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Ed Webb

The Ouarzazate Solar Plant in Morocco: Triumphal 'Green' Capitalism and the Privatizati... - 0 views

  • a solar mega-project that is supposedly going to end Morocco's dependency on energy imports, provide electricity to more than a million Moroccans, and put the country on a “green path.”
  • This analysis examines the project through the lens of the creation of a new commodity chain, revealing its effects as no different from the destructive mining activities taking place in southern Morocco.
  • What seems to unite all the reports and articles written about the solar plant is a deeply erroneous assumption that any move toward renewable energy is to be welcomed. And that any shift from fossil fuels, regardless of how it is carried out, will help us to avert climate chaos. One needs to say it clearly from the start: the climate crisis we are currently facing is not attributable to fossil fuels per se, but rather to their unsustainable and destructive use in order to fuel the capitalist machine. In other words, capitalism is the culprit, and if we are serious in our endeavors to tackle the climate crisis (only one facet of the multi-dimensional crisis of capitalism), we cannot elude questions of radically changing our ways of producing and distributing things, our consumption patterns and fundamental issues of equity and justice. It follows from this that a mere shift from fossil fuels to renewable energy, while remaining in the capitalist framework of commodifying and privatizing nature for the profits of the few, will not solve the problem. In fact, if we continue down this path we will only end up exacerbating, or creating another set of problems, around issues of ownership of land and natural resources.
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  • the acquisition of 3000 hectares of communally owned land to produce energy
  • "green grabbing"
  • the transfer of ownership, use rights and control over resources that were once publicly or privately owned –or not even the subject of ownership– from the poor (or everyone including the poor) into the hands of the powerful
  • This productivist creation of marginality and degradation has a long history that goes back to French colonial times. It was then that degradation narratives were constructed to justify both outright expropriation of land and the establishment of institutional arrangements based on the premise that extensive pastoralism was unproductive at best, and destructive at worst.
  • The land, sold at a cheap one Moroccan dirham per square meter was clearly worth a lot more. As if things were not bad enough, the duped local population were surprised to find out that the money from the sale was not going to be handed to them, but that it would be deposited into the tribe's account at the Ministry of Interior. Additionally, the money would be used to finance development projects for the whole area. They discovered that their land sale was not a sale at all: it was simply a transfer of funds from one government agency to another.
  • various deceptive laws with colonial origins that have functioned to concentrate collective land ownership within the hands of an individual land representative, who tends to be under the influence of powerful regional nobles
  • meetings masquerading as a "consultation with the people" were only designed to inform the local communities about a fait accompli rather than seeking their approval
  • the discursive framework rendered it "marginal" and open to new "green" market uses: the production of solar power in this case at the expense of an alternative land use - pastoralism - that is deemed unproductive by the decision-makers. This is evident in the land sale that was carried out at a very low price.
  • privatizations in the renewable energy sector are not new as of 2005, when a royal holding company called Nareva was created specifically to monopolize markets in the energy and environment sectors and ended up taking the lion's share in wind energy production in the country
  • he government had effectively privatized and confiscated historical popular sovereignty over land and transformed the people into mere recipients of development; development they are literally paying for, provided it would one day materialize, of course
  • There is no surprise regarding the international financial institutions' (IFIs) strong support for this high-cost and capital-intensive project, as Morocco boasts one of the most neoliberal(ized) economies in the region. It is extremely open to foreign capital at the expense of labor rights, and very advanced in its ambition to be fully integrated into the global marketplace (in a subordinate position, that is).
  • The World Bank’s disbursement levels to Morocco reached record levels in 2011 and 2012, with a major emphasis of these loans placed on promoting the use of Public Private Partnerships (PPPs) within key sectors
  • It seems that production of energy from the sun will not be different and will be controlled by multinationals only interested in making huge profits at the expense of sovereignty and a decent life for Moroccans.
  • The idea that Morocco is taking out billions of dollars in loans to produce energy, some of which will be exported to Europe when the economic viability of the initiative is hardly assured, raises questions about externalizing the risk of Europe's renewable energy strategy to Morocco and other struggling economies around the region. It ignores entirely what has come to be called "climate debt" or "ecological debt" that is owed by the industrialised North to countries of the Global South, given the historical responsibility of the West in causing climate change
  • The biggest issue with this technology is the extensive use of water that comes with the wet cooling stage. Unlike photovoltaic (PV) technology, CSP needs cooling. This is done either by air cooled condensers (dry cooling) or high water-consumption (wet cooling). Phase I of the project will be using the wet cooling option and is estimated to consume from two to three million cubed meters of water annually (Kouz 2011). Water consumption will be much less in the case of a dry cooling (planned for phase II): between 0.73 and 0.88 million cubed meters. PV technologies require water only for cleaning solar panels. They consume about 200 times less water than CSP technology with wet cooling and forty times less water than CSP with dry cooling.
  • Even if the solar plant is only using one percent of the average dam capacity, the water consumption is still significant and can become a thorny problem at times of extreme drought when the dam contains only fifty-four million cubed meter. At such times, the dam waters will not be sufficient to cover the needs of irrigation and drinking water,  making the water usage for the solar plant deeply problematic and contentious.
  • in an arid region like Ouarzazate, this appropriation of water for a supposedly green agenda constitutes another green grab, which will play into and intensify ongoing agrarian dynamics and livelihood struggles in the region.
  • If the Moroccan state was really serious about its green credentials, why is it then building a coal-fired power plant at the same time, which represents an ecocide in-waiting for the already-polluted town of Safi? Why is it also ignoring the devastating environmental and social effects of the mining industry in the country? One notable example is the long-standing community struggle in Imider (140 kilometres east of Ouarzazate) against the royal holding silver mine (Africa's most productive silver mine), which is polluting their environment, grabbing their water, and pillaging their wealth.
Ed Webb

