Securing Energy in Southwest Asia

Writing for The News International, Board Member Ikram Seghal and others report on EWI’s Islamabad conference "Afghanistan Reconnected: Linking Energy Suppliers to Consumers in Asia."

According to the "Global Economic Prospects"report, South Asian regional growth declined from 7.4 percent in 2011 to an estimated 5.4 percent in 2012, mainly due to a sharp slowdown in India. Home to many of the developing world’s poor, the economic future of the region depends upon regional cooperation bringing about the Asian Century, supporting regional networks to promote cooperation and focusing on trade in goods, services, electricity, people-to-people contact, and cooperation in water resource management. 

To give impetus to the key challenges facing the regional countries in having access to adequate, reliable and affordable energy, the EastWest Institute (EWI) organized a conference in Islamabad from September 2 to September 4. Representatives of regional governments, parliaments and the private sector as well as experts from China, the U.S. and Europe gathered with the aim to identify productive opportunities for economic growth based on Afghanistan’s potential as a transit route for energy supplies from Central Asia to energy markets in South Asia. 

Ambassador Beate Maeder-Metcalf, regional director of the EWI Brussels, set the tone for the conference emphasising the EWI’s determination to hold the "Abu Dhabi Process" consultations in Pakistan despite the security situation. Federal Minister for Petroleum and Natural Resources Khaqan Abbasi underlined the importance of securing energy, giving details of Pakistan’s own resources and those available in the adjoining region.

The federal minister was very positive about the outcome of the conference. Chief Minister Punjab Shahbaz Sharif was meant to be the keynote speaker but had to cancel without notice, most unfortunate given that energy is a key factor in his plans and the participants were looking forward to an interaction with the CM.

Energy transit routes are of crucial importance for the mutual benefit of both exporting and importing states. Analysts cautioned about barriers in using Afghanistan as an energy route, the civil war and political instability making possible routes insecure. Not only a historical but a natural trade corridor, it has a great potential for economic growth. 

Energy is of fundamental importance to any country. Private sector involvement in energy trade can mitigate the risk on non-recovery of cost of import. South Asia encompasses one-fifth of the global population, and energy trade can be an influential tool for economic integration. Three most important projects in this sector are the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline (IP), the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India gas pipeline (Tapi) and Central Asia South Asia (CASA)-1000. These projects will benefit Central Asian republics by providing them with new markets. 

Although Sartaj Aziz had to leave for Karachi in a hurry, he nevertheless made it a point to attend the concluding session. He emphasised good relations with all the neighbours and said intra- and inter-regional energy trade would help overcome the energy demand and supply gap in the region and economically stabilise the region. Political disturbances and civil war can be a setback to development as in the case of Tapi, but its construction will certainly be undertaken once the situation gets better. 

Dr. Frederick Starr from Johns Hopkins University was thrilled at Pakistan’s determination to go ahead with Tapi. One of the early proponents of the Tapi pipeline, Dr. Starr said, “Obviously, serious challenges will remain, the greatest of which will be to design the project (Tapi) so that it is viable in free-market terms. Doubts abound, but there are now sober optimists as well.”

The environment-friendly nature of renewable energy compels people to focus on unconventional and reliable energy sources other than oil and gas. To overcome the hindrances to socio-economic growth, Pakistan must look into the potentiality of solar, wind, bio-fuel, and hydro power as renewable resources. 

Given the disadvantages of burning fossil fuels, renewable energy has become the need of the time. As a result of the political nature of hydel energy Pakistan is forced to import large quantities of oil and oil products. Even then many cities have to undergo severe loadshedding for more than 12 hours a day. This increases trade deficit, high inflation, unemployment, depreciation of rupee, and mainly leads to lowering of living standards. The gap between demand and supply is increasing by the day despite the fact that there is tremendous potential of renewable energy sources in Pakistan. 

Discussing "Central Asia Energy Resources and Potential for Trade," speakers talked of Central Asia becoming one of the world’s top five oil producers within the next decade. Ranked 15th in the world for proven gas reserves, Kazakhstan has become a net exporter of natural gas in 2009. 

