Civil Society Gears up to Tackle the Climate Crisis

CGIAR, December 18, 2013.

From November 7th to 18th, Morocco will host the COP22 in Marrakesh. This is an opportunity to focus our gaze on the Maghreb, and beyond, on the Sahel and the Middle East, to shine a light on civil society fighting for climate justice in the region.

The gap between the hopes raised by the Arab Spring and the —very diverse—political situations in the Maghreb and the Middle East today tend to convey the idea that mass mobilizations inevitably fail. A kind of disillusion, if not fatalism, often tints this conclusion. Although this vision is based on undeniable facts, it is incomplete as it ignores the diversity of struggles and minimizes the potential of many initiatives in the region, particularly those addressing climate justice.

Nevertheless, the situation is urgent there as well. Here in Europe and all over the world, populations are faced with the evils of our model, based on the supremacy of the economic sphere: land-grabbing, mega-development projects decided against the will of local populations, the industrialization of farming and the over-exploitation of natural resources by economic powers that threaten the land and the survival of its inhabitants.

The urgency is especially critical there, as the Mediterranean and Sahel regions are extremely vulnerable to climate change. Frequent droughts, the degradation and desertification of the land, rising sea levels and diminishing fresh water resources are major risks that populations in the region are already living with today.

Acting is more important than ever. Indeed, the COP22 has been dubbed “The Action COP” by Morocco, as if this was only the beginning, thanks to the good will of governments and a few private investors. However the struggle for climate justice is not new: in the Maghreb, the Sahel and the Middle East, citizens are putting forth solutions to the challenges of climate change and the development model that caused it. The stakes are high and their adversaries are powerful, but they organize, resist, and come up with creative ideas that should be backed by ambitious public policies. True alternatives exist, as opposed to mere gestures that “greenwash” the activities of the culprits of climate change.

In this series put together in collaboration with Orient XXI, the CCFD-Terre solidaire wished to present the work of activists that work for change in the region. In Iraq and Turkey, through the “Save the Tigris” campaign, a coalition of civil society organizations is fighting the construction of dams threatening the ecosystems and inhabitants of the region. In Palestine, as the occupation deprives the population of land and water, Adrel provides support for farmers and co-ops developing agroecology. In Egypt, landless farmers and small owners are organizing and supporting each other with the help of Idam, a local organization based in Minya.

In the oases of the Maghreb, the struggle to preserve local seeds and ecosystems is developing thanks to the organizations of the Associative Network of Sustainable Development in the Oases. In Tunisia, a citizens’ oversight organization launched by Nomad08 keeps track of social movements demanding a better access to water, while The Tunisian Forum for Economic and Social Rights is fighting pollution in Monastir Bay. In Mali, in the region of Kidal, Azhar supports nomadic populations, to increase social cohesion and adapt to climate change, which has increased tensions between communities.

The contexts may be different, but the struggle against the climate crisis and the global system that caused it to create connections between activists in the Global North and South, and within both the North and South. Bonds are created and strengthened between a French farmer and his Palestinian counterpart as they both practice organic farming, between demonstrators opposing a mega-project in China and others protesting the construction of a dam in Iraq, or between an Algerian and Canadian activist both fighting shale gas extraction. For the CCFD-Terre solidaire, these local, national and international movements are a wonderful opportunity to connect different struggles and propositions to achieve a genuine transition in our societies.

Beside our partners and through our advocacy work in favor of food sovereignty and climate justice, we stand for a systemic approach which recognizes the limits of our current development model, and explores and proposes alternatives to confront it. It is the only way to ensure climate action respects people and their rights. It is the only way to achieve true climate justice while guaranteeing social justice.