New Texts Out Now: Joel Beinin, Workers and Thieves: Labor Movements and Popular Uprisi... - 0 views

  • situate the movements in Egypt and Tunisia in the framework of the imposition of neoliberal economic reform and structural adjustment programs (ERSAPs) on Tunisia, from the mid-1980s, and Egypt, from 1991. The labor movements were the most salient expression of the deteriorating conditions of life under the regime of neoliberal globalization, or “flexible accumulation,” as the regulation school of political economy terms it
  • The recent murder and torture of the Italian PhD student Giulio Regeni, who was researching the independent trade union movement in Egypt, suggests that it will be quite a while before anyone takes up this subject again.
  • class and political economy were far more salient elements of the 2011 uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt (and I might have added Bahrain and Morocco) than most Western (and even local) accounts were willing to acknowledge
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  • the successful installation of a (highly problematic, to be sure) procedural democracy in Tunisia, in contrast to the establishment of an authoritarian praetorian regime far more vicious than that of Mubarak in Egypt, made it necessary to argue that class and political economy alone do not determine outcomes
  • The character and political role of the Tunisian and Egyptian armies is also a factor
  • the economic and social discontent expressed by the desperate demise of Bouazizi and Yahyaoui has only intensified
  • In 2010 the national unemployment rate was under thirteen percent. By 2015 the figure rose to 15.3 percent. Unemployment rates in the center-west and southern regions of the country (including Kasserine and Sidi Bouzid) are typically nearly double the national average. In 2015 the OECD estimated national youth unemployment (ages fifteen to twenty-four) at nearly forty percent.
  • The government understands the problem, but has no solution. On 20 January the cabinet announced that 5,000 unemployed in Kasserine would be hired for new public sector jobs. Another 1,400 were to be hired through an existing employment program. However, on 22 January, Finance Minister Slim Chaker revoked the promise of 5,000 new jobs in Kasserine, claiming that the previous announcement was due to a “communication error.”
  • “There will be another revolution if the social and economic circumstances do not change,” said President Béji Caïd Essebsi on the fifth anniversary of Tarek Mohamed Bouazizi’s self-immolation. Nidaa Tounes, a big-tent coalition of secularists ranging from former communists to former Ben Ali supporters has split. Over two dozen of its deputies have left, and it is no longer the largest party in the parliament. The terrorist attacks have reduced tourism to a catastrophically low level. The economy is not expected to grow at all in 2016. None of its traditional elite political forces—secular or Islamist—imagine an economic program substantially different than the one Tunisia has pursued since the mid-1980s.
  • On 19 January, faced with a UGTT threat to call a general strike, the employers’ association (UTICA) agreed to increase wages for about 1.5 million private sector workers. But for the unemployed, the streets are their only recourse.
Ed Webb

A declaration from North Africa: food sovereignty is a right | openDemocracy - 0 views

  • On December 15, 16 and 17, 2017, ATTAC Morocco, a member of the global network for the abolition of illegitimate debts (CADTM), organised a Maghreb seminar on free trade agreements, agriculture and food sovereignty under the slogan: No to colonial agreements, for the defence of people's sovereign right on their agricultural, food and environmental systems. The seminar was held in Agadir, Morocco with the participation of activists coming from Egypt, Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco.
  • trade agreements have deepened the control of multinational companies on agriculture and maritime fishing, exacerbated food speculation, and destroyed subsistence agricultural and fishing systems. Moreover, they accelerated the unlimited quest for the promotion of genetically modified seeds and the generalisation of the export-oriented agriculture and fishing industry. In the global south, International Financial Institutions (IFIs) are pursuing neoliberal policies that further deregulate, open borders to the invasion of foreign capital and subsidised products and ensure the transfer of profits and wealth. These neoliberal dictates are leading to an increase in public debt at the expense of the popular classes who shoulder the burden of austerity policies
  • affirm our support for people's food sovereignty and their right to determine their own food system, a system that ensures the production of healthy food in sufficient quantity while protecting nature and remaining in harmony with it
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  • resources for this purpose must be provided through the suspension of debt service payments and through the cancellation of illegitimate public debts
  • we are planning on organising campaigns of denunciation, raising awareness and initiatives in order to encourage common struggles and establish forms of coordination and solidarity with movements sharing the same objectives
  • Food sovereignty is the antithesis of the productivist capitalist food system, which is responsible for the destruction of natural resources and a climate chaos that threatens the lives of millions of people. It is peasant agriculture and subsistence fishing that feed humanity and preserve the environment, rather than the intensive, industrial, commercial and chemical agriculture promoted by capitalism.
  • collective struggle against free trade agreements, fisheries agreements and the World Trade Organization, as well as against the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, which enslave people through the debt system
  • initiation and promotion of experiments in popular farming systems that aim at breaking free from food dependence
  • Broadening international solidarity in order to stop the growing repression against popular mobilizations (peasants, fishermen, indigenous, and agricultural workers, etc.) and to organize and protect their lives, their lands, their environment and their food traditions.
Ed Webb