Uzbekistan is planning a major expansion of its domestic electricity infrastructure. It plans to raise $3.5bn between 2009 and 2014 to finance the increased capacity by around 2,700MW. Turkmenistan holds the world’s fourth largest reserves of natural gas amounting to 7.504 trillion cubic meters. Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan are less attractive to investors in terms of fossil fuel reserves. 

An expert panel focused on "Afghanistan as Energy Importer and Producer," the country being critical to developing inter-regional cooperation. Despite many differences, Pakistan and Afghanistan are moving towards joint management of common rivers starting with the proposed construction of a 1500MW hydropower project on the Kunar River. 

The panel on "Towards Regional Cooperation for Energy Security" focused on the increasing realization within South Asian countries about the importance of regional cooperation in the area of energy. There is talk of India providing electricity to Pakistan. In the field of energy security, China is cooperating with Turkmenistan in the construction of the gas pipeline opened in 2009. 

Pakistan’s primary power supplies from conventional energy sources cannot meet the country’s demand. Electricity generation has become dependent largely on petroleum fuels and faces a huge gap of 4500MW between demand and supply that has far-reaching consequences on development. For this reason, renewable energy alternatives must be developed urgently. 

Despite the enormous potential of indigenous energy resources, Pakistan remains energy deficient, relying heavily on the imports of petroleum products to satisfy its present needs. A recent study by the Energy Information Administration based on a study done by Advance Resources International (ARI) has estimated Pakistan’s recoverable shale gas at 105 trillion cubic feet (tcf)—up from 24 tcf. Oil estimate have increased dramatically 30 times from 300 million barrels to 9.1 billion barrels. In contrast, India is estimated to have 96 tcf and 2.7 billion barrels of oil recoverable from share oil reserves.

The EWI initiative to have its energy conference in Pakistan despite the critical security situation here has highlighted the need of the country. Energy is crucial not only to meet socio-economic challenges, but the inter-dependability inherent in the acquisition process will further the cause of peace in the region.

Ikram Sehgal is a security analyst and chairman of PATHFINDER GROUP.

To read full published article, click here

Click here for more information about the event.

Five Years of Strong Preventive Action

As the fifth anniversary of the Parliamentarians Network for Conflict Prevention draws near, Amb. Ortwin Hennig, EWI's former head of the program, reflects on the challenges of preventive diplomacy.

The Parliamentarians Network has developed into a unique actor of change in the international conflict prevention architecture. It has been policy relevant, as it engages decision makers, it has networked across institutions and continents, it has shared knowledge and experience, and it has led an action oriented dialogue on issues that have a bearing on stability and peace, locally, regionally, nationally and globally.

Conflict situations are usually characterized by stalemate at the strategic level, lack of political will for genuine dialogue at national and local levels, lack of societal desire for reconciliation, and all sides at all levels seek to attach political conditions to urgent humanitarian and development needs and activities. The onus is on the international community to take the initiative to make progress both on the ground and at the strategic level.

This shows: preventive diplomacy is a frustrating business to be in. But the Parliamentarians engaged in it are not wasting their time. Preventive diplomacy remains a moral imperative, an economic necessity, a humanitarian must, and a political obligation. The Parliamentarians Network drives this home to governments through its very existence on a daily basis.

In China, there is a story about a doctor, who always cured his patients shortly before they died. For this reason he was famous in the whole valley. There was another doctor, whose patients never fell ill in the first instance. This doctor was unknown. Which doctor do you think was the better one?

Conflicts are essential in order to foster societal change.The yardstick is whether societies manage their conflicts peacefully. Therefore, conflict prevention is not exclusively about preventing violence, it is also about channelling conflicts into peaceful procedures. So conflict prevention is a process rather than a policy.

There is no opposition to preventive diplomacy. In fact, there is a broad consensus about its importance. But experience has shown that rhetorical support for it does not always lead to appropriate action. And where the international community gets engaged, it focuses too much on crisis management and too little on preventive diplomacy; one of the reasons being that crisis management is visible, preventive diplomacy is not: it is quiet diplomacy, it cannot be conducted through the media.

