The Arab region is full of potential. Over the past decades, the region has increased electricity production from renewable resources seven-fold, decreased infant mortality significantly, achieved near universal primary education with around 73 percent of young people able to enrol in secondary education, and closed the gender gap by promoting parity across all stages of education. More people than ever have access to safe drinking water, electricity and game-changing technologies like the internet.
Climate risks threaten to derail these development gains. This could disrupt efforts to build peace, cause a spike in ”eco-migrants,” and undermine efforts to end hunger, poverty and inequality by 2030.
In the Arab States, the causes of crises, food insecurity, malnutrition and vulnerability to climate change impacts are deeply interlinked and require multifaceted responses. The Arab region is home to rising levels of conflict and the world’s largest population of refugees and displaced people. Simultaneously, it is now the planet’s most water scarce and food-import-dependent region, and the only region where malnutrition rates have been rising.
To build climate resilience in Arab States, including highly vulnerable Least Developed Countries such as Djibouti, Somalia, Sudan and the Republic of Yemen - where droughts, changing rainfall patterns and conflict are putting millions of people at risk and spiking hunger and malnutrition numbers – we need to assist nations and communities in building agile, innovative and bold interventions that allows them to better adapt to our changing climate.
Six out of ten people in the Arab Region are under 30 years old. These youth will lead the way. But they will require stronger institutions, increased capacity and modernized policies in order to achieve the type of transformational change needed to promote low-carbon, climate-resilient development.
By supporting countries in Arab States to mobilize partnerships between donors such as the Global Environment Facility, the Adaptation Fund and the Green Climate Fund, as well as bilateral donors, important sectors of civil society, and the broader UN System, UNDP is serving as a broker to connect vulnerable nations with the resources, capacity and tools they need to achieve the Paris Goals and 2030 agenda, and leverage creative financial mechanisms to fill the climate change adaptation funding gap.
Under the leadership of our new Administrator, Achim Steiner, UNDP has a new strategic plan for 2018-2021. Anchored in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and committed to the principles of universality, equality and leaving no one behind, the UNDP vision for the Strategic Plan for the next four years is to help countries achieve sustainable development by eradicating poverty in all its forms and dimensions. In the Arab States, this work will be achieved by accelerating structural transformations for sustainable development and building resilience to crises and shocks.
This work is already taking place. It means, for example, that a new sand dam built in Somalia was able to provide a fresh water source during a recent drought. It means increased capacity to address climate change vulnerabilities and risks in the coastal areas of Tunisia. It means that Morocco will be able to build more effective plans for climate change adaptation and have strong institutions required to foster transformational change.
Over the past 10 years, we have seen many pilot projects for climate change adaptation yield significant results in Arab States and across the globe. It’s time we brought these projects to scale.
In Egypt, for instance, a new GCF-financed project will expand the use of a low-cost dike system to prevent the flooding of the low-lying lands of the Nile Delta from sea surges during extreme weather events. The Nile Delta is home to 25 percent of the Egyptian population. By insulating this vulnerable population from the short- and long-term impacts of climate change, UNDP is dedicated to developing the partnerships, capacities and opportunities nations need to end poverty and ensure sustainable economic and social development.
To address the myriad challenges that climate change is bringing to the Arab States, we need to be innovative, we need to be bold, and we need to support the people in building the enabling environments they need to thrive in our fast-changing world.
To learn more about our climate change adaptation work and achievements in the Arab region, please see our new report.
About the author
Adriana Dinu is the director of environment within the Sustainable Development cluster and executive coordinator of the Global Environmental Finance unit at UNDP. Follow her on Twitter: @AdrianaDinu