Liberal peace transitions: a rethink is urgent | openDemocracy - 1 views

  • It is widely accepted among those working in, or on, international organisations, from the UN to the EU, UNDP, NATO or the World Bank, that statebuilding offers a way out of contemporary conflicts around the world: local, civil, regional and international conflicts, as well as complex emergencies, and for developmental issues. Most policymakers, officials, scholars and commentators involved think that they are applying proven knowledge unbiased by cultural or historical proclivities to the conflicts of others. This is not the case.
  • The broader idea has been that liberal democratic and market reform will provide for regional stability, leading to state stability and individual prosperity. Underlying all of this is the idea that individuals should be enabled to develop a social contract with their state and with international peacebuilders. Instead - in an effort to make local elites reform quickly, particularly in the process of marketisation and economic structural adjustment - those very international peacebuilders have often ended up removing or postponing the democratic and human rights that citizens so desired, and which legitimated international intervention in the first place. A peace dividend has only emerged for political and economic elites: the vast bulk of populations in these many countries have failed to see much benefit from trickle-down economics, or indeed from democracy so far.
  • this liberal peace is itself in crisis now
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  • What began as a humanitarian project has turned into an insidious form of conversion and riot control which has had many casualties. It has been profoundly anti-democratic in many cases, including in Bosnia, Afghanistan, and Iraq. From the ground, for many of its recipients, the various iterations of this liberal peace project have taken on a colonial appearance. It has become illiberal
  • local actors are reframing what they require from a viable, just, and durable peace, often quietly and in the margins, drawing on the liberal peace as well as their own customs and interests.
  • Talk of ‘human security’, ‘responsibility to protect’, ‘do no harm doctrines’ and ‘local ownership’ seems very empty from the perspective of most of the peoples these concepts have been visited upon. This in turn has often elicited from subject communities a 'post-colonial response', criticising peace interventions as self-interested, imperialistic, orientalist, and focusing on the interveners' interests rather than local interests. A local (transnational and transversal) attempt is under way to reclaim political agency and autonomy from the new post-Cold War 'civilising mission', which has over the last twenty years, shown itself unable to provide for basic needs, rights, security (state or human) at levels local actors expect, or to respect or understand local differences and non-liberal, and even non-state patterns of politics. Non-liberal and non-western forms of politics, economics, society, and custom, are clamouring for discursive and material space in many post-conflict zones, with mixed implications for sustainability and for the purpose of achieving a normatively (to liberals at least) and contextually acceptable, locally sustainable peace.
  • In some cases, as in Kosovo and Timor Leste this has led to a modified form of state emerging, heavily influenced by both liberal norms and local customs, practices, identities, and national agendas. Very difficult issues arise here for 'international planners' of peace and world order, not least in how they respond to such confrontations between very different political systems, customs, and agendas. But, it is also the case that synergies may arise, where these are sensitively handled and properly understood.
  • peace requires well-being via human needs stemming from rights defined by their contexts, (where context may mean local, customary, state, market, regional or international, not merely the 'local' it is often taken to mean). These contexts are of course connected to the ambit of liberal state and international institutions, but they are not defined by them. As a result, millions of people around the world do not have adequate rights or needs provision, nor proper access to representation, despite the best intentions of liberal peacebuilders.
  • To achieve this the ethically and methodologically dubious privatisation of security and peacebuilding and its connection to neoliberal marketisation strategies in the context of a classically sovereign state should be abandoned. The privatisation of peacebuilding means that no accountability is possible until after a specific development project has failed, and only then by refusing funding often to those who need it most. Such strategies have attracted to this sector a dangerous fringe of arrogant bureaucrats, 'ambulance chasers' and 'cowboys' rather than imbuing peacebuilding with the dynamics of grounded reconciliation.
  • democracy is rarely resisted other than by the most extreme of actors, but it is often criticized for being distant in outcome to local communities.
  • At the moment the impulse appears to be to illiberalise, to postpone democracy, to open markets further, and to depoliticise because a lack of local agency is seen to be the cause of these failures, rather than faulty international analytic and policy approaches and mistaken idealism.
Ed Webb

The Limits of Mohammad bin Salman's Vision - LobeLog - 0 views

  • Americans are being told, by their leading pundits and their government, that the future Saudi king is a bold reformer with his country’s—and the world’s—best interests at heart
  • For every highly publicized reform he’s instituted, like allowing women to drive (a reform that doesn’t actually address the deeper mistreatment of Saudi women), Mohammad bin Salman (MbS) has taken the country in the opposite direction in other ways, like his severe crackdown on free speech and his brutal suppression of Saudi Arabia’s Shia minority—to say nothing of the myriad atrocities he’s perpetrated in Yemen
  • economic vision likewise blends flashy elements, like robot citizens and entire new cities, with the introduction of neoliberal austerity measures that will hurt the Saudi people (who are already struggling with high unemployment)
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  • He doesn’t want any competition, any counter-opinions, any criticism. So he’s almost shut down everybody, and he’s moving ahead with his reform. When he arrested intellectuals last September, it was meant to silence everybody. The purge on corruption was planned to make everyone dependent on his mercy. If he succeeds, he will succeed alone. If not, maybe he will include the Saudi people in his reforms. I wish he could do that today, but right now he has all the power and the international community is not pressuring him on human rights.
  • selected reforms aimed at certain purposes, but not necessarily towards developing human capital or investing in people, or women, at large
  • These reforms are not targeting the root causes of restrictions on women, but are selected to portray certain types of reforms that can be promoted in international media
  • He’s raising expectations to riskily high levels. If in two, three, five years nothing significant has really changed for the prospects of individual people looking to get ahead, they may begin to question whether Mohammad bin Salman is really the revolutionary he claims to be. We’ve seen a lot of his supporters here in Washington buying into that revolutionary, Arab Spring-like figure-of-change image, embracing his top-down approach without pausing to think about the extent to which there is a bottom-up counterpart
  • meeting with President Donald Trump on Tuesday was punctuated by a particularly uncomfortable exchange in which Trump went into detail about the $12.5 billion in new U.S. weapons the prince agreed to buy and then said to the prince, “that’s peanuts for you.” Ulrichsen suggested that the scene would not play well in Saudi Arabia: I think if I were watching yesterday’s press conference with Donald Trump, I would have been quite dismayed to have seen a U.S. president treat his Saudi counterpart as if he were just a source of opportunities for the U.S. Some of the president’s tenor and demeanor was quite remarkable. Khashoggi agreed that Trump’s performance was not helpful for the crown prince: President Trump is wrong when he says that money is “peanuts” to us. Saudi Arabia has a serious poverty problem—money is not “peanuts” to us. To spend billions of dollars on military equipment is a serious thing. Today the Saudi Shura Council is talking about 35 or 40 percent unemployment—the official figure is 12 percent. So as much as Donald Trump is concerned about providing jobs for Americans, Mohammad bin Salman should be concerned about providing jobs for Saudis.
Ed Webb