There are two flaws in conflict prevention that the Parliamentarians Network has been trying to overcome: the lack of a prevention lobby in our societies and a lack of a top-down approach in governmental agencies. Remedying these deficits is part of the difficult domestic and international political will-building strategy the Network has been engaged in.

During the next years, tensions and conflicts over access to water and energy continue to endanger stability and security in many parts of the world. Also, the last undivided spaces of the earth: i.e. the cosmos, the oceans, and the cyber space, are likely to cause problems in the future. States with a global vision tend to spread out into these areas, as binding international agreements are lacking in order to regulate the competition here. Furthermore, religious rights of minorities are violated in many regions, especially in Northern Africa and the Middle East. This problem needs special attention, locally and internationally.

The Network should tackle all these challenges through institutionalised dialogue between all stakeholders and with a view to create win-win-situations for all.

Today, we find ourselves in a unique situation in that all decisive forces in world politics, including Russia, China, India and the Muslim world, share, objectively, common basic interests. This is a chance to work for the creation of a cooperative international order by reaching out to decision makers to sensitize them that conflict prevention needs to become part of their decision making. State borders and state power are no longer decisive reference points. Transnational problems require transnational solutions.

In the years to come, the Parliamentarians Network should lead the way in this direction, conscious of what Albert Einstein once said: “Peace cannot be kept by force; it can only be achieved by understanding.”

Click here to read the editorial on the Parliamentarians Network for Conflict Prevention website

New Hurdles on the Road to Peace in Kabul

Writing in The Telegraph, EWI Board Member Kanwal Sibal discusses India’s concerns about the future of Afghanistan.

In 2014, power will be transferred to a new president in Afghanistan. The army of the United States of America will complete its withdrawal and the Afghan National Security Forces will assume responsibility for the country’s security. All these transitions seem precarious.

The new president will have to be a coalescing figure, a Pashtun with cross ethnic support, capable of providing leadership in exceedingly difficult domestic circumstances, and able to work smoothly with external partners—altogether a tall order.

The follow-up to the U.S.-Afghanistan Strategic Partnership Agreement—the bilateral security agreement defining the status of residual U.S. forces in Afghanistan—is facing hurdles. If the U.S. fails to secure a suitable agreement as in Iraq, it is threatening a “zero option,” which actually demonstrates how thin its options are.

The ANSF may have the numbers and may be performing well but that does not guarantee that it can control the post-U.S. withdrawal situation as a cohesive unit, especially if the U.S. departs under the shadow of a political discord with the Afghan government. The ANSF lacks heavy weaponry, air power and sophisticated intelligence capability.

The economic prospects are uncertain despite external pledges of aid. A potential zero military option would not be compatible with generous long-term economic support. Big investment plans in Afghanistan by regional countries will not only depend on internal stability but also long lead times would preclude any significant immediate impact.

General instability around Afghanistan vitiates prospects too. Pakistan’s internal situation remains fraught despite recent elections. Iran has a new president but the nuclear dossier and attendant sanctions create instability. The Arab world is in turmoil, with the so-called Arab Spring having withered very rapidly. Religious extremism is spreading, and it bolsters the forces at play in Afghanistan.

India is acting responsibly in Afghanistan, supporting the emergence of a sovereign, stable, democratic and prosperous nation where extremist forces are contained and human rights, especially those of women, are respected. India is not interfering in Afghanistan’s internal affairs, arming any particular group, or providing safe havens for terrorists to carry out violent activities against the government.

We have legitimate interests in Afghanistan and every right to be present there. The international community must reject any curtailment of Afghan sovereignty by requiring the Afghan government to give precedence to the interests of any one country over another. It is for the Afghan government to take independent decisions in a responsible manner.

