COP22: Civil society gears up to tackle climate crisis

COP22: Civil society gears up to tackle climate crisis
4 min read
10 Nov, 2016
Comment: In North Africa and the Middle East, citizens are putting forward solutions to the challenges of climate change and the development model that caused it, writes Alice Champseix
Students protest outside the COP22 climate talks in reaction to Donald Trump's victory [AFP]

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, tends to convey the idea that mass mobilisations 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 minimises 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 industrialisation 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.

Here in Europe and all over the world, populations are faced with the evils of our model

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 organise, resist, and come up with creative ideas that should be backed by ambitious public policies. Real alternatives do 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 presents the work of activists who are striving for change in the region.

In Iraq and Turkey, through the "Save the Tigris" campaign, a coalition of civil society organisations 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 organising 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, an organisation 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.

Real alternatives do exist, as opposed to mere gestures that 'greenwash' the activities of the culprits of climate change

The contexts may be different, but the struggle against the climate crisis and the global system, caused it to create connections within and between activists in the Global 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.

In collaboration with our partners, and through our advocacy work in favor of food sovereignty and climate justice, we stand for a systemic approach which recognises the limits of our current development model, and explores and proposes alternatives to confront it. 

This 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.


Alice Champseix is Head of the North Africa partnership with CCFD-Terre Solidaire, a French NGO that supports more than 750 local projects fighting povery and injustice in 63 countries.


Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author, and do not necessarily represent those of The New Arab, its editorial board or staff.