Border Patrol, Israel's Elbit Put Reservation Under Surveillance - 0 views

  • The vehicle is parked where U.S. Customs and Border Protection will soon construct a 160-foot surveillance tower capable of continuously monitoring every person and vehicle within a radius of up to 7.5 miles. The tower will be outfitted with high-definition cameras with night vision, thermal sensors, and ground-sweeping radar, all of which will feed real-time data to Border Patrol agents at a central operating station in Ajo, Arizona. The system will store an archive with the ability to rewind and track individuals’ movements across time — an ability known as “wide-area persistent surveillance.” CBP plans 10 of these towers across the Tohono O’odham reservation, which spans an area roughly the size of Connecticut. Two will be located near residential areas, including Rivas’s neighborhood, which is home to about 50 people. To build them, CBP has entered a $26 million contract with the U.S. division of Elbit Systems, Israel’s largest military company.
  • U.S. borderlands have become laboratories for new systems of enforcement and control
  • these same systems often end up targeting other marginalized populations as well as political dissidents
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  • the spread of persistent surveillance technologies is particularly worrisome because they remove any limit on how much information police can gather on a person’s movements. “The border is the natural place for the government to start using them, since there is much more public support to deploy these sorts of intrusive technologies there,”
  • the company’s ultimate goal is to build a “layer” of electronic surveillance equipment across the entire perimeter of the U.S. “Over time, we’ll expand not only to the northern border, but to the ports and harbors across the country,”
  • In addition to fixed and mobile surveillance towers, other technology that CBP has acquired and deployed includes blimps outfitted with high-powered ground and air radar, sensors buried underground, and facial recognition software at ports of entry. CBP’s drone fleet has been described as the largest of any U.S. agency outside the Department of Defense
  • Nellie Jo David, a Tohono O’odham tribal member who is writing her dissertation on border security issues at the University of Arizona, says many younger people who have been forced by economic circumstances to work in nearby cities are returning home less and less, because they want to avoid the constant surveillance and harassment. “It’s especially taken a toll on our younger generations.”
  • Between 2013 and 2016, for example, roughly 40 percent of Border Patrol seizures at immigration enforcement checkpoints involved 1 ounce or less of marijuana confiscated from U.S. citizens.
  • In the U.S., leading companies with border security contracts include long-established contractors such as Lockheed Martin in addition to recent upstarts such as Anduril Industries, founded by tech mogul Palmer Luckey to feed the growing market for artificial intelligence and surveillance sensors — primarily in the borderlands. Elbit Systems has frequently touted a major advantage over these competitors: the fact that its products are “field-proven” on Palestinians
  • Verlon Jose, then-tribal vice chair, said that many nation members calculated that the towers would help dissuade the federal government from building a border wall across their lands. The Tohono O’odham are “only as sovereign as the federal government allows us to be,”
  • Leading Democrats have argued for the development of an ever-more sophisticated border surveillance state as an alternative to Trump’s border wall. “The positive, shall we say, almost technological wall that can be built is what we should be doing,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in January. But for those crossing the border, the development of this surveillance apparatus has already taken a heavy toll. In January, a study published by researchers from the University of Arizona and Earlham College found that border surveillance towers have prompted migrants to cross along more rugged and circuitous pathways, leading to greater numbers of deaths from dehydration, exhaustion, and exposure.
  • “Walls are not only a question of blocking people from moving, but they are also serving as borders or frontiers between where you enter the surveillance state,” she said. “The idea is that at the very moment you step near the border, Elbit will catch you. Something similar happens in Palestine.”
  • CBP is by far the largest law enforcement entity in the U.S., with 61,400 employees and a 2018 budget of $16.3 billion — more than the militaries of Iran, Mexico, Israel, and Pakistan. The Border Patrol has jurisdiction 100 miles inland from U.S. borders, making roughly two-thirds of the U.S. population theoretically subject to its operations, including the entirety of the Tohono O’odham reservation
  • Border militarism has been spreading worldwide owing to neoliberal economic policies, wars, and the onset of the climate crisis, all of which have contributed to the uprooting of increasingly large numbers of people, notes Reece Jones
  • the agency uses its sprawling surveillance apparatus for purposes other than border enforcement
  • documents obtained via public records requests suggest that CBP drone flights included surveillance of Dakota Access pipeline protests
  • CBP’s repurposing of the surveillance tower and drones to surveil dissidents hints at other possible abuses. “It’s a reminder that technologies that are sold for one purpose, such as protecting the border or stopping terrorists — or whatever the original justification may happen to be — so often get repurposed for other reasons, such as targeting protesters.”
  • The impacts of the U.S. border on Tohono O’odham people date to the mid-19th century. The tribal nation’s traditional land extended 175 miles into Mexico before being severed by the 1853 Gadsden Purchase, a U.S. acquisition of land from the Mexican government. As many as 2,500 of the tribe’s more than 30,000 members still live on the Mexican side. Tohono O’odham people used to travel between the United States and Mexico fairly easily on roads without checkpoints to visit family, perform ceremonies, or obtain health care. But that was before the Border Patrol arrived en masse in the mid-2000s, turning the reservation into something akin to a military occupation zone. Residents say agents have administered beatings, used pepper spray, pulled people out of vehicles, shot two Tohono O’odham men under suspicious circumstances, and entered people’s homes without warrants. “It is apartheid here,” Ofelia Rivas says. “We have to carry our papers everywhere. And everyone here has experienced the Border Patrol’s abuse in some way.”
  • Tohono O’odham people have developed common cause with other communities struggling against colonization and border walls. David is among numerous activists from the U.S. and Mexican borderlands who joined a delegation to the West Bank in 2017, convened by Stop the Wall, to build relationships and learn about the impacts of Elbit’s surveillance systems. “I don’t feel safe with them taking over my community, especially if you look at what’s going on in Palestine — they’re bringing the same thing right over here to this land,” she says. “The U.S. government is going to be able to surveil basically anybody on the nation.”
Ed Webb