India has established a strategic relationship with Afghanistan that is anchored in a long-term bilateral and regional geo-political perspective. Afghanistan and Central Asia are landlocked, and this poses particularly difficult development challenges. The entire region needs the broadest possible choices for economic partnerships. As southern Asia‘s biggest economy, we can substantially contribute to regional development. Afghanistan has huge mineral resources that await exploitation. India is ready to make large investments in this sector, beginning with iron-ore extraction. This requires easier Indian access to Afghanistan, which Pakistan is as yet unwilling to provide.

India is investing in the Chabahar port in Iran for access to Afghanistan as well as in Central Asia. Sanctions by the U.S. and the European Union on Iran hinder such projects to give Afghanistan alternative options for trade routes and encourage foreign investment there. Indian investments in Iran, directed specifically at stimulating the Afghan economy, which are at present dependent on foreign assistance and income derived from foreign military presence on its soil, should not be opposed by the U.S. government. India took the initiative to organize a Delhi Investment Summit on Afghanistan in June 2012. India’s bilateral aid to Afghanistan has reached $2 billion. Some external critics see this as an effort to seek undue influence in Afghanistan. If we consider India’s overall foreign assistance program and the billions Indian companies are investing abroad, this is not too large a sum.

The U.S., Britain and other nations are reaching out to the Taliban in a troubling way. The red lines drawn up by the international community for a dialogue with the Taliban are being blurred by Nato’s anxiety to withdraw by 2014, whatever the ground situation. This strengthens the negotiating hands of the Taliban groups in Pakistan as they know time favors them.

The rhetoric remains that the reconciliation process should be Afghan-led and Afghan-owned, but direct U.S. overtures to the Taliban discount this. Latest statements from the close circle of President Hamid Karzai express deep concern about potential U.S. understandings with Pakistan on Afghanistan and the possibility of south and eastern Afghanistan being handed over to the Taliban, leading to the country’s division and an all-out conflict.

The end-game in Afghanistan is being played out in an atmosphere of suspicion and bickering amongst the principal players. The manner of the opening of the Taliban’s Doha office has worsened matters. In declaring themselves the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, the Taliban made their own end-game clear. The argument that the Taliban’s various currents, including ‘moderate’ ones eligible for accommodation, needs to be questioned after what has transpired in Egypt where the same arguments of distinguishing among the various strands in the Muslim Brotherhood and welcoming its assumption of power (an interim government is running the country now) have been proved wrong.

India does not want conditions of ethnic conflict to be created again in Afghanistan. The root of the problem is external support for Afghan extremists for attaining Pakistan’s military ambitions. So long as safe havens for extremists exist outside Afghanistan, the country will remain under the shadow of violence. It is a hugely perverse notion that the real problem in Afghanistan is the rivalry between India and Pakistan. Those failing in Afghanistan should not point the finger at India. India is not responsible for the rise of religious extremism in the region or the civil war in Afghanistan after the Soviet departure. It did not put the Taliban in power in Kabul or have a hand in sheltering Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan. It bears no responsibility for the U.S./Nato military intervention in Afghanistan. The Taliban/Haqqani groups are not killing Nato soldiers at India’s behest. India is not the cause of U.S. drone attacks in Pakistan.

We are not seeking an exclusive relationship with Afghanistan and accept that it should have friendly relations with all its neighbors. India and China are now conversing on Afghanistan. India can discuss Afghanistan with Pakistan constructively, including the question of transit facilities. The new government in Pakistan should think along such lines, rather than allowing the nation’s policies to be guided by the ambitions of its armed forces. We have been constructive in our dealings with the U.S. on Afghanistan and mindful of its interests there, despite serious provocations from Pakistan, including the terrorist attack against our embassy in Kabul. The U.S. should not penalize India’s interests while according Pakistan an enhanced role in Afghanistan.

Apropos the dialogue with the Taliban, the U.S. special envoy for Afghanistan, James Dobbins, said that while the U.S. did not know how this dialogue would develop and whether it would lead to peace, it was worth trying. India would hardly find re-assuring such an uncertain strategy of talking to a retrograde force supported by a State whose truck with terrorism is well known and whose military is bent on advancing its disruptive strategic ambitions in the region. The attack on the consulate in Jalalabad validates our concerns.

