Mediterranean region, encompasses parts of modern Israel as well as the Palestinian territories, including the Gaza Strip. The ongoing conflict between Israel and Gaza is causing grave and significant concern due to its intensity and prolonged duration. Despite efforts from various countries to negotiate a ceasefire, lasting peace remains elusive. This conflict not only results in loss of life but also contributes to broader issues such as climate change and sustainability.

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The long-lasting conflict between Israel and Gaza positions significant barriers to achieve Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) set forth by the United Nations for a better future. While all the SDG goals are almost nowhere in this region. Where SDG 1-No Poverty, which aims to eradicate poverty is hindered as the conflict perpetuates economic instability and hampers livelihoods, particularly for vulnerable populations in Gaza. SDG 2-Zero Hunger, faces challenges as the conflict disrupts access to food and agricultural activities, exacerbating food insecurity in the region. Additionally, SDG 3-Good Health & Wellbeing is also impeded as the conflict disrupts healthcare services and infrastructure, exacerbating public health challenges and limiting access to essential medical care. SDG 4-Quality Education also suffers as schools are damaged or closed due to the conflict, denying children their right to quality education. SDG 6-Clean Water and Sanitation, is undermined as infrastructure is damaged, leading to water scarcity and inadequate sanitation facilities. Furthermore, SDG 8, aiming for decent work and economic growth, faces setbacks as the conflict disrupts economic activities and undermines efforts to create sustainable employment opportunities. The conflict also impacts urban SDG 11-Sustainable Cities & Communities, Climate Action-SDG 13SDG-15-Life on Land, and SDG16-Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions among almost all other remaining goals.

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Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were adopted by all United Nations member states in 2015 under the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development with an aim to transform the world by tackling poverty, inequality, environmental degradation and promote well-being for all etc. However, regrettably, it's disheartening to acknowledge that in Gaza's context, the realization of these goals appears elusive, with development efforts for the people of Gaza seemingly absent amidst the ongoing conflict and humanitarian crisis. While the SDGs advocate for peace, justice and prosperity for all, the situation in Gaza reflects a stark contrast with widespread poverty, limited access to basic services and ongoing violence hindering progress towards achieving the SDGs. A report by World Food Programme (UNWFP) reported that the number of people in Gaza facing catastrophe levels of hunger has doubled in less than three months, from 570,000 in December to 1.1 million today and is an eye opener and matter of utmost significance. However, it was also reported that famine is imminent in the north of Gaza. Where, malnutrition among children is proceeding at record pace and one of three children below the age of two is now acutely malnourished or “wasted” and is of great concern to the conscious and living world. If we are able to implement all the aforementioned SDG goals, it will not only make a significant impact on well-being and sustainability but also contribute to a reduction in escalation. The SDGs can serve as tools to strengthen the broken bridge between nature and humanity, promoting harmony and resilience for generations to come.

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Apart from these above issues, the use of ammunition and airstrikes during the ongoing conflicts between Israel and Gaza not only inflicts immediate damage but also contributes to long-term environmental degradation and climate change. These disastrous actions release enormous amounts of GHG emissions including carbon and methane into the atmosphere. The production, transportation and detonation of ammunition generate significant carbon emissions, while airstrikes can cause fires and explosions that release gaseous pollutants and particulate matter into the air. Additionally, the destruction of infrastructure, such as buildings, vehicles and factories, releases additional emissions as materials are burned or left to decay. The cumulative effect of these emissions exacerbates global climate change, which poses a threat to the whole world. Climate change leads to rising temperatures, sea level rise, extreme weather events and disruptions to ecosystems and agriculture, impacting communities far beyond the immediate conflict zone. These conflicts unleash vast amounts of gaseous and particulate emissions, exacerbating air pollution and contributing significantly to climate change. It takes years for ecosystems to sequester these carbon emissions, but the destruction caused by conflict/actions can release gigatons of carbon into the atmosphere in mere seconds. The destruction and emissions caused by nations utilizing ammunition and rockets during conflicts must be held accountable, in line with the Polluter Pay Principle of environmental responsibility.

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The escalating conflicts, exemplified by the ongoing strife between Israel and Gaza, underscore the urgent need to address the violations of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and prioritize sustainability. The devastating toll of warfare not only exacerbates humanitarian crises but also undermines progress towards achieving SDGs such as Zero Hunger, Quality Education, Clean Water & Sanitation, Peace, Justice, and Strong Institutions etc. There is an urgent action required to reduce and stop these conflicts that has very strong environmental, social and economic impacts. Peacebuilding efforts and sustainable development also need to be prioritized for a sustainable future. However, through international cooperation and the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), we can aim to transform this world sustainably. It is also important to mention that there is an urgent need for action to end poverty and inequality, protect the planet and ensure that all people enjoy health, justice and prosperity.

Author is working as Environmental Consultant in the United Arab Emirates.

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