Where Will Everyone Go? - 0 views

  • The odd weather phenomenon that many blame for the suffering here — the drought and sudden storm pattern known as El Niño — is expected to become more frequent as the planet warms. Many semiarid parts of Guatemala will soon be more like a desert. Rainfall is expected to decrease by 60% in some parts of the country, and the amount of water replenishing streams and keeping soil moist will drop by as much as 83%. Researchers project that by 2070, yields of some staple crops in the state where Jorge lives will decline by nearly a third.
  • As their land fails them, hundreds of millions of people from Central America to Sudan to the Mekong Delta will be forced to choose between flight or death. The result will almost certainly be the greatest wave of global migration the world has seen.
  • For most of human history, people have lived within a surprisingly narrow range of temperatures, in the places where the climate supported abundant food production. But as the planet warms, that band is suddenly shifting north.
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  • the planet could see a greater temperature increase in the next 50 years than it did in the last 6,000 years combined. By 2070, the kind of extremely hot zones, like in the Sahara, that now cover less than 1% of the earth’s land surface could cover nearly a fifth of the land, potentially placing 1 of every 3 people alive outside the climate niche where humans have thrived for thousands of years. Many will dig in, suffering through heat, hunger and political chaos, but others will be forced to move on
  • In Southeast Asia, where increasingly unpredictable monsoon rainfall and drought have made farming more difficult, the World Bank points to more than 8 million people who have moved toward the Middle East, Europe and North America. In the African Sahel, millions of rural people have been streaming toward the coasts and the cities amid drought and widespread crop failures. Should the flight away from hot climates reach the scale that current research suggests is likely, it will amount to a vast remapping of the world’s populations.
  • Migration can bring great opportunity not just to migrants but also to the places they go
  • Northern nations can relieve pressures on the fastest-warming countries by allowing more migrants to move north across their borders, or they can seal themselves off, trapping hundreds of millions of people in places that are increasingly unlivable. The best outcome requires not only goodwill and the careful management of turbulent political forces; without preparation and planning, the sweeping scale of change could prove wildly destabilizing. The United Nations and others warn that in the worst case, the governments of the nations most affected by climate change could topple as whole regions devolve into war
  • To better understand the forces and scale of climate migration over a broader area, The New York Times Magazine and ProPublica joined with the Pulitzer Center in an effort to model, for the first time, how people will move across borders
  • The story is similar in South Asia, where nearly one-fourth of the global population lives. The World Bank projects that the region will soon have the highest prevalence of food insecurity in the world. While some 8.5 million people have fled already — resettling mostly in the Persian Gulf — 17 million to 36 million more people may soon be uprooted, the World Bank found. If past patterns are a measure, many will settle in India’s Ganges Valley; by the end of the century, heat waves and humidity will become so extreme there that people without air conditioning will simply die.
  • If governments take modest action to reduce climate emissions, about 680,000 climate migrants might move from Central America and Mexico to the United States between now and 2050. If emissions continue unabated, leading to more extreme warming, that number jumps to more than a million people. (None of these figures include undocumented immigrants, whose numbers could be twice as high.)
  • As with much modeling work, the point here is not to provide concrete numerical predictions so much as it is to provide glimpses into possible futures. Human movement is notoriously hard to model, and as many climate researchers have noted, it is important not to add a false precision to the political battles that inevitably surround any discussion of migration. But our model offers something far more potentially valuable to policymakers: a detailed look at the staggering human suffering that will be inflicted if countries shut their doors.
  • the coronavirus pandemic has offered a test run on whether humanity has the capacity to avert a predictable — and predicted — catastrophe. Some countries have fared better. But the United States has failed. The climate crisis will test the developed world again, on a larger scale, with higher stakes
  • Climate is rarely the main cause of migration, the studies have generally found, but it is almost always an exacerbating one.
  • Drought helped push many Syrians into cities before the war, worsening tensions and leading to rising discontent; crop losses led to unemployment that stoked Arab Spring uprisings in Egypt and Libya; Brexit, even, was arguably a ripple effect of the influx of migrants brought to Europe by the wars that followed. And all those effects were bound up with the movement of just 2 million people. As the mechanisms of climate migration have come into sharper focus — food scarcity, water scarcity and heat — the latent potential for large-scale movement comes to seem astronomically larger.
  • North Africa’s Sahel provides an example. In the nine countries stretching across the continent from Mauritania to Sudan, extraordinary population growth and steep environmental decline are on a collision course. Past droughts, most likely caused by climate change, have already killed more than 100,000 people there. And the region — with more than 150 million people and growing — is threatened by rapid desertification, even more severe water shortages and deforestation. Today researchers at the United Nations estimate that some 65% of farmable lands have already been degraded. “My deep fear,” said Solomon Hsiang, a climate researcher and economist at the University of California, Berkeley, is that Africa’s transition into a post-climate-change civilization “leads to a constant outpouring of people.”