Click here to read the article in The Telegraph


The Water-Energy Nexus in Southeast Asia and the Pacific

The EastWest Institute and the Asian Development Bank (ADB) hosted "The Water-Energy Nexus in Southeast Asia and the Pacific: Promoting Regional Stability and Economic Security," a roundtable discussion on June 24, at EWI’s New York Office. Stephen Groff, ADB’s vice president for Southeast and East Asia Operations, Csaba Kőrösi, Hungary’s ambassador to the UN and Co-Chair of the Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals, and Michele Ferenz, EWI’s director of the Food, Water, and Energy Nexus Program, led the discussion.

“Natural resource issues are rising on the agenda of traditional security actors,” Ferenz said. Pointing to recent commentaries by members of the U.S. military and intelligence communities on resource shocks as drivers of economic and political crises as well as of regional tensions, she added: “The three issues where there are clear disagreements between China and the U.S. are maritime security, trade and Tibet. All three of those have underlying resource conflicts attached to them.”

Groff made several key points concerning the increased role water will have in human security, emphasizing what he called “a crisis around governance” and highlighting the role the private sector can play when appropriate policies and accountability frameworks are in place. He also noted the increased awareness of the complex challenges facing water governance.

“A lot of our institutions have begun to realize that you don’t just think about water in terms of scarcity or in isolation,” Groff said, noting that this will require intensive policy dialogue with governments. “With nexus kinds of things, it’s harder to do the math around it, and it’s harder to make the case for the math.”

Kőrösi stressed the importance of building networks of cooperation within nations and between nations. He also highlighted some of the operational challenges, noting that there must be an exponential increase in the number of water experts in much of the developing world in order to head off a global disaster.

Roundtable participants, representing diverse organizations, offered expert perspectives from their fields. Annette Huber-Lee, until recently the director of the Asia Center at the Stockholm Environment Institute, made the point that scientists have to emerge from their silos to address these cross-cutting challenges. “The scientists studying water must confer with those studying energy, as we all know their findings and studies influence each other,” Huber-Lee said.

Panel members also offered concrete examples of areas in which progress has been made. Groff said that within the past decade the ADB has integrated climate-resilience in its infrastructure investments while regional energy cooperation has made strides in Asia.

Others pointed out that the pace of change is often the fastest at the local level where choosing the right terms of engagement can have a big impact. According to Mandy Ikert, director of the Water and Adaptation Initiative of the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group, cities are now more willing to work together to create an environment of global sharing. “In many cities it may not be politically favorable to talk about climate change, but you can re-brand it to things that make sense to them locally,” Ikert explained.

Her organization currently facilitates technology exchange between Beijing and New York City, as Beijing searches for a means to employ a zero-energy fresh water supply system.

“We have Beijing that is solely reliant on one remaining clear reservoir working now with New York to determine whether they can actually have-zero energy fresh water supply as New York does,” Ikert added. “There’s a lot of global sharing happening at the local level.”

View more photos from the event on our Flickr page


Uranium Extraction in the Arctic: Challenges and Opportunities

Dr. Cindy Vestergaard, visiting fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and researcher at the Danish Institute for International Studies, discussed the complexities and implications of uranium mining in Greenland at EWI’s New York Center.

The EastWest Institute hosted “Uranium Extraction in the Arctic: Challenges and Opportunities for Greenland and Denmark,” a  seminar with Dr. Cindy Vestergaard, visiting fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and researcher at the Danish Institute for International Studies, on May 9 at its New York Center. Vestergaard discussed an underreported but emerging issue with strong implications for the nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament regime: uranium mining in Greenland. Moderated by EWI’s Andrew Nagorski, the seminar featured a discussion on the political and regulatory challenges posed by Greenland’s massive uranium reserves.

Vestergaard’s presentation began by noting that uranium mining in Greenland rests at the intersection of a number of complex issues: climate change, resource extraction, Greenland’s movement towards independence, and nuclear nonproliferation.

