The Middle East is a global hot spot for climate change and environmental stress on water, energy, agriculture, health and other essential necessities. Many cities in our region are predicted to become uninhabitable by the end of the century. In recognition of this pressing reality, the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies and our Palestinian partner organization Damour for Community Development announced the establishment of the Center for Applied Environmental Diplomacy, a groundbreaking institution that combines regional environmental diplomatic activity, academic research, and the initiation and execution of projects throughout the Middle East.
Founding members of the Center’s International Advisory Council include Ambassador Dennis Ross, Former Special EU Envoy to the Middle East Marc Otte, Prof. J.M. Hall, Oxford University Professor of Climate and Environmental Risks, and Richard Caplan, Oxford Professor of International Relations.
The need to equip national and regional policy makers, diplomats, community leaders, security experts, and health officials with the tools to deal with the growing risks of climate change is urgent. At present, no bi-lateral or regional effort combines scientific understanding of climate change with political, economic, and strategic analysis of national and regional effects to give policy-makers actionable insights and to give businesses sustainable opportunities to combat this challenge, all while addressing the political realities and levels of mistrust among parties.
The Center, in partnership with the Oxford Martin School Programme on Transnational Management of Natural Resources, proposes the development of a new branch of diplomacy. Applied Environmental Diplomacy is being developed as a feedback loop using environmental tools to alleviate conflict situations and using diplomatic tools to resolve environmental crises.
At the Center, Israelis, Palestinians, and Jordanians will work in partnership with Oxford University to conduct joint academic and research activities to develop this field, and at the same time, demonstrate its application through the implementation of practical reality-changing projects in Israel, Jordan, the West Bank, and Gaza. The Center will provide a safe space to host researchers, community leaders, diplomats, entrepreneurs and government representatives for meetings, networking and project development, security, public health and sustainable economic development. It will work with regional environmental departments and institutions, such as the Porter School of Environmental Studies, and the Dead Sea & Arava Science Center.
The Center is founded on the achievements and methods developed over the last five years by Damour, the Arava Institute, and their regional partners under the Track II Environmental Forum, funded in part by the European Union. Working quietly and diplomatically with local communities and municipalities, the Track II Forum has addressed concrete problems while building mutual trust and cooperation. These projects, identified and implemented in cross-border partnership, include the introduction of clean drinking water generation equipment and wastewater treatment facilities into Gaza, independent energy production devices such as solar energy into the Palestinian Territories, and solutions for sustainable agriculture in off-grid communities throughout the Middle East.
The Center for Applied Environmental Diplomacy will build on the first ever in-depth regional modeling and forecasting of natural resources, particularly energy and water, undertaken over the past three years by Oxford and leading scientists from Israel, Jordan, and the Palestinian Territories. Accessing never before seen data and agreeing on methods of collection, analysis and projection, the team is already publishing results on regional energy, water, health, national security and more. This modeling will provide easily understandable and reliable information and offer policy makers concrete strategies and pragmatic, manageable options for cross border projects.