The Middle East and North Africa region is on the front lines of climate change. According to the World Bank report Turn Down the Heat: Why a 4 ͦ C Warmer World Must be Avoided (WB, 2012), the region is steadily getting hotter and drier. Of the 19 countries that set new national temperature highs in 2010, the warmest year globally since records were first kept in the 1800s, five were Arab states.
Twice a year, we put together an economic outlook for Middle East and North Africa as part of the economic analysis we do at the World Bank. Over the last two years, a series of political and financial shocks have made the regional economic trends and turning points that we are looking for in these reports difficult to identify.
Blood pressures are rising in the Middle East and North Africa and they show little sign of cooling down. They began simmering over shishas in el kahawi (coffeehouses) in Tahrir Square, Eqypt; steaming over fried malsouka snacks in Habib Bourguiba Street, Tunisia; and bubbling over smoke filled debates at Pearl Roundabout, Bahrain. People from all classes and walks of life are equally affected.
A ground-breaking study released last month shows how the Middle East is losing its fresh water reserves. Prepared jointly by NASA and the University of California Irvine, and published by Water Resources Research, the report offers a range of alarming statistics on both the amount and rate of the region’s water loss.
In view of the challenge Yemen faces from climate change, Yemen was selected as one of nine single-pilot countries around the world to participate in the Pilot Program for Climate Resilience. Supported by the Climate Investment Funds, the program aims to help countries manage the risks and opportunities posed by climate variability and change, particularly taking into account those most vulnerable to such risks.
I recall the first time I visited Nakheel Palestine for Agricultural Investments Company fields at Jericho two years ago, when MIGA was still at the early stages of underwriting the project constituting planting date trees. The land was empty and, at the first glance, the first thought that came to mind was “how can this be developed into arable land?”
The other day I was in a car going to a meeting with Yemen’s Minister of Planning and International Cooperation. A car bomb exploded less than 500 meters from our location, targeting the Minister of Defense. The minister escaped but 12 people were killed and many more were injured. These are only some examples of events that we face in a fragile and conflict-affected state.