  • Our model projects that migration will rise every year regardless of climate, but that the amount of migration increases substantially as the climate changes. In the most extreme climate scenarios, more than 30 million migrants would head toward the U.S. border over the course of the next 30 years
  • every one of the scenarios it produces points to a future in which climate change, currently a subtle disrupting influence, becomes a source of major disruption, increasingly driving the displacement of vast populations.
  • rough predictions have emerged about the scale of total global climate migration — they range from 50 million to 300 million people displaced — but the global data is limited, and uncertainty remained about how to apply patterns of behavior to specific people in specific places.
  • Once the model was built and layered with both approaches — econometric and gravity — we looked at how people moved as global carbon concentrations increased in five different scenarios, which imagine various combinations of growth, trade and border control, among other factors. (These scenarios have become standard among climate scientists and economists in modeling different pathways of global socioeconomic development.)
  • We are now learning that climate scientists have been underestimating the future displacement from rising tides by a factor of three, with the likely toll being some 150 million globally. New projections show high tides subsuming much of Vietnam by 2050 — including most of the Mekong Delta, now home to 18 million people — as well as parts of China and Thailand, most of southern Iraq and nearly all of the Nile Delta, Egypt’s breadbasket. Many coastal regions of the United States are also at risk.
  • Around 2012, a coffee blight worsened by climate change virtually wiped out El Salvador’s crop, slashing harvests by 70%. Then drought and unpredictable storms led to what a U.N.-affiliated food-security organization describes as “a progressive deterioration” of Salvadorans’ livelihoods.
  • climate change can act as what Defense Department officials sometimes refer to as a “threat multiplier.”
  • For all the ways in which human migration is hard to predict, one trend is clear: Around the world, as people run short of food and abandon farms, they gravitate toward cities, which quickly grow overcrowded. It’s in these cities, where waves of new people stretch infrastructure, resources and services to their limits, that migration researchers warn that the most severe strains on society will unfold
  • the World Bank has raised concerns about the mind-boggling influx of people into East African cities like Addis Ababa, in Ethiopia, where the population has doubled since 2000 and is expected to nearly double again by 2035
  • now a little more than half of the planet’s population lives in urban areas, but by the middle of the century, the World Bank estimates, 67% will. In just a decade, 4 out of every 10 urban residents — 2 billion people around the world — will live in slums
  • El Paso is also a place with oppressive heat and very little water, another front line in the climate crisis. Temperatures already top 90 degrees here for three months of the year, and by the end of the century it will be that hot one of every two days. The heat, according to researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, will drive deaths that soon outpace those from car crashes or opioid overdoses. Cooling costs — already a third of some residents’ budgets — will get pricier, and warming will drive down economic output by 8%, perhaps making El Paso just as unlivable as the places farther south.
  • High emissions, with few global policy changes and relatively open borders, will drive rural El Salvador — just like rural Guatemala — to empty out, even as its cities grow. Should the United States and other wealthy countries change the trajectory of global policy, though — by, say, investing in climate mitigation efforts at home but also hardening their borders — they would trigger a complex cascade of repercussions farther south, according to the model. Central American and Mexican cities continue to grow, albeit less quickly, but their overall wealth and development slows drastically, most likely concentrating poverty further. Far more people also remain in the countryside for lack of opportunity, becoming trapped and more desperate than ever.
  • By midcentury, the U.N. estimates that El Salvador — which has 6.4 million people and is the most densely populated country in Central America — will be 86% urban
  • Most would-be migrants don’t want to move away from home. Instead, they’ll make incremental adjustments to minimize change, first moving to a larger town or a city. It’s only when those places fail them that they tend to cross borders, taking on ever riskier journeys, in what researchers call “stepwise migration.” Leaving a village for the city is hard enough, but crossing into a foreign land — vulnerable to both its politics and its own social turmoil — is an entirely different trial.
  • I arrived in Tapachula five weeks after the breakout to find a city cracking in the crucible of migration. Just months earlier, passing migrants on Mexico’s southern border were offered rides and tortas and medicine from a sympathetic Mexican public. Now migrant families were being hunted down in the countryside by armed national-guard units, as if they were enemy soldiers.
  • Models can’t say much about the cultural strain that might result from a climate influx; there is no data on anger or prejudice. What they do say is that over the next two decades, if climate emissions continue as they are, the population in southern Mexico will grow sharply. At the same time, Mexico has its own serious climate concerns and will most likely see its own climate exodus. One in 6 Mexicans now rely on farming for their livelihood, and close to half the population lives in poverty. Studies estimate that with climate change, water availability per capita could decrease by as much as 88% in places, and crop yields in coastal regions may drop by a third. If that change does indeed push out a wave of Mexican migrants, many of them will most likely come from Chiapas.
  • even as 1 million or so climate migrants make it to the U.S. border, many more Central Americans will become trapped in protracted transit, unable to move forward or backward in their journey, remaining in southern Mexico and making its current stresses far worse.