One element that significantly complicates the efforts of newcomers to uranium production like Greenland is the lack of international governance of uranium. Although the IAEA requires reporting on the export and import of uranium, many countries are not complete in their reporting.

As Vestergaard stated, “For the rest of the fuel cycle we have a very dedicated aspect of inventory, material accountancy control; for the front end, there is none.”

Greenland has the potential to become one of the world’s top ten suppliers of uranium ore concentrate; the Kvanefled project at the southern tip of Greenland alone is estimated to contain the world’s fifth largest reserve of uranium. However, the exploitation of these vast resources is complicated by Denmark’s resolute non-nuclear stance. Denmark has all but foregone the entire nuclear fuel cycle by banning the mining of radioactive materials, excluding nuclear power as part of its indigenous energy grid, and shuttering all three of its nuclear research reactors. In 1957, Denmark declared itself a nuclear weapons-free-zone, a position that caused a stir following revelations that U.S. nuclear weapons were based on Greenland until 1965.

Despite Denmark’s disdain for all things nuclear, Greenland appears to be edging in the other direction. Denmark is constitutionally responsible for the defense, security, monetary, and foreign policy of the Danish Kingdom, but the 2009 Self-Government Act granted Greenland full authority over its natural resources. Following general elections in March, Greenland’s new government has indicated that it will lift its zero-tolerance policy on uranium mining. But in order for Greenland to proceed with uranium production, Denmark and Greenland will be faced with the challenge of developing an export control and regulatory system with little preexisting experience to build upon. Acknowledging the magnitude of the challenge, Vestergaard noted, “Our experience globally is that if you’re starting from scratch, building a regulatory system, minimum [of] five years … usually upwards of ten.”

Although Greenland is years away from beginning uranium mining, Vestergaard’s presentation outlined the complex and interdependent challenges that Greenland, and other territories like it, will face as they enter the global nuclear market. At the same time, the responsible development of Greenland’s regulatory framework has the opportunity to strengthen the nonproliferation policies of the Danish Kingdom and the international community at large.

Tewodros Ashenafi Featured in Reuters and Financial Times

EWI Board Member Tewodros Ashenafi, CEO of Southwest Energy (HK) Ltd, was featured prominently in recent articles from Reuters and the Financial Times.

Both articles covered the potential for future energy production in Ethiopia, an area where SouthWest is actively engaged.

On April 7, the Financial Times reported that, while he concedes that significant energy exploration and production in the country remain years away, Ashenafi maintains that "private equity is out there and looking for opportunities such as ours.”

In a Reuters article posted on April 8, he asserted that Ethiopia "has huge potential and is very underexplored. The Jijiga basin alone is 367,000 square kilometres. That's larger than the North Sea, and there have only been 50 wells drilled." 

Earlier this year, Ashenafi appeared with regional experts at an EWI event hosted by Gallup in Washington to discuss energy prospects in East Africa.

This Week in News

This Week in News is the EastWest Institute's weekly roundup of international affairs articles relevant to its areas of work.

"Here's North Korea's official declaration of 'War.'" The Washington Post. March 30.

"Kim Calls Atomic Weapons Top Priority as Korea Tensions Rise," Bloomberg. Apr 1.

"Understand Xi Jinping’s Renaissance, Put it in Historical Context," CSIS. Apr 1.

"UN treaty is first aimed at regulating global arms sales." The New York Times. April 2. 

Report urges cuts in nukes, greater US-Russia cooperation to end ‘Cold War autopilot’ strategy," The Washington Post, April 3. 

North Korea Seen Unable to Deliver Nuclear Attack on U.S.,” Bloomberg. April 4.


Follow EWI on Twitter @EWInstitute for continuing news updates.

Compiled by Michael McShane, Athina Doutis, Alex Schulman and Haolin Liu.

Preventive Diplomacy and the Climate-Energy-Resource Nexus

Writing for EWI's Parliamentarians Network for Conflict Prevention, Nick Mabey and Sabrina Shulz of E3G discuss the importance of preventive diplomacy in addressing resource challenges.

