Safety and sustainability in the spotlight at Davos
We recently concluded the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, where world leaders, including many foreign ministers from the Middle East and North Africa region, gathered to discuss major economic issues. worlds of the day. The theme for this year’s forum was “History at a Turning Point”, with three main subtopics: COVID-19, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and the longer-term issue of climate change.
This year, the focus was on safety. Of course, the current situation in Ukraine is having a huge impact, with Russia being sanctioned and the region’s fuel and grain supplies being severely affected. This is not to diminish the importance of other conflicts that are also taking place in the world.
Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan reiterated the Kingdom’s previous offers to act as a mediator between Russia and Ukraine, stressing the need to foster global cooperation and open communication. The MENA region enjoys strong symbiotic relationships with the West, Ukraine, Russia, Turkey and China, with goods, oil, tourism and security all being strong aspects of these relationships. MENA countries could be good impartial partners to help mediate and broker peace in the conflict before it escalates further and causes more suffering. The security at stake here is not only physical security, but also incorporates food and economic security which, while impacting the whole world, has a greater effect on developing countries.
But there is a huge overlap with sustainability here. As mentioned, the situation in Ukraine affects the sustainable and continuous supply of cereals to countries in the MENA region, particularly in North Africa and Yemen. Countries already struggling with high poverty rates are at real risk of food supply chain disruption. Similarly, environmental disasters generally hit the poorest communities first.
In 2017, the World Bank explained how rising temperatures would reduce the amount of land suitable for agriculture, as well as the availability of water for human consumption, crops and livestock. He highlighted how greater pressure on essential resources could increase the risk of conflict. We have already seen how the conflict in Yemen has had the greatest effect on the poor, who are experiencing a huge humanitarian crisis.
The World Bank has highlighted how increased pressure on critical resources could increase the risk of conflict
Dr. Bashayer Al-Majed
Similarly, the increase in flash floods linked to climate change disproportionately affects the poorest communities. In 2020, the WEF explained how low-income economies often depend on income from land. These countries have poorer infrastructure and fewer resources. Travel is slower due to rough roads, so people go on foot instead. Buildings have weaker foundations, if any, so towns can be completely destroyed and swept away, leaving communities to be rebuilt from scratch. Fewer and ill-equipped hospitals mean the disease spreads faster, with devastating effects.
However, McKinsey also reported that, of 105 countries surveyed, all would “experience increased socio-economic impacts of climate change”. If crops cannot be grown, whether due to floods or drought, food will become scarcer. Durability and safety are closely linked. While countries may join forces to support each other through natural disasters and hardships, others sometimes use these events as opportunities to take what they need from poorer countries with resource security. lesser.
It is essential that we collaborate and work harder to develop and invest in alternatives to fossil fuels, for example, such as green hydrogen, wind and hydroelectric power, and electric cars to eliminate pollution from our cities. , where it harms public health . We need to educate ourselves on what we can do to reduce the impact of climate change, whether it is direct changes that individuals can make or whether it is changes that we push by choosing carefully where we spend our money and which businesses we support.
A recent report from the London School of Economics and Political Science documented Kuwait’s lack of progress on climate change. Kuwait is not alone here; the story is similar across the Gulf Cooperation Council. Many global companies insist that their corporate partners adhere to strict environmental goals and demonstrate impeccable sustainability standards, such as the Dow Jones Sustainability Index. The Gulf countries are working hard to diversify their economies and must succeed if they are to build a strong economy outside of the oil industry. However, they will lose vital trade deals – and tourism opportunities – if they don’t immediately see the importance of environmental standards.
Professor Klaus Schwab, Director of the WEF, reiterated the message that global communities must work together and that global issues – political, economic, social and ecological – are all interrelated and therefore all important. He reminded delegates of the importance of serving their wider and local communities and that they can act as stakeholders.
Hilde Schwab, co-founder of the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship, believes that one way to do this is to help entrepreneurs and social innovators create sustainable solutions.
Founder of the organization We Love Reading, Rana Dajani, spoke about the importance of an “I can” mindset and the slogan “responsibility to solve locally” in motivating people to change. She pointed out that we all have “shared universal values”, but that we can also celebrate “diversity by acting locally…and focusing on human-to-human interactions”.
Again, as individuals we can consider alternatives; we can see where something comes from. We must take responsibility for how we travel, where we shop, where we eat and where the products we buy come from, how they are transported, how and where they are stored and whether they are ethical and durable. Sustainability is not just about international industry, governments and energy providers. We can all be empowered to make changes. It’s about looking around and being creative.
How can we work with other members of our community to drive change? How to develop social enterprise? This can be great for those who might want more flexible working hours, those with young children at home or at school, those with family responsibilities, or those with physical disabilities that prevent them from working in certain conditions or working long hours, while building the local economy and community skills. Young people see how businesses work, they can get involved and feel empowered to make changes or start their own business. It also helps support our own local economies, building financial and environmental sustainability.
So, in summary, we need to work together and use the skills within our communities to build strong, diverse and sustainable businesses. We need to communicate better about how climate change will affect us if we don’t reduce our carbon dioxide emissions, reduce global warming, and clean up our lands and oceans.
Only by understanding the impacts – on our health, our local neighborhoods and the economy (both national and global) – will individuals and industries feel the need to make changes. We must emphasize the alternatives. We need to help innovators and entrepreneurs develop new ideas and bring them to market. MENA nations’ strategies for the next 10-15 years include sustainability – in architecture, energy, tourism and community – but we as citizens must support their actions and collaborate within our own communities to bring about local change.
• Dr. Bashayer Al-Majed is Professor of Law at Kuwait University and Visiting Scholar at Oxford. Twitter: @BashayerAlMajed
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed by the authors in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Arab News