  • Already, by late last year, the Mexican government’s ill-planned policies had begun to unravel into something more insidious: rising resentment and hate. Now that the coronavirus pandemic has effectively sealed borders, those sentiments risk bubbling over. Migrants, with nowhere to go and no shelters able to take them in, roam the streets, unable to socially distance and lacking even basic sanitation. It has angered many Mexican citizens, who have begun to describe the migrants as economic parasites and question foreign aid aimed at helping people cope with the drought in places where Jorge A. and Cortez come from.
  • a new Mexico-first movement, organizing thousands to march against immigrants
  • Trump had, as another senior government official told me, “held a gun to Mexico’s head,” demanding a crackdown at the Guatemalan border under threat of a 25% tariff on trade. Such a tax could break the back of Mexico’s economy overnight, and so López Obrador’s government immediately agreed to dispatch a new militarized force to the border.
  • laying blame at the feet of neoliberal economics, which he said had produced a “poverty factory” with no regional development policies to address it. It was the system — capitalism itself — that had abandoned human beings, not Mexico’s leaders. “We didn’t anticipate that the globalization of the economy, the globalization of the law … would have such a devastating effect,”
  • No policy, though, would be able to stop the forces — climate, increasingly, among them — that are pushing migrants from the south to breach Mexico’s borders, legally or illegally. So what happens when still more people — many millions more — float across the Suchiate River and land in Chiapas? Our model suggests that this is what is coming — that between now and 2050, nearly 9 million migrants will head for Mexico’s southern border, more than 300,000 of them because of climate change alone.
  • “If we are going to die anyway,” he said, “we might as well die trying to get to the United States.”
  • In the case of Addis Ababa, the World Bank suggests that in the second half of the century, many of the people who fled there will be forced to move again, leaving that city as local agriculture around it dries up.
  • Without a decent plan for housing, feeding and employing a growing number of climate refugees, cities on the receiving end of migration can never confidently pilot their own economic future.
  • The United States refused to join 164 other countries in signing a global migration treaty in 2018, the first such agreement to recognize climate as a cause of future displacement. At the same time, the U.S. is cutting off foreign aid — money for everything from water infrastructure to greenhouse agriculture — that has been proved to help starving families like Jorge A.’s in Guatemala produce food, and ultimately stay in their homes. Even those migrants who legally make their way into El Paso have been turned back, relegated to cramped and dangerous shelters in Juárez to wait for the hearings they are owed under law.
  • There is no more natural and fundamental adaptation to a changing climate than to migrate. It is the obvious progression the earliest Homo sapiens pursued out of Africa, and the same one the Mayans tried 1,200 years ago. As Lorenzo Guadagno at the U.N.’s International Organization for Migration told me recently, “Mobility is resilience.” Every policy choice that allows people the flexibility to decide for themselves where they live helps make them safer.
  • what may be the worst-case scenario: one in which America and the rest of the developed world refuse to welcome migrants but also fail to help them at home. As our model demonstrated, closing borders while stinting on development creates a somewhat counterintuitive population surge even as temperatures rise, trapping more and more people in places that are increasingly unsuited to human life
  • the global trend toward building walls could have a profound and lethal effect. Researchers suggest that the annual death toll, globally, from heat alone will eventually rise by 1.5 million. But in this scenario, untold more will also die from starvation, or in the conflicts that arise over tensions that food and water insecurity will bring
  • America’s demographic decline suggests that more immigrants would play a productive role here, but the nation would have to be willing to invest in preparing for that influx of people so that the population growth alone doesn’t overwhelm the places they move to, deepening divisions and exacerbating inequalities.
  • At the same time, the United States and other wealthy countries can help vulnerable people where they live, by funding development that modernizes agriculture and water infrastructure. A U.N. World Food Program effort to help farmers build irrigated greenhouses in El Salvador, for instance, has drastically reduced crop losses and improved farmers’ incomes. It can’t reverse climate change, but it can buy time.
  • Thus far, the United States has done very little at all. Even as the scientific consensus around climate change and climate migration builds, in some circles the topic has become taboo. This spring, after Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences published the explosive study estimating that, barring migration, one-third of the planet’s population may eventually live outside the traditional ecological niche for civilization, Marten Scheffer, one of the study’s authors, told me that he was asked to tone down some of his conclusions through the peer-review process and that he felt pushed to “understate” the implications in order to get the research published. The result: Migration is only superficially explored in the paper.
  • Our modeling and the consensus of academics point to the same bottom line: If societies respond aggressively to climate change and migration and increase their resilience to it, food production will be shored up, poverty reduced and international migration slowed — factors that could help the world remain more stable and more peaceful. If leaders take fewer actions against climate change, or more punitive ones against migrants, food insecurity will deepen, as will poverty. Populations will surge, and cross-border movement will be restricted, leading to greater suffering. Whatever actions governments take next — and when they do it — makes a difference.
  • The world can now expect that with every degree of temperature increase, roughly a billion people will be pushed outside the zone in which humans have lived for thousands of years
  • “If we don’t develop a different attitude,” he said, “we’re going to be like people in the lifeboat, beating on those that are trying to climb in.”
Ed Webb

