The Middle East and North Africa facing multiple unsustainabilities (LAURENCON & PARMENTIER – Global Diwan)

I. Challenges
The MENA countries are structurally on the front line of security challenges and unsustainabilities that the Anthropocene is only exacerbating: the consequences of global warming lead to a paradigm shift for the classical growth models to alternative ones. While ‘collapsology’ may be a subject of debate in Western societies, the region is seriously facing a series of closely intertwined and long-term challenges.
The Arab-Persian Gulf countries, e.g. Kuwait or the UAE, struggle with Food security that appears to be the most glaring challenge in a time of increasing demographic pressures. Due to geological, geographical and hydrological conditions,
these countries can hardly achieve a food autonomy covering basic needs. Hence, the management of food dependence is
likely to remain strategic. For example, Qatar has only 48 hours of food reserve, exposing its vulnerability to any disruption of supply chains (imports cover 90% of its food consumption).
For Maghreb countries with an important agricultural sector, severe drought episodes and water scarcity have a long-term
macroeconomic effect, as highlighted by the 2015 drought in Morocco. Environmental security is the other major concern: based on the IPCC median scenarios, the temperature could reach 45°C in the summer in the Gulf countries, starting in 2100, causing irreversible health damage.

Air pollution already exemplifies this kind of challenges: WHO data show that people in Gulf countries breathe the most
toxic air on the planet. It is a primary source of respiratory diseases, while coping with water needs is the other chronical challenge.
According to a recent World Bank study, 40% of the Moroccan coastline will be at high risk of erosion and flooding by 2030. Hence, key sectors such as agriculture and farming, human health, water resources and tourism will be impacted.
Finally, Health security is likely to remain a top priority of the countries’ public policies. This region is indeed a major place of transit (see the Dubai airport hub). In addition, it sees massive flows of tourists, pilgrims and foreign workers (India, Pakistan, and Southeast Asia) in spaces landlocked by their topography (Bahrain, Medina, Doha).
The rise of pandemics or the development of antibiotic resistance (10 million deaths per year worldwide by 2050) will affect permanently social resilience.
Last but not least, Data Protection and Cybersecurity will be pivotal issues in the near future for the mainly urban,
increasingly digitalized business centers and public services (e.g. health data) of the Gulf, preserving organizational continuity of all the vital activities mentioned above.
To what extent can these urban and connected economies cope with those essential and growing food needs while
arable areas are limited and faced with desertification?

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