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.
Syrian Arab Republic
It was once located on the grounds of the Uruguayan Embassy in Lebanon, and the name has somehow stuck. Now, Uruguay Elementary School is in a new building in an altogether different, bustling area of Beirut. It is hard to recognize it as a school at first: a seven-story building among other tall offices and manufacturing plants beside a major thoroughfare.
"Syria's neighbors, Lebanon and Jordan in particular, have shown tremendous hospitality and tremendous generosity [in hosting the influx of Syrian refugees]. The international community needs to help them carry that burden, as they should not have to bear it alone." Ferid Belhaj, World Bank Country Director.
“Overcoming poverty is not a task of charity… poverty is not natural. It is man-made and it can be overcome and eradicated by the actions of human beings.” Many years later these words by Nelson Mandela still resonate with me in my work on social protection of the poor in the Arab world, where a growing middle class exists alongside severe poverty.
The end of 2011 was undeniably a momentous time across the Arab World with uprisings first emerging in Tunisia and Egypt and then spreading to Libya, Yemen, and Syria. Expectations of 2012 were high as old regimes were discarded and new governments brought with them hopes of more equitable societies and opportunities for all.
During our research for a report on climate change in the Arab world which will be released in Doha next week, I travelled the region extensively. I met a number of people struggling bravely against higher temperatures and sporadic rainfall, but it is really the children who tell the most eloquent stories about the negative impacts of climate, now and in the future.
High unemployment in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) largely reflects the growth deficit. While China has been growing at 10 percent for a decade and has unemployment below 5 percent. MENA is the mirror image, growing at 5 percent and suffering unemployment above 10 percent. The absence of strong growth in MENA has been a serious constraint to employment. It's worth noting though that MENA’s employment situation is not accurately described by the jobless growth that has plagued much of the industrial world in recent years.
In December 2010, the Arab Spring began with a call for a change, which ended up becoming a reality in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya. The restoration of justice is now a priority focus in all these countries. In the minds of many citizens, justice means the return of funds looted by officials over decades of high-level government corruption. The tenor of recent news reports shows that throughout the region, the public’s patience for the process is wearing thin.
Unemployment, cronyism, bad governance and lack of transparency and accountability were factors that have contributed to the Arab Spring. However, worries over employment stem beyond the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region and the challenges facing southern Mediterranean countries like Greece, Spain, Portugal and other troubled EU economies. A Gallup poll provides a global perspective on this issue
Recent events across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region have underscored the urgent need to ensure job creation and an enabling environment for a young and better-educated, more skilled labor force. The international economic crisis has further deepened the problem in a region that is characterized by the world’s highest youth unemployment rate and the lowest female labor force participation.