Young democracies are the most vulnerable to political and economic instability. A growing number of countries, including in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), are also exposed to risk-multipliers emerging out of the climate-energy-resource nexus. Renewed food price shocks in Tunisia and Egypt for example could tip both countries into violence again. The risk of an eruption of violence over people’s inability to feed their families is very real due to the prospect of a food price spike this year driven by the US drought in 2012.

This is an issue for preventive diplomacy. Its success depends on anticipating threshold moments when latent conflicts may erupt and translate into violence. Prices for food, fuel and other resources can be such thresholds. Although the increase in the price of bread was not the cause of the Arab Spring it was the spark that ignited it. Nevertheless, current external interventions and support packages for the region have done nothing to improve resilience to food and energy spice spikes.

Projections on climate, energy and resource trends for the MENA region suggest that risks of instability remain high well into the 2020s. Climate change will likely impact severely on agricultural production and the attractiveness of the region to international tourism. Continuing dependency on the import of fossil fuels at volatile prices in several countries in the region will further impose significant constraints on the prospects of economic growth.

At the same time, stronger GDP growth alone cannot address negative development trends. Economic development can be undermined by systemic risks emerging out of instabilities in global markets but also, in the medium term, by climate, energy and water pressures. Therefore, a greater focus is necessary on directly building national resilience against these risks. Current external stabilising efforts in MENA, especially from Europe, are focusing on providing incentives for continued democratic reforms, building civil society institutions and providing immediate jobs for young people. Whilst these are important areas a focused approach by donors to improve the prospects of medium term stability is lacking.

There is currently a gap in the political understanding of connections between political and economic stability on the one hand and the risks emerging from a changing climate as well as energy, food and water pressures on the other. Preventive diplomacy could greatly increase its impact if these factors were taken into account. External support for instable countries should not only be more joined up but also informed by an analysis of medium term drivers of risk to help prevent the eruption of violence. Support packages by international financial institutions, security sector reform efforts, diplomatic engagement, etc. have to be informed by the same understanding of systemic risks and the need to build national resilience.

It is therefore vital to use diplomatic means to “lobby” decision-makers in young democracies on the need to address their countries’ vulnerabilities. A better understanding of the risks emerging from climate change in particular could help build political will around resilience investments. Tackling vulnerability to drought and rising sea levels in the MENA region, for instance, can improve the prospects of stability. Resilient energy and water infrastructure is a key component of economic development and growth. It is also decisive for agricultural production, and hence food security. Thus, some of the most pressing issues in MENA such as energy poverty, economic development, and public health can be addressed through investments in the areas of renewable energy systems, energy efficiency, water infrastructure, desalination and irrigation systems. Joining forces around these issues could make a major difference. It is also the best use of scarce resources.

Parliamentarians can play a critical role in ensuring that these issues have been fully addressed in programming development assistance and economic support packages to vulnerable countries. The post-Arab Spring investment flows from Europe and the US provide a high-profile test case in a highly vulnerable region for parliamentarians in the relevant countries to use their oversight powers to improve the impact of preventative diplomacy programmes.

Nick Mabey is the founder, director and chief executive of E3G (Third Generation Environmentalism), a non-profit international organization dedicated to accelerating the transition to sustainable development. In addition to his management role, he leads E3G’s work on European climate change policy, climate diplomacy and foreign policy, and the security implications of climate change. As a member of the International Task Force on Preventive Diplomacy, composed of 24 outstanding experts and practitioners in the field of conflict prevention and resolution, Nick Mabey was one of the initiators of the Parliamentarians Network for Conflict Prevention.

Sabrina Schulz is the head of office of the E3G office in Berlin. She is a policy expert working on climate change and energy and resource security. Her current work focuses on climate and energy issues in the MENA (Middle East and North Africa) region, low-carbon urban development in China and the German Energiewende (energy transformation).


Subscribe to RSS - Food-Water-Energy