Reimagining US Engagement with a Turbulent Middle East - MERIP - 1 views

  • the debate about US foreign policy needs to be not only about redefining US interests and strategy but also focused on how to transform America’s self-identity and the domestic political and economic structures that shape US interactions abroad
  • US foreign policy toward the Middle East has always been driven as much by domestic politics and American self-identity as by different conceptions of strategic interest
  • a diverse set of policy makers, scholars and large segments of the US public, have grown deeply concerned about the high economic and human cost of US interventions in the Middle East. Trump even sought office vowing to end endless wars. America’s overly militarized approach, they argue, has not brought stability or peace to the region. Many also suggest that the longstanding US national interests at stake, such as the flow of oil and Israeli security, no longer seem to be at risk while many US goals—such as a two-state solution for Israel and the Palestinians, the rollback of Iranian influence and the elimination of terrorism—no longer look achievable.
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  • Calls for the United States to pull back reject US intervention and hegemony in the Middle East, but they also seek to insulate the United States from the damage past policies have inflicted on the region and distance Americans from the peoples impacted.
  • The decline of US hegemony and its dominance of global economic and political systems, Schweller explains, has led Americans to “demand a more narrowly self-interested foreign policy” that seeks to insulate Americans from “the vagaries of markets and globalization.” The animating logic of America First, however, does not focus on the country’s global role as much as on the view embraced by Trump’s populist support base that US policy should counter the (perceived) threats posed by transnational flows and interdependence.
  • Much of the mainstream foreign policy debate in opposition to Trump has revolved around voices advocating for the US to return to a more modest, more multilateral version of its role as a global hegemon that seeks to rebuild the liberal international order.[4] Others are calling for an all-out mobilization against the rise of China and Russia.[5]
  • Support for restraint has accelerated with recognition of the declining strategic importance of the Middle East and the absence of major threats from the region to core US interests. With the massive expansion of US domestic energy production, Americans increasingly question the US military presence in the Persian Gulf and security commitment to allies in the region. Meanwhile, with unchallenged Israeli control over Palestinian territories, its military capacity that includes nuclear weapons and growing ties between Israel and Arab Gulf states, Israel is in a more secure strategic position than it has ever been. Advocates of restraint also understand that Iran has a limited ability to project conventional military power and even if it wielded a nuclear weapon, its use could be deterred. Lastly, restraint recognizes that the hyper-militarized approach of the global war on terror engages US forces in continuous military operations that are politically unaccountable and often exacerbate the political and socioeconomic conditions that foster armed non-state actors and political violence in the first place.
  • restraint fails to address the legacies of past US involvement in the region. The hope of insulating the United States from regional instability and future conflicts is also unlikely to be sustainable in the long run.
  • the Israeli right and their US supporters—including the evangelical right and Islamophobic populists—have been unconstrained in their efforts to shape US goals and policies based on a close identification with the Israeli right and Israeli militarism at the expense of the Palestinians
  • While advocates of restraint have long opposed excessive US backing of Israel, without the mobilization of domestic political forces that seek to dissociate the United States from Israeli militarism and support Palestinian human rights, a future US president dedicated to restraint will likely find little strategic value or political support for reversing current policies beyond trimming the price tag.
  • maintain close ties to the Saudi regime and other Arab Gulf states through flows of petrodollar recycling in the form of massive arms sales that sustain American jobs, corporate profits and campaign donations
  • Americans inside and outside of government will not quickly abandon the benefits they receive from economic, military and political ties to Gulf rulers
  • today US ties to the Gulf are being shaped by invented security rationales and material interests. Networks of arms sales, private military contractors, logistics firms and Gulf-funded think tanks—often with cooperation from Israel and its backers—have defined US policies by portraying Iran as a strategic threat, supporting arms sales in the name of so-called economic security and defending the strategic importance of protecting the rule of autocratic elites. At the same time, many segments of the US military and national security state have deeply rooted interests in maintaining bases and military-to-military ties in the region
  • In the foreseeable future, the Middle East will likely experience more instability and conflict due to, in large part, the legacy of US policies over the past two decades, which include the invasion of Iraq, interventions in Libya and Syria, the fostering of proxy wars, the promotion of neoliberal economic reforms, massive arms sales and support for aggressive actions by regional allies such as Israel and Saudi Arabia
  • the increased capacities for self-organization by armed non-state actors has helped sustain the regional environment of turbulence
  • It is unlikely that the United States could reclaim the diplomatic credibility needed to rebuild norms of restraint and balancing after having embraced militarism and unilateralism for so long
  • developments in the region will likely impact other US interests relating to the global economy, rivalry with China, climate change, nuclear proliferation and refugee flows
  • while the ideological and media infrastructure that mobilized fears to build the spurious case for the Iraq war have been temporarily disrupted, similar processes could be activated in the future to convert fears, such as of an Iranian cyberwar capability, a Chinese naval base in the region, or a resurgence of ISIS, into a strategic threat requiring a US response
  • the work of forging an alternative path for the United States in the Middle East, one that embraces sustainable anti-imperialism and demilitarization, must go beyond redefining US strategic interests to transforming domestic political, economic and ideological forces that shape US ties to the Middle East
  • In Notes on a Foreign Country, Suzy Hansen tries to diagnose the current era of anxiety and confusion felt by Americans living in an era when aspects of US exceptionalism and global hegemony are waning. She writes, “It is also perhaps the first time Americans are confronting a powerlessness that the rest of the world has always felt, not only within their own borders but as pawns in a larger international game. Globalization, it turns out, has not meant the Americanization of the world; it has made Americans, in some ways, more like everyone else.”
  • The effort to envision an alternative, post-exceptionalist US role in the world requires refashioning the debate so that Americans come to view the insecurities experienced by societies abroad as counterparts to the challenges Americans face at home.
  • Within the turbulent Middle East regional system, efforts to promote security would require not only an end to US military primacy and dominance but also a limit on regional and external interventions, the demobilization of the numerous armed non-state militias and proxy forces and a reversal of processes of state erosion and territorial fragmentation.
  • Americans need to envision a new internationalism that no longer seeks to remake the world in the American image but defines a new way for living within it
Ed Webb

Ukraine war allows UAE to bring Syria's Assad in from the cold | Syria's War News | Al ... - 0 views

  • The UAE’s efforts to return Syria to the Arab League point to a growing alignment between Abu Dhabi and the Kremlin that is particularly unsettling to Washington
  • The key to understanding this burgeoning relationship, and the UAE’s openness to warmer relations with al-Assad, is a shared antipathy to political Islam and pro-democracy movements in the region.
  • “Assad, as a strongman opposed to the Muslim Brotherhood, looks in this context very much like Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, whom the UAE also supports … Al-Assad’s Baath Party has taken the neoliberal road and does not pose an ideological threat to the Gulf any longer,”
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  • The growth of relations between the UAE and Russia, as well as China and India, has been central to Abu Dhabi’s success in diversifying its global partnerships while gaining greater autonomy from its Western partners in an increasingly multipolar world.
  • “Abu Dhabi views Washington as a strategic priority, it’s an irreplaceable relationship,” explained Monica Marks, an assistant professor of Middle East politics at New York University, Abu Dhabi. “I don’t think [the Emiratis] are trying to replace it, but they are trying to diversify their portfolio as self beneficially as possible to put forward what they see as their own interests.
  • “If you listen closely to some past American government officials, they view the UAE as a model government that they’d like to see the rest of the Arab world reproduce,” Nader Hashemi, director of the Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Denver, told Al Jazeera. “[The Emiratis] buy American arms and they have a peace treaty with Israel. They have this liberal veneer which keeps public opinion somewhat satisfied so that the relationship [with the US] can go forward. They have this Ministry of Tolerance [and Coexistence], which is a public relations exercise,” said